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Bayshore rape suspect's friend testifies against him

Luis Munuzuri-Harris, 31, has heated words Tuesday with his attorneys, assistant public defender Chuck Traina and public defender Maria Pavlidis, as tears roll down his face. He was overheard worrying about life in prison.

SKIP O’ROURKE | Times

Luis Munuzuri-Harris, 31, has heated words Tuesday with his attorneys, assistant public defender Chuck Traina and public defender Maria Pavlidis, as tears roll down his face. He was overheard worrying about life in prison.

TAMPA —The same night he allegedly posed as a cop to pull over a woman and rape her, Luis Munuzuri-Harris showed a friend how easy it was to make a motorist stop.

That's according to the friend, a felon and self-employed repairman named Michael Sexton, who testified Tuesday at Harris' trial.

Harris' lawyers tried to keep jurors from hearing Sexton's story about that July 29 night, which began with the two getting a beer. But a judge overruled their objections.

So Sexton told this account:

Just before Harris dropped him off at home, Sexton rode in the passenger seat as Harris made an abrupt 180-degree turn, drove up on a motorist and watched the man pull over.

Harris said he bought the Impala because it looked like an undercover police car, Sexton testified. The victim in the rape case would later testify that it fooled her.

But as Sexton spoke on the stand, Harris stared at him and mouthed, "I never said that."

Harris, who had represented himself for three days last week before announcing he'd made a "tremendous error in judgment," sat by his reappointed public defenders as police described their investigation.

At one point, Harris burst into tears.

It happened after Harris was told he couldn't pass a note to a television news reporter.

Jurors were ushered out of the courtroom for a two-hour recess.

Harris was overheard cursing at his lawyers and worrying about the possibility of spending the rest of his life in prison.

At the end of the day Tuesday, jurors watched a video recording of interviews Harris gave detectives after his arrest.

They saw him tell one detective, about the rape victim, "I've never seen her in my life."

And they heard him tell another he saw her swerving in the road, stopped to help and ended up going out with her.

He told one detective he kissed and hugged her at the end of the night. He later said she came onto him for sex.

Last week, she testified he pulled her over, handcuffed her and put her in the backseat of his car, then drove to an ATM, telling her he would withdraw money she could use for bail.

By that moment, she said she knew he was an imposter and feared for her life. Not long after that ATM withdrawal, she said, he raped her.

In his version, Harris tells detectives she asked him to withdraw money from her bank account at a South Tampa ATM.

But when a detective told him he was caught on video later that night using her ATM card at the Hard Rock Casino, Harris didn't know what to say.

Maybe he did use it, he said.

"I didn't rape her, though."

The state is expected to rest its case today.

Alexandra Zayas can be reached at azayas@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3354.

Bayshore rape suspect's friend testifies against him 01/18/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 19, 2011 7:17am]
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