The attorney representing a woman who filed a sexual harassment complaint against Sen. Jack Latvala says she has not discarded the possibility of taking the case to court if a conflict of interest arises in the Senate investigation.
“Anything could happen at this point, it is still very early to tell,” Tallahassee-based attorney Tiffany Cruz told Florida Politics.
Steve Andrews, who represents the Clearwater Republican, however, wants to work with the Senate’s lead investigator, Tampa-based attorney Gail Holtzman, to keep that from happening.
“We want to work out the procedural process with her without getting the courts involved,” Andrews said.
With Holtzman at the helm, Andrews is at ease even though he initially wanted to have a former law enforcement official lead the probe to referee conflicting testimony. He is also not worried of Holtzman having a conflict of interest in the case and said that those who think there is one because she is from Tampa — the same region as Latvala — are “stupid.”
“I think this girl will do a good job and she will be remembered,” Andrews said.
With all sides lawyered up, specifics continue to be ironed out. First on the list for Andrews is making sure due process protections are in place for Latvala, who has denied all the sexual misconduct allegations raised against him by six anonymous women in a POLITICO Florida report. Andrews worries the Senate has “no rules” in place when it comes to handling interviews with potential accusers.
Cruz declined to give specifics about her handling of the case, and would not say whether more women in The Process have reached out to her about filing complaints against Latvala.
Meanwhile, Latvala’s defense team is using strategies that include having the powerful senator take a lie-detector test and taking sworn video statements from more than 10 women, including lobbyists and staffers, who think favorably of the gubernatorial candidate’s character and behavior. This is something a number of women, who have worked closely with Latvala over the years, have done since the claims came to light.
It remains unclear exactly how the polygraph test, in which Latvala denies “intentionally” touching women inappropriately, will work in the defense. But Andrews believes it helps debunk the anonymous claims. The scientific community, though, has said polygraph tests are flawed for some years, and the tests are not always admissible in court.
According to the test results, Latvala was “being truthful” when he said he didn’t intentionally touch a woman’s private parts, touched a woman’s breasts or buttocks at the Capitol, or rubbed a Senate staffer’s leg.
“(We) had to put the word intentionally in there, because the question there is, was there negligence?” Andrews said. “There has to be an intentional component to it.”
Cruz declined to comment whether she would consent to the test results’ submission as evidence in the case.