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BROWARDPublished Saturday, August 12, 2000, in the Miami Herald

Clerk's wife lands in controversy by backing man in custody fight


As the man who recently took over Broward County's historically troubled Clerk of the Courts office, former county commissioner Ed Kennedy is no stranger to the occasional controversy. But on Friday, it was his wife who found herself at the center of a firestorm.

Beverly B. Kennedy had agreed to supervise the visitations between free-lance writer and lay pastor Paul Scott Abbott and his 5-year-old daughter. The girl was taken from him by child protective investigators in April 1998 and has remained in state care ever since.

In recent months, the case has become a bit of a cause célbre. Abbott, a former newspaper reporter who still works with the media, has enlisted the aid of an Internet publisher and a group of activists who believe the Florida Department of Children and Families has unfairly targeted Abbott because he refused to submit to the agency's authority.

Kennedy, 56, was alerted to the case by a reporter she did not name. She said she discussed the case with Abbott at one point and he suggested her to the presiding judge as as a suitable supervisor for his visits with his daughter.

She acknowledged Friday under questioning that she had followed Abbott's case through newspaper accounts and an Internet newsletter and had even done a little investigating to ascertain the truth of some of Abbott's claims.

``I believe in my heart and soul this father is without guilt and is being blamed by someone who did not tell the truth,'' Kennedy testified.

At issue in Friday's court hearing was whether Kennedy had made up her mind about the Abbott case and, therefore, was unfit to supervise Abbott's visits with his daughter. Senior Assistant Attorney General Jill M. Bennett had asked Broward Circuit Judge Dorian Damoorgian to disqualify Kennedy as a court-approved supervisor for that reason.

Damoorgian agreed to allow Kennedy to supervise Abbott's visits but warned her to act as an observer of events, not an advocate.

``Her role is not as investigative reporter. Her role is not fact-finder,'' Damoorgian said. ``Her role is observer. Her role is protector.''

In a sworn statement signed Thursday, Attorney General's Office investigator Randi Shapiro said Kennedy, a financial advisor and securities industry arbitrator, had volunteered during a conversation that she thought the actions against Abbott were ``a witch hunt against this one poor man.''

Kennedy told the investigator ``she has been following this case for more than one year and ... she has never seen more prejudice against a person than what she sees in this case against the father,'' according to Shapiro's affidavit.

A Guardian Ad Litem assigned to represent the child also had concerns. Kennedy ``is clearly biased in this case and an inappropriate person to supervise visitations,'' Melissa Fellman, told Damoorgian.

Abbott's attorney, Brett Rogers, suggested, instead, that the Attorney General's Office was merely trying to prevent Abbott from seeing his child by objecting to everyone he suggests as a possible supervisor.

``There is an ongoing effort to prevent him from having any meaningful relationship with his child,'' Rogers said, ``and it's very frustrating.''

This article was posted online. It is reproduced here without any alteraton to text.

Copyright 2000 Miami Herald