Jury selection for former WPTV Weatherman Rob Lopicola will continue Today.
Lopicola is a accused of having sex with two teenage boys he met online.
The Palm Beach Post reports that County Judge Barry Cohen began jury selection in Lopicola’s case Monday with an initial pool of 50 potential candidates and added more in the afternoon. A number of jurors Cohen questioned individually said they’d seen media coverage of the highly publicized case and said they couldn’t be fair and impartial based on what they’d heard.
According to arrest reports, the 15- and 17-year-old boys both met Lopicola through Craigslist ads for males seeking males. The teens allege the sexual activity with Lopicola happened between August 2010 and April 2011. The boys’ names have not been released by prosecutors.
Lopicola, who abruptly resigned from WPTV in 2006 after eight years as their weekend meteorologist, first spoke with police about the case in April 2011, when the mother of the 17-year-old caught Lopicola hiding in her son’s shower. Lopicola reportedly told police at that time that he met the Palm Beach Lakes High School student as the boy was walking on Village Boulevard.
He said he befriended the boy “because he was afraid to tell his parent’s about his sexuality and Robert experienced a similar situation when growing up.”
But the teen said he met Lopicola on Craigslist and began exchanging text messages that led to two sexual encounters before the boy’s mother caught Lopicola in the shower.
The 15-year old alleged victim listed himself as 18 years old in the Craiglist ad but later told Lopicola he was 15, according to arrest reports. Still, according to the allegations, Lopicola met the boy a short time later and performed a sex act on him in a car.
Even after the boy moved to Michigan to live with an uncle, according to prosecutor Michael Kugler, Lopicola urged him to move back to Florida so they could live “as father and son”. He also sent the teen graphic texts describing sexual acts he wanted the two of them to do, Kugler alleged.
In a hearing on the case last year, Kugler hinted that Lopicola’s attraction to young and young-looking men might have been the reason for his hasty departure from WPTV, saying he ran into trouble ‘because he was bringing people to the station that looked particularly young.”
A jury expected to be seated, and opening arguments could begin in the trial as early as Wednesday.