TAMPA — An appeals court has reversed a Hillsborough judge's decision to dismiss felony charges against Kimberly Brabson III, an ex-Tampa Prep coach accused of secretly videotaping dozens of schoolgirls as they tried on bathing suits in his office.
In an opinion issued Wednesday, the 2nd District Court of Appeal panel said that whether the incidents constitute "actual lewd exhibition of the genitals creates a factual inquiry for a jury and not a legal question for the court."
In November 2007, Hillsborough Circuit Judge J. Rogers Padgett dismissed 19 felony counts against Brabson of promotion of a sexual performance by a child younger than 18.
The judge said the video images of the girls didn't depict sexual conduct, which prosecutors needed in order to prove the felony counts.
If convicted of the reinstated felony charges, Brabson could face prison and would be classified as a sexual offender.
"It's a great relief because this guy is not going to be roaming around free for what he did," said Clearwater attorney Tom Carey, a parent of two victims who publicly fought for a harsher prosecution. "I think it will give my daughters a sense of justice. They were pretty outraged when they thought he was going to get off with a slap on the wrist."
Brabson is accused of secretly setting up a video camera in his office and then asking girls on the school's swim team to try on bathing suits in there.
"The victims were completely unaware that they were being filmed, and any right to privacy they may have expected while changing in the closed, windowless office was violated," the appeals court said. "Furthermore, the girls were not engaged in what could be considered typical day-to-day activities as they were most certainly manipulated into changing their clothes, which they would not otherwise have done in Brabson's office."
The appeals panel applied a legal test for determining whether Brabson's behavior was lewd, finding that the video camera was focused on the girls' genital areas and that the girls were nude.
"What we have before us is a clearly orchestrated plan by Brabson to videotape unsuspecting underage girls in a place where, but for Brabson's machinations, they would never have undressed," the appeals court said.
Brabson's attorney could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Kevin Graham can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3433.