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UVa doctor facing child porn charges appeals bond ruling

A judge soon will decide whether to grant bond to a University of Virginia neurologist currently being held on child pornography charges.

Dr. David Lapides was arrested last week and had a bond appeal hearing Friday in Charlottesville Circuit Court. He is facing three felony charges: two counts of possession of child pornography and one count of possession with intent to distribute.

Charlottesville police said in a news release that the regional Internet Crimes Against Children task force received a tip, which started the investigation. The Albemarle County Police Department assisted with the investigation.

The alleged offenses occurred in mid-March, according to online court records.

Lapides, 37, of Charlottesville, currently is in custody at the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail. Lapides’ faculty pages with the UVa Medical Center are not online and he’s currently on administrative leave, according to a spokesman.

On Friday, Lapides appeared in the Charlottesville Circuit Court via video as his attorney, Jessica Phillips, argued for either bond or home-electronic incarceration on his behalf.

According to Phillips, Lapides has been threatened by inmates at the jail, some of whom have told him to “kill himself or they’d do it for him.” She described Lapides as a dedicated family man who would have the support of his family and community if released.

City Commonwealth’s Attorney Joe Platania pushed back against this image, and said crimes that result in charges like ones Lapides face often happen out of sight.

“These crimes occur in the shadows and behind closed doors,” Platania said. “So it’s understandable that people don’t know about them and see a different person, but these types of crimes are secretive by nature.”

Phillips called Lapides’ wife, Marcie Occhi, to testify about how her husband would be monitored if he was granted release, as well as the financial impact on their family.

According to Occhi, Lapides is either on leave or has been fired from two of his three jobs, which has put significant financial constraints on the family. His third job, which remains tentative in light of his charges, would require limited internet access.

“If he is not able to work his third job, writing test questions for an online test bank, then we would be in a difficult financial situation and likely would not be able to afford our mortgage,” she said.

Lapides is also the father of two young children, one of whom is a toddler, Occhi said. Though she said she understood that a potential condition of release likely would be that Lapides could not have any unmonitored contact with children, Occhi said child care needs are also a concern.

The second character witness called was Dr. Emily Young, a longtime colleague and friend of Lapides.

Young, a psychologist at the Commonwealth Center for Children and Adolescents, testified that she is a family friend of Lapides and would still trust him to care for her children, even in light of the allegations he faces.

“There are sometimes people who do things that are not wonderful,” she said. “In my experience in my job, internet crimes are not something that translates to the physical world.”

When cross-examined by Platania about whether she has worked with adults accused of possessing child pornography, she said she did not know.

During arguments, Phillips said the testimony had shown that Lapides was not a danger to himself or others and was not a flight risk.

“In fact, he’s been completely the opposite person and there is testimony from Dr. Young that she would continue to trust him with her children,” Phillips said.

Though the affidavit containing the allegations against Lapides is not yet a public document, Platania did mention some of its details. According to Platania, there are allegations that a cellphone containing images of child pornography was seized and further allegations that the device was used to transmit the images to at least one other person.

“What about the children in those images?” Platania said. “They’re real people, and whether or not someone has committed physical crimes against children, the demand for those images still creates real victims and harm.”

Judge Humes J. Franklin declined to rule Friday, instead opting to look through the affidavit and related statutes. Franklin said he expects to rule on the bond request by Wednesday via an electronic letter.

Source: www.dailyprogress.com

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