Dollars' appeal to get bail is denied

Date: 2005-08-13

John and Linda Dollar have failed yet again in their efforts to get bail.

St. Petersburg Times

The latest rebuff came Friday from the 5th District Court of Appeal, which said the Pine Ridge residents are "clearly" not entitled to relief.

Prosecutors say the Dollars abused five of their adopted children by locking them in a closet, denying them food and using a cattle prod and pliers as instruments of punishment.

The Dollars have pleaded not guilty to multiple felony counts and are being held without bail at the Citrus County jail pending trial.

The Dollars want a chance to post bail and live free until their case is resolved. But judges have consistently denied them that chance.

When arrest warrants for the Dollars were issued Feb. 1, bail was set at $100,000 each.

The Dollars were arrested Feb. 4 in Utah. On Feb. 7, when the Dollars still were being held out west, Circuit Judge Ric Howard revoked their bail. He did so at the request of prosecutors.

The Dollars waived extradition and were transported to Citrus County, arriving on Feb. 19. County Judge Mark Yerman denied their request for bail the next day.

The Dollars' attorney, Charles Vaughn of Inverness, has argued consistently that the couple did not flee Florida to avoid arrest. After Florida's social service agency removed the children from their home and put them in foster care, the Dollars went to Utah to "sort things out," Vaughn said in February.

He said they learned of the arrest warrants only when he informed them during a telephone conversation when they were out of state. He said they were returning to Citrus when they were arrested.

John Dollar, 59, later explained to the court that he had done real estate appraisal work in Utah, so he and his 52-year-old wife thought the state would be a good place to go to find peace. In addition to the problems with the children, they were behind on payments for their RV and feared John Dollar might have prostate cancer, he said.

On March 15, after considering all those facts, Howard stuck with his decision to deny bail. He said he considered allegations that the couple intimidated their children, attempted to cover up abuses, fled to Utah after learning of an investigation into their treatment of the children, and left messages with their oldest daughter that hinted they planned to kill themselves.

On April 13, Vaughn filed paperwork arguing the decision to revoke the Dollars' bail was illegal. Circuit Judge Patricia Thomas denied the petition.

In mid June, Vaughn sought help from the appellate court. A three-judge panel reviewed the record, studied Howard's reasons and issued a five-page decision upholding Howard's decision.

"The trial court determined that the weight of evidence against the Dollars is substantial, their offenses are serious, their ties to the community are minimal, there was evidence to conclude that they are a flight risk, and there is a probability of danger to and intimidation of the victims," Judge Winifred J. Sharp wrote. "The judge further noted an additional factor he considered was the Dollars' two messages hinting at a suicide situation."

Judges Thomas Sawaya and Emerson Thompson concurred.

In separate action, the Dollars asked Howard to step down from their case. He declined to do so. The trial is scheduled to begin Oct. 31.


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