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Doctor's probation cut short by judge

A judge on Tuesday waived the last half of a unique probation term that Inverness physician Robert Lacava had been serving.

As part of his punishment for driving-related offenses, Lacava had been examining criminal defendants who wanted to use Antabuse, a special drug designed to prevent the bloodstream from absorbing alcohol.

County Judge Gary Graham made the medical service part of Lacava's probation when he passed sentence Sept. 9, 1991, court records show. Lacava was scheduled to remain on probation for three years and agreed to take on the special medical practice.

However, Lacava's probation officers recently indicated that the doctor has been a good client, has paid his probation fees and has complied with all the terms of probation.

So Lacava's lawyer, Richard "Spike" Fitzpatrick, came to court Tuesday and asked the judge to release his client early from probation.

With a recommendation from the probation department and no objection from the state, Lake County Judge William Law went along with the deal. Graham was removed from the criminal bench in October and since then has handled only civil cases.

"Apparently he administered the Antabuse program very effectively for quite some period of time," Assistant State Attorney Liz Osmond would say later. "They (probation officers) felt he'd done his time."

Lacava's troubles started Feb. 9, 1990, when he struck his wife and then led law officers on a car chase through downtown Inverness. He was charged with two counts of fleeing and eluding a law officer and one count each of leaving the scene of an accident with injury and reckless driving.

At the time, doctors said Lacava suffered from a condition that caused him to suffer sudden, aggressive behavior that he later could not explain. He also was under tremendous strain, doctors said.

Graham took great interest in the case and refused to step down from it, even though Fitzpatrick complained that the judge may have been biased. Fitzpatrick twice appealed Graham's decision and twice lost.

Graham told Lacava that someone charged with those offenses ordinarily would be subject to a 90-day jail term. Graham said he would waive the jail term if Lacava would agree to take on the special practice with Antabuse patients.

During an interview Tuesday, Fitzpatrick said he thought Graham would have cut the probation short, just as Law did.

In other court news Tuesday, the fourth and final man arrested during a crackdown on sex in public parks was sentenced to six months' probation.

Angelo Failla, 63, of Homosassa Springs was accused of exposing himself and masturbating at Bluebird Springs Park in Homosassa, court records show. Law officers arrested three other men April 29 on identical charges.

Like them, Failla pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor count of exposure. And like them, he was fined $250 and ordered to serve six months' probation.

Law withheld adjudication, which means the offense will not be registered as a conviction on Failla's criminal record.