Prosecutor: Don't make kids face the Dollars

Date: 2005-07-23

ABBIE VANSICKLE
St. Petersburg Times

One of the basic rights allowed a person accused of a crime is to come face to face with the accuser. But in the case of John and Linda Dollar, prosecutors don't want that to happen.

The Dollars' accusers are five of their adopted children. It would damage the children's recovery process to testify in court in front of their parents, Assistant State Attorney Richard Buxman wrote in a motion filed Friday.

Instead, Buxman argued, the children should be allowed to testify by videotape at the trial. If prosecutors get their wish, the children would answer questions from attorneys for both sides, but they would not come in contact with their parents.

The Dollars face charges of aggravated child abuse after five of their eight children accused them of starving them, shocking them with a cattle prod and pulling out their toenails with pliers. When investigators found the children, several were severely underweight and small for their ages.

The Dollars have pleaded not guilty. They await trial at the Citrus County jail. Their trial is set for Halloween.

Under state law, the Dollars have a right to hear the accusers. So, for example, children could be questioned in one room while the Dollars could watch the testimony on a closed-circuit TV. But Buxman argued that the children must not be allowed to see the Dollars or have contact with them.

The prosecutor cited the advice of Thomas Dinkel, a psychologist who evaluated all of the children.

"During the course of his lengthy and complete evaluations . . . he concluded that it would be extremely detrimental in their treatment for the children to face their parents in court in a trial setting," Buxman wrote.

Dinkel determined that the Dollars had "brainwashed" the children, Buxman wrote. The psychologist worried both about the children's health and the possibility the children would try to defend the Dollars in court once they saw them, he said.

Dinkel discovered that under the Dollars' care, the children were developmentally delayed, Buxman wrote. The children are now in foster care and have started to heal, he said. But the children would still be extremely vulnerable if they saw either of the Dollars again, he said.

Circuit Judge Ric Howard is expected to hear the state's motion during the Dollars' next status conference at 2:30 p.m. Aug. 29.

Howard is expected to hear the defense's argument that he recuse himself from the case at a hearing at 3:45 p.m. Aug. 3. Defense attorney Charles Vaughn has asked for another judge in the case because his clients think Howard is prejudiced against them.

Abbie VanSickle can be reached at 860-7312 or vansickle@sptimes.com.

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