Larry Hawkins The Man Who Loved Women

Vietnam left him paralyzed and in constant pain. But his female co-workers -- who have spent the past fifteen years fending off unwanted advances and inappropriate comments -- say his greatest handicaps are from the neck up.

Some of the women Hawkins suggested New Times contact, however, ended up having their own disquieting stories about the commissioner. One woman, in fact, was so annoyed that Hawkins would suggest her name as a reference that halfway through her interview she stopped in midthought and cried out, "That bastard!"

To sway public opinion, Hawkins knows that kind words from a few select friends won't carry much weight with the public at large. He needs something big, something explosive. "I know there is no way I can win in the press," Hawkins admits. "I knew I had to do something that was personally humiliating and distasteful to me. I took a lie detector test and I passed." The day after taking the exam, on June 2, Hawkins flew to Tallahassee for his first hearing before the state ethics commission. And although he was unsuccessful in persuading commission members to consider the polygraph results, he remained upbeat. Following the hearing, Hawkins declared to the Miami Herald that the polygraph exam was the equivalent of an "A-bomb" dropped on prosecutor Joe Centorino's ethics complaint. "Centorino's complaint crumbles," Hawkins boasted, and then added with Hawkinsesque flair: "It falls down faster than Gennifer Flowers's underwear."

Through attorney George Yoss, Hawkins released to New Times this portion of the exam:

Q: Regarding those allegations which Mary DiFede and Shelly Nudelman have made against you, do you intend to answer truthfully each question about that?

A: Yes.
Q: Did you say anything to Mary DiFede about "jumping" her?
A: No.

Q: Did you knock a bullet on the floor in order to look down Mary DiFede's dress?

A: No.
Q: Did you touch Mary DiFede's breast with a pencil, hand, or any object?
A: No.
Q: Did you ever use the word "tits" when speaking with Shelly Nudelman?
A: No.

Following the exam, polygraph expert George Slattery wrote, "Based upon a careful analysis of Lawrence Hawkins's polygrams, it was the opinion of this examiner that there were no significant or consistent psycho-physiological reactions consistent with deception to the relevant questions and answers. Therefore, it was the opinion of this examiner that Mr. Hawkins did truthfully answer those questions." (Slattery did not return calls seeking comment for this story.)

Warren Holmes, a respected polygraph expert with 40 years' experience, says Hawkins's test results hardly carry the impact of an atomic bomb. In fact, Holmes, former chief examiner for the Miami Police Department, places little value in the test because it may have been compromised by several factors. "Medications, for instance, have a profound effect on the results of any test," Holmes asserts. Hawkins takes Valium and other prescribed drugs on a daily basis to ease pain and help with his digestion. Holmes says pain medication in particular will "dim" or "even out" an individual's response to polygraph questions and make results more difficult to analyze. Hawkins, however, says he took no medication in the 24 hours preceding the test.

"Medication is one problem," Holmes explains, "but not the only one." For example, test results can be adversely affected if a subject believes his answers to be truthful even if they are not. "Also," he adds, "some people are just chronic, prolific liars, and they are so good at it that they can beat the test," which is why polygraph results are not admissible as evidence in court. "And they shouldn't go in as evidence," Holmes stresses. "It's not an exact science; it's too subjective."

The lie detector test, however, has been only the first step in Hawkins's campaign to clear his name. The next step is more complicated. Hawkins hopes to show that he has been the target of a concerted attack by the Miami Herald, the State Attorney's Office, and well-connected lobbyist and political consultant Eston "Dusty" Melton, a former Herald reporter. While disavowing any inclination toward paranoia ("I'm not trying to be a Joe Gersten conspiratorial guy," he says), Hawkins paints a sinister picture of the forces at work against him.

Back in 1992, while the State Attorney's Office was investigating allegations that Hawkins may have misused his office for financial gain, the Herald reported that prosecutor Joe Centorino had "stumbled" onto the subject of sexual harassment as a result of claims made by former Hawkins employees Mary DiFede and Shelly Nudelman.

Hawkins says there was nothing accidental about it. Shortly before DiFede and Nudelman were scheduled to be questioned by Centorino under oath, Hawkins alleges the prosecutor received a call from a reporter or editor at the Herald, informing him that Hawkins had sexually harassed both women. (Centorino says no one from the Herald called him to suggest questions or to provide information about sexual harassment. He was tipped off to the allegations of harassment by Shelly Nudelman's attorney, after Nudelman received a subpoena. Centorino thought the information was significant in judging the credibility of the women as potential witnesses against Hawkins.)

Centorino did question DiFede and Nudelman about harassment, and some months later Herald reporter Dexter Filkins asked DiFede's attorney, Arturo Alvarez, about the matter. Alvarez told Filkins: "There were questions asked about [whether there was] sexual harassment, and there were answers given to indicate that there was." The next day, November 8, 1992, the Herald published its first harassment story under the headline, "Two Women Accuse Hawkins of Sexual Harassment."

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