Ex-TV Weatherman Takes Plea to Avoid Second Trial

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From our media partner Sun Sentinel

Rob Lopicola, the former West Palm Beach TV weatherman who last month became a convicted sex offender, will be saved from the embarrassment of a second sex crimes trial in Palm Beach County Circuit Court.

In a deal with the State Attorney's Office, Lopicola on Monday pleaded guilty to one count of attempted battery of a child; the third-degree felony is not considered a sex crime.

For the plea, prosecutors dropped a more serious charge of unlawful sexual activity with a minor, involving a 17-year-old West Palm Beach teenage boy whom Lopicola, 43, testified he met online through Craigslist in late 2010.

Assistant State Attorney Michael Kugler called the plea offer "a good, strategic decision," while he was ready for a trial if it didn't pan out. Circuit Judge Stephen Rapp approved the plea.

The deal provides Lopicola will not be sentenced to any prison time in addition to what he could receive in his sentence from the first trial, which ended Oct. 24 with a jury's conviction on two charges concerning an alleged 15-year-old victim from west of Boca Raton.

The former Wilton Manors resident faces up to 20 years when Judge Barry Cohen sentences him Dec. 6 on one count of lewd or lascivious conduct and one count of computer pornography and child exploitation. He faces up to 5 years for the attempted battery, though whatever time he gets would run concurrent with the other sentence.

Lopicola told the jury he was humiliated by the allegations and media attention. The former weekend meteorologist at WPTV-Ch. 5 for nearly eight years until 2006, will remain at Palm Beach County Jail until the sentencing.

"It was a guilty-in-his-best-interest plea," Assistant Public Defender Kristy Militello said.

The defense attorney on Monday filed two motions concerning the first case. One seeks a new trial, and the other asks Cohen to override the jury and acquit Lopicola of the computer porn charge.

While jurors found Lopicola guilty of soliciting the former West Boca teen through hundreds of sexually explicit text messages in early 2011, the panel acquitted Lopicola of a charge of lewd or lascivious battery concerning an alleged oral sex encounter in Lopicola's car in October 2010.

Lopicola denied meeting the teen, but testified he texted someone he thought was 18 for "fantasy fun." Lopicola said he prefers to date young men; the alleged victim listed his age as 18 on the "males seeking males" section of Craigslist.

The Sun Sentinel is not identifying the teens from both cases because of their ages during the incidents and the nature of the charges.

In the case resolved Monday, police accused Lopicola of meeting a then-high school junior for oral sex in December 2010 and January 2011; the teen's mother discovered Lopicola hiding in her shower and called 911 before a planned third hookup in April 2011, records show.

Lopicola testified he thought the person was 19 and "felt like an idiot" being caught in the shower.


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