Photographs of Lafave: too much information

Published September 16, 2005

Did investigators really need to take graphic photos of Debra Lafave?

After the model-pretty middle school teacher was charged with having sex with a 14-year-old student, a search warrant was issued for specific evidence that could prove, a la Michael Jackson, that the teenager was familiar with details of her person. That included tattoos on her lower back, tan lines and the way she shaved. Fair enough.

But none of what's outlined in that warrant seemed to require two explicit shots that were taken involving Lafave in doctor's office stirrups, nor photos that would have included her breasts, which authorities planned to shoot before she said no. That's according to a motion filed by her attorney, who wants a judge to keep the photos he calls "pornographic" private so they don't wind up on the Internet.

According to the defense motion, Temple Terrace police investigators were at the jail clinic when jail personnel took the pictures, and they reviewed the digital shots for "content and clarity" afterward.

A Temple Terrace spokeswoman refused to comment, saying it was a pending case.

Yes, Lafave is the accused bad guy here, awaiting trial on charges of lewd and lascivious battery. The case doesn't look good for her, given evidence like DNA and recorded phone calls. Depending on which side you buy, she's either a despicable person who preyed on a child or a woman with serious mental health issues. Her attorney is using the insanity defense.

But the fact that she's the defendant and not the victim doesn't matter. Though those photos have little to do with whether she committed the crime, their existence can muddy the waters and raise eyebrows about the actions of law enforcement.

The Lafave case has had the tabloids salivating from the start, and her attorney John Fitzgibbons has been criticized for saying that her good looks mean she won't be treated like everyone else. Too bad investigators working the case helped him make his point.

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Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio tells a story of an older woman who came up to her after Hurricane Charley last year. The woman said she wasn't going to evacuate until she saw the mayor on TV. If Pam says to evacuate, I'm going to evacuate, the woman said.

Given the mayor's familiar face, take-charge personality and reliably sensible suits, it follows that people in Tampa would look to her in a crisis. And it makes the county's snit over who gets to be the boss in a hurricane that much more ridiculous.

Hoping to talk disaster planning, Iorio recently asked to meet with the county administrator, who canceled twice. Then county commissioners huffed that their chairman must be present for any meetings between their administrator and the mayor. Then the administrator declared in a news conference that county is in charge in an emergency.

What we don't need to see right now are county officials indulging in their longstanding turf war with the city. What we do need are public officials putting their heads together to try to keep the mistakes of Katrina from happening here.

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On a lighter note, an amusing mental picture for the weekend: Bucs owner Malcolm Glazer being patted down for hidden bombs before Sunday's game.

If Glazer and/or his sons show for the home opener against the Buffalo Bills, and you expect they would, Patrick Manteiga has asked the staff to alert him.

Manteiga, who runs La Gaceta newspaper and is on the Tampa Sports Authority, hopes to witness Glazer and/or the boys getting the inaugural pat-down search that's to be administered to fans starting Sunday. (It should be noted that the sports authority is warring with the Bucs over who should pay for that added security.)

"I've been told we're going to do it to everybody," Manteiga said. "I believe that if we do it to Malcolm, we're doing it to everybody."

Sue Carlton can be reached at carlton@sptimes.com