Florida legislator being pressed to resign from state House by fellow Republicans after conviction
VIERA, Fla. Republicans pressured a Florida House representative to resign after his conviction for trying to pay for gay sex with an undercover police officer.
A three-man, three-woman jury deliberated nearly 31/2 hours Nov. 9 before finding state Rep. Bob Allen, R-Merritt Island, guilty of soliciting prostitution, a misdemeanor. Allen was accused of peering over a stall at a young, black undercover police officer, then agreeing to pay $20 to perform oral sex on him.
Florida law provides automatic expulsion for legislators convicted of felonies, but not misdemeanors.
Speaker Marco Rubio, who already stripped Allen of his Energy Committee chairmanship, said the House would act further if Allen didn’t resign.
“The House has reserved action on this matter to allow Rep. Allen the right to conduct his defense and to ensure that all the facts were made available,” Rubio said in a written statement. “This conviction makes it impossible for Rep. Allen to represent responsibly the citizens of his district.”
Allen listened to the verdict, watched the jury leave and reached into the gallery to touch his wife, who sat behind him all week.
“We’re going to continue to seek justice,” Allen said. “I am innocent; I’ve done nothing wrong.”
Allen’s defense said all along he wasn’t soliciting sex, but instead suspicious of Titusville officer Danny Kavanaugh. Defense attorney Greg Eisenmenger said Allen thought he was being robbed, so he went along with whatever the officer said until he could flee. Even if he was trying to have sex, Eisenmenger told the jury, Allen was not guilty because it was the officer who first mentioned money.
Allen co-sponsored a bill months before his arrest that would have increased public sex charges from a misdemeanor to a felony. The proposed bill addressed “unnatural and lascivious acts or exposure or exhibition of sexual organs” within 1,000 feet of a park, school or child care facility.
Eisenmenger succeeded in barring two statements that received some of the broadest coverage: Allen’s concern about getting robbed by a “stocky black man,” who turned out to be Kavanaugh, and an apparent try to sway the arrest by saying he was a legislator.
Kavanaugh and another undercover policemen were surveilling a nearby condo for burglars when they allegedly saw Allen stare at them and enter the restroom several times.
Kavanaugh got a supervisor’s approval to investigate, but was not recording the exchange because he wasn’t planning a prostitution sting.
Kavanaugh, fit and young, said the seven-year state house veteran peeked into the handicapped stall when he entered for a paper towel, then went inside to join the officer.
He said Allen asked to go somewhere private, then testified telling the defendant: “I’m looking to get some money. Can you hook me up with $20?”
“Sure, I can do that. But this place is too public,” Allen allegedly said.
Allen’s defense said he couldn’t have looked into the stall and made eye contact with Kavanaugh because he wasn’t tall enough to see past the 5’7″ stall door. Kavanaugh is 6-foot; Allen is listed in police documents at 5-foot-11.
Allen stopped as he and Kavanaugh left the restroom and asked if he was a police officer, then motioned to follow, Assistant State Attorney Pat Whitaker said.
“If I was a cop, why would I be hanging around here?” Kavanaugh testified saying.
“Well they come here too sometimes,” Allen allegedly responded.
As they neared the car, Kavanaugh said he asked what Allen wanted him to do. According to Kavanaugh’s testimony, their exchange went as follows:
“I don’t know what you’re into,” Allen said.
Kavanaugh asked if Allen wanted oral sex.
“I was thinking you would want one,” Allen said.
“But you’ll still give me the $20 for that, right?” Kavanaugh said.
“I would not argue with that,” Allen answered.
Allen was elected to the Florida House in 2000. The arrest came a month after U.S. Sen. Larry Craig was arrested for soliciting sex in a men’s airport bathroom in Minneapolis.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 16, 2007