Time could be on side of ex-swim coach

He's accused of taping dozens of girls changing clothes, but faces 10 counts because of time limits.

Published February 7, 2007

TAMPA - Former Tampa Prep swim coach Kimberly Brabson III secretly videotaped dozens of school girls as they tried on bathing suits in his office, police said.

But it may be too late to charge him for most of the acts he is accused of.

Brabson, 29, pleaded not guilty this week to 10 counts of video voyeurism, a misdemeanor crime that carries a two-year statute of limitations.

Prosecutors say it is the harshest offense they can charge Brabson with given the facts of the case. They acknowledged Tuesday that Tampa Preparatory School students who were filmed more than two years before Brabson's arrest will be left without recourse.

"It did affect some potential victims," Hillsborough State Attorney spokeswoman Pam Bondi said Tuesday.

Clearwater attorney Tom Carey said that group includes his two daughters, who allegedly were filmed in 2003 and have now sued the private school and Brabson.

Carey blamed prosecutors for mishandling the criminal side of the case, namely their refusal to seek permission to search Brabson's home.

"Obviously there were more tapes out there because he was doing this for four years," said Carey, who estimates that 50 girls were taped. "He was basically allowed to slip the noose."

Tampa police arrested the former coach last month after finding a camera and videotape in his office.

They said he filmed girls ages 10 to 15 as they tried on swim wear at his request. The school fired him in November after allegations surfaced.

Police thought they had probable cause to search his home but could not persuade prosecutors to take the request to a judge, spokeswoman Laura McElroy said.

Bondi said prosecutors could not discuss search warrants related to a pending case.

"We don't put the burden on the judge," she said of the office's general procedure. "It's our job to review facts before presenting to a judge to ensure that it's justified under our constitution."

Unlike at least five other states, Florida's video voyeurism law does not carry a higher penalty for those who victimize children. So Carey said he will meet Friday with prosecutors to argue for felony charges such as child abuse or child pornography.

He also thinks case law supports extending the statute of limitations for a misdemeanor to when the crime is discovered.

"I just don't think prosecutors have been very aggressive on this," he said. "My job is to be a father whose daughters have been violated, and I'm not going to let this sit."

Only the law limited prosecutors' charging abilities, Bondi said.

"We share everyone's concerns about the severity of these alleged crimes," she said. "However, we can only file charges authorized by law. And in this case, we filed the highest offense permitted by law."

Times staff writer Abbie VanSickle contributed to this report. Colleen Jenkins can be reached at 813 226-3337 or cjenkins@sptimes.com.