A veteran Los Angeles fireman accused of intentionally appearing nude in front of a woman firefighter was excused early from a Fire Department Board of Rights hearing Wednesday to seek stress counseling recommended by a departmental psychologist.
Capt. John Squire, who represents Anthony Morales, 33, a seven-year veteran, told the three-member board that a psychologist who had observed the firefighter from the audience during the hearing had warned that Morales could "crack up."
The hearing continued in Morales' absence with other witnesses called to testify.
It was the second time this week that the board excused a key figure in the case because of emotional upset.
Firefighter Sharyl Plebuch Seward, who has accused Morales of sexual harassment in a series of acts earlier this year, burst into tears and hurried from the room Monday. She regained her composure and completed her testimony Tuesday.
In excusing Morales, the senior member of the board, Battalion Chief William D. Lilly, noted Seward's earlier reaction and cited an assessment of Morales made by Russell Boxley, a consulting psychologist who is developing a stress-management program for the Fire Department.
"He (Morales) has sat there and taken literally days of extremely negative testimony," Squire said outside the hearing room. "His whole life has been turned upside down. He's facing economic capital punishment as a result of these allegations."
Squire said Morales, who was suspended without pay, has been working from midnight to 9 a.m. loading trucks and then coming to the Board of Rights hearing "to keep his house payments going."
"He (Boxley) said he was going to crack," Squire said.
Don Forrest, president of United Fire Firefighters of Los Angeles City, said Boxley's assessment of Morales was "privileged information" that had been passed along to Squire to relate to Morales and never had been intended to be brought to public attention before the board.