No plea deal for TPD officer accused of tax fraud

- A federal judge said the plea deal proposed by disgraced Tampa police detective Eric Houston's attorneys is a no-go.

Federal Magistrate Richard Lazzara refused a plea agreement between the government and Houston Wednesday. Houston and his wife, Tampa Police Sergeant Lajoyce Houston, are facing tax refund fraud charges.

Lazzara stunned the courtroom when he said he was rejecting the plea deal. He said in this 20 years on the bench he has never done that.

The judge was critical of the decision to drop more than a dozen charges against Houston, adding that the ones left, "didn't reflect the seriousness of the crime."

The judge said, if the charges are true, Houston, as a law enforcement officer, "egregiously abused the trust of this community."

Lazzara said, based on the charges left, he believed the government would be asking for probation.

"It would be difficult for me to swallow," Lazzara added.

He also pointed out that former police informant Rita Girven, who was allegedly part of the tax fraud conspiracy, got 12 years in prison for the same crime.

Lazzara said this deal would not serve justice.

The judge also recused himself from the case, saying his comments would have some questioning his impracticality. Now, a new judge will be appointed and another plea deal may be presented.

Lajoyce Houston has rejected a plea deal from the government and will go to trial May 1.

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