A jury of mostly women was selected Monday in the trial of a former Leesburg police officer accused of forcing a female suspect to perform a sexual act on him in a parking lot during her 2012 arrest.
Henri Bart LaRue is standing trial on armed sexual battery by a law enforcement officer.
Opening arguments and testimony is slated to start Tuesday in the Lake County courthouse.
LaRue faces life if convicted, according to Lake County prosecutors. The incident allegedly occurred just after midnight on Oct. 3, 2012 as the then 25-year-old LaRue, a rookie policeman, was taking a 23-year-old woman motorist from the Leesburg Police Department to the Lake County jail. LaRue had initially stopped her silver Chevrolet truck for having a dim tag light, when he determined her driver license was suspended.
The woman accused Larue of stopping his squad car in an alley behind a shopping center near the Lake Square Mall, removing her handcuffs and tank top and forcing her to touch him and perform oral sex.
Assistant State Attorney Rich Buxman said the victim will testify.
Questioned during recess Monday evening, defense lawyer Robert Whittel said it is not clear whether LaRue will take the stand. But during jury selection, many of his questions to candidates focused on whether they could reach a verdict without hearing both sides of the case.
One juror said he believed it’s possible a person is guilty if he doesn’t testify. “It would possibly cause questions,” the juror said.
Whittel also questioned jury candidates whether they would give more credibility to a witness simply because he is a police officer, to which at least one candidate said yes and another said no.
LaRue had joined the Leesburg police force in March of 2012. He was fired after an internal
investigation into the sexual battery allegations and charged after a Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation.
Whittel said he wasn’t concerned that the jury consists of mostly women in a sexual battery case against a man.
“It’s doesn’t matter, the evidence will clearly show he is innocent,” Whittel said.
Buxman said he believes he has enough evidence to convict Larue. Buxman wouldn’t say what evidence he has against Larue. However, according to the woman’s private lawyer, Mark NeJame, finding Larue’s DNA in the area of the alley will help bolster any civil case.
And according to court documents, the woman said LaRue made remarks throughout her arrest and booking that included “innocent flirting” and “perverted comments” She also claimed that while at the Leesburg Police Department, LaRue asked if she was wearing underwear and apologized for not having “pink, fluffy handcuffs.”
According to the FDLE, the trip from the Leesburg Police Department to the jail took too long. Investigators said after dropping off the woman at the Lake County jail, dispatch recordings revealed LaRue joked about flirting and even making a “pit stop” on the way.
“You know how it is when your’e flirting with a female,” LaRue told the dispatcher.
Source: Daily Commercial