TAVARES — A 24-year-old woman took the witness stand Tuesday and tearfully recounted how a Leesburg police officer forced her to perform a sex act in a secluded strip mall.
Her account drew an emotional reaction from several people in the courtroom — one young woman had to momentarily leave the courtroom while holding back sobs. The victim, a single mother, pointed to the former rookie cop and described him as the man who sexually assaulted her almost two years ago.
"I felt a million different emotions," said the victim, a longtime Lake County resident who has worked various cashier and waitressing jobs. "I felt degraded. I felt filthy. I felt used. I felt scared. It was a roller coaster of emotions."
Henri Bart Larue, who began working at the Leesburg Police Department in March 2012, is accused of armed sexual battery by a law-enforcement officer. The chain of events began in October 2012 when Larue arrested the woman, who was driving a vehicle with a dim tag light, for several active suspensions on her license. According to the woman, Larue made several sexual comments to her, including that he didn't have "pink fluffy handcuffs."
On the way to the Lake County Jail, the woman — who was wearing basketball shorts, a white tank top and a sports bra — said Larue made an unexpected U-turn and drove behind a strip mall on U.S. Highway 441. He then forced her to perform a sex act, she said. Larue was arrested after a Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation into the allegations. He was later fired.
"The only thing he [Larue] served was his own self interest," Assistant State Attorney Nick Camuccio told the jury of six women and two men. "She thought about fighting back. But she was alone in the dark with a man with a badge and a gun."
However, defense attorney Thomas Jerla argued that the woman's testimonies and timeline were inconsistent. She said multiple times during the trial that she couldn't remember specific times.
"She didn't give one version of the events. She gave four different versions of the events to four different people," Jerla told jurors. "The only verdict in this case is not guilty, because the state would have to prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt."
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