WEST PALM BEACH — Jury selection is set to begin this morning for the sex-with-underage-boys of former WPTV-Channel 5 weatherman Rob Lopicola.
Lopicola, 43, is accused of having sex with boys he met online who were 15 and 17 respectively at the time of the alleged crimes, in 2010 and 2011. He is charged with unlawful sexual activity of a minor, lewd and lascivious conduct, lewd and lascivious battery and child exploitation, all felonies.
Once considered a steady guiding hand by TV viewers for his hurricane coverage, the openly-gay Lopicola left the television station in 2006 in circumstances that the NBC affiliate’s officials have steadfast refused to explain. Rumors swirled at the time that Lopicola appreciated younger men.
At first, the muscle-bound ex-broadcaster became a personal trainer and life consultant. But eventually, he lost his West Palm Beach house in foreclosure and moved to Broward County, where he was known to perform as a stripper in gay clubs.
Because Lopicola is considered to be indigent, he is being represented by an assistant public defender, Kristy Militello.
He has been in jail on $130,000-bond since his arrest on July 9, 2012. He waived his right to a speedy trial.
In one of the cases, Lopicola was caught in the shower of a West Palm Beach house owned by the mother of the juvenile boy!
The then-juveniles reported meeting Lopicola through classified sex ads in craigslist.com.
Lopicola allegedly arranged to meet the 15-year-old near his house in Boca Raton in the middle of the night in 2010 and drove him to a nearby cul-de-sac for oral sex in Lopicola’s car.
The youngster reported the encounter after moving to Michigan in early 2011 and receiving dozens of graphic text messages from Lopicola, including this one that left little to the imagination: “I like being a dad . . . thats why I like young. And 15 is perfect baby. 10th or 9th grade?”
At one point, the teen — who told police he weighed 113 pounds at the time and was dealing with anorexia – text-messaged Lopicola photos of his genitals.
In the second case, Lopicola allegedly visited the 17-year-old at home at least four times in four months after the teen’s school days at Palm Beach Lakes High School, where he was a track star. The mother reported the activity at the Village Boulevard area home to police after finding Lopicola cowering in her son’s shower in 2011.
In one motion still before Judge Stephen Rapp, Lopicola claims authorities violated his rights when West Palm Beach Police detectives allegedly dragged their feet in allowing the former weatherman to call an attorney as they grilled him about the incidents.