Judge refuses to release Dollars

Date: 2005-04-16

St. Petersburg Times

A judge has denied a request by the attorney for John and Linda Dollar that the couple be released immediately.

Charles Vaughn represents the Dollars, who are accused of torturing and starving five of their eight adopted children. He filed a writ of habeas corpus Wednesday, arguing that the decision to revoke the Dollars' bail was not legal.

"The petitioners are being held illegally . . . there was and is no legal reason to revoke the bond," Vaughn wrote in the petition.

Vaughn said there were no new allegations against the Dollars that would have led the judge to revoke bail.

Circuit Judge Patricia Thomas denied Vaughn's petition Thursday.

John Dollar, 59, and his 52-year-old wife remain behind bars at the Citrus County jail, each charged with five counts of aggravated child abuse. They have pleaded not guilty and await trial.

A habeas corpus is a form of petition filed with a court to seek the prompt release of someone in custody.

It places the burden of proof on those detaining the person to justify the person's detention.

In this case, the list included Circuit Judge Ric Howard; Corrections Corporation of America, which is the private company that operates the county jail; and the jail's warden, Carlos Melendez.

In the petition, Vaughn stated that Howard shouldn't have denied bail for the couple. The Dollars left the state in late January while they were under investigation in the abuse of their children, who are now in foster care.

When the Dollars failed to show up at a Jan. 31 hearing about the welfare and custody of their children, law enforcement started a nationwide manhunt. The State Attorney's Office issued a warrant for their arrest Feb. 1, and Howard set bail at $100,000 each.

The Dollars were arrested Feb. 4 by law enforcement in Utah, and prosecutors later filed a motion to revoke the $100,000 bail.

The motion was granted, and Howard revoked the bail Feb. 7.

When the Dollars returned to Florida, they were booked into the county jail, where they have remained since.

Howard had denied the Dollars bail at a March 15 hearing.

In reviewing the habeas corpus petition, Thomas ruled that Howard's decision to revoke bail was legal under Florida law.

"(The Dollars) were afforded an evidentiary hearing at which the court made the necessary findings to deny and/or revoke their bond," Thomas wrote.

Howard has set a June 6 status conference in the case.

A pretrial hearing will be Oct. 27, with trial scheduled to begin Oct. 31.

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


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