Jury Selection Starts in Fla. Lawmaker’s Gay Solicitation Case
The process of selecting a jury in the case of a Florida Republican charged with soliciting sex at a men’s room was scheduled to begin today first thing, but was delayed due to concerns that an impartial jury would be hard to find.
Several Florida publications posted articles regarding the upcoming trial of Bob Allen, a Florida state representative arrested last July 11 for allegedly soliciting sex from an undercover officer at a men’s facility at Veterans Memorial Park in Titusville, Fla.
Allen is charged with soliciting prostitution, a misdemeanor. If convicted, Allen could face up to a year in county jail. Allen reportedly offered $20 to an undercover officer, allegedly as payment if the officer would allow Allen to service him sexually.
TV station Central Florida News 13 and the Orlando Sentinel both posted stories at their Web sites today regarding the jury selection, which occasioned Allen’s lawyer, Greg Eisenmenger, to express skepticism that, due to publicity surrounding the case, an impartial jury could be assembled.
The Orlando Sentinel further reported that the process was delayed for two hours as the defense sought to ensure that jurors would be as impartial as possible, despite the high profile nature of the case.
Though Eisenmenger said he would not attempt to have the trial moved, he did file a motion to speak with each of the first 14 potential jurors in order to screen out those who might not be impartial, the Sentinel reported today.
Over the weekend the Sentinel also published a story about Allen’s trial, pointing out that the case has made Allen the subject of jokes on national television-the reason why Eisenmenger declined to seek a new location for the trial.
Said Eisenmenger in the article, published Sunday, Nov. 4, "I’m not sure a change of venue would help that much because I can’t think of a place in Florida that hasn’t been affected."
Allen’s case has excited more interest than certain other recent Republican lawmaker scandals involving alleged homosexual activity, partially because the lawmaker’s defense initially had been to say that the undercover officer had approached him for sex, not the other way around, and that Allen had been intimidated into agreeing because the officer was, in Allen’s taped statement, "a stocky black guy" who Allen said he was afraid would rob him.
This has prompted some to accuse the lawmaker of racism.
Another criticism has arisen from Allen reportedly having said to the officer, when he realized that he was facing arrest, "I don’t suppose it would help if I said I was a state legislature, would it."
This has been taken by some as evidence that Allen was willing to trade on his position of authority in the government in order to extricate himself from trouble.
Neither of those statements will be brought into the trial, thanks to the efforts of Allen’s lawyer. The judge, Oscar Hotusing, agreed that the alleged mention of Allen’s position in office was not germane to the charges at hand; as for the remark about the officer being "a stocky black guy," that remark is inadmissible because Allen made it before having been read his rights.
Allen himself has maintained throughout that he is innocent of any wrongdoing, though he has lost a committee chairmanship and been pressured by some of his fellow Republicans to step down from office.
Meanwhile, Central Florida News 13 also reported last Fri., Nov. 2, that former city commissioner for Daytona Beach Mike Shallow, who lost his bid for mayor last month to the mayoral incumbent, Glenn Ritchie, had been arrested the say before in a day-long sting operation at a Sears restroom following customer complaints of men engaged in sexual activity in the men’s lavatory.
The Sears store, located at the Volusia Mall, became the site of a sting operation that resulted in the arrest of Shallow, along with eight other men, on charges of lewd and lascivious conduct.
Aside from Shallow, a high school teacher and two registered sex offenders were also arrested in the sting.
The police chief of Daytona, Michael Chitwood, characterized the suspects as "a bunch of sick, degenerate, vile perverts" saying that he found it worrisome that men would be engaging in sex in a mall restroom with the holiday shopping season approaching.