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Child abuse trial begins as Miramar father tries to regain custody of daughter

Web-posted: 12:33 a.m. Sep. 26, 2000

There were no supportive crowds, no TV cameras, no fanfare at the long-awaited start of Paul Scott Abbott's child abuse trial Monday.

Instead, after more than two years of delays, the civil trial began quietly in the Broward County Courthouse with testimony from Abbott's ex-wife, Linda Abbott.

The couple's child, a flaxen-haired 5-year-old, was removed from Paul Abbott's home and placed in Children Home Society's emergency shelter more than two years ago. At that time, child abuse investigators alleged that Abbott, 43, of Miramar, had failed to protect his daughter from possible abuse by her mother. In additional allegations, Department of Children and Families staffers stated in court records that the girl was at risk of sexual and other types of abuse if she remained in her father's care.

Therapists and child-care workers testified during pretrial motions three weeks ago that the girl acts out sexually, often touching herself in public. She also has propositioned other children.

Although Linda Abbott conceded to Children and Families that she needed help parenting the little girl, Paul Abbott has vehemently denied any wrongdoing.

His denial has turned into a crusade to get his daughter back. That crusade has inspired followers -- parents of children in the foster care system, self-proclaimed child advocates and friends of Abbott -- who typically jam the courtroom.

But on Monday, the crowds were missing, so there were few to hear Linda Abbott sketch out her life and relationship with Paul Abbott and the violence that marked their marriage.

"We both lost it, more than once," she said while being cross-examined by Paul Abbott's attorney.
In at times a halting voice, Linda Abbott described a messy past marked by a 1982 child abuse felony conviction involving her first child, a boy, by her first husband.

Then in 1991, after serving a year in a residential program and more than seven years' probation, Linda Abbott met Paul Abbott. The two met through friends, shared some marijuana and exchanged phone numbers, Linda Abbott testified. They were married four months later.

The marriage was marked by violence and distrust, with each accusing the other of wrongdoing.

It was into this hostile environment their daughter was born.

After the divorce, Paul Abbott gained custody of their daughter, but the couple continued to fight over the girl's diet, her clothes, even her haircuts.

Today, lawyers for the department will continue with their case. The trial, in front of visiting Judge Daniel True Andrews, is slated to take the week.

Shana Gruskin can be reached at or 561-243-6537.,1136,33500000000109107,00.html

Miramar father fights yearslong campaign to free daughter from foster care

Web-posted: 10:43 p.m. Aug. 27, 2000

Paul Scott Abbott is a zealot.

Every legal motion he files in dependency court, every caustic lawsuit he throws at the state's child welfare department, every fax and electronic mail message he sends to his supporters bespeaks his mission: to get his daughter out of state custody.

But whether the towheaded 5-year-old, taken by child abuse investigators more than two years ago, will be returned to him soon remains to be seen.

A case hearing this morning in Broward Circuit Court could draw as many as 50 to 100 onlookers, said Eleanor Mendlein, a member of Broward County's Court Watch, a voluntary advocacy group that monitors court cases. That's due in part to Abbott's efforts to publicize the case.

Abbott, 43, of Miramar, hopes his latest motion, filed Thursday, will be addressed at the hearing and force the Department of Children & Families to release his daughter.

The girl's case is as much a look at parental determination as it is a study in legal maneuverings of the foster care system.

A trial over whether the girl should be permanently placed in foster care has yet to be held, although state law requires one to take place within 30 days after a child is removed from home.

That has outraged legal experts, who say such a delay can create havoc in a young child's mind.

"I just think it's absolutely tragic they didn't have a hearing a long time ago and get it over with once and for all," said Chris Zawisza, director of Nova Southeastern University Law School's Children First project.

"Young children cannot tolerate long periods of indefiniteness," she said. "We know from brain research, that kind of lack of structure and nurturing permanently affects the child physiologically and emotionally."

Abbott said that spending the past two years in Children's Home Society's emergency shelter has taken its toll on his daughter.

"She had been always just an extremely sweet and well-mannered child," he said. "Now, as much as you can think of it for a 5-year-old, she's got a hard edge on her."

The girl was taken by child abuse investigators and placed in the emergency shelter in April 1998, following a Children & Families order filed in the courtroom of then-Broward Circuit Judge Kathleen Kearney.

Kearney is now head of Children & Families, the state's social services department.

State child abuse investigators at first alleged the child's mother had given her a swollen lip and her father had failed to protect her, according to a Children & Families petition filed in dependency court.

Such petitions are used as the basis for placing a child in foster care.

Since then, state investigators have altered the allegations three times in more than a year.

The state's last petition, which was filed in court September 1999 in front of Judge John Luzzo, highlights more serious allegations.

Abbott told investigators his ex-wife gave the girl hormones when she was 18 months old, causing her to grow breasts and pubic hair. The child also sustained first-degree burns on her fingertips as well as the swollen lip.

Meanwhile, the petition alleges, Abbott repeatedly disrupted his daughter's visits with her mother, harassed people involved in those visits and has an explosive temper. The petition also raises the question of who actually gave the girl the swollen lip.

Lastly, the petition states the child is "at substantial risk of imminent sexual abuse" by her father and that "most recently, the child has been exhibiting sexually acting out behavior."

New reports from the Department of Children & Families allege the girl has been sexually aggressive with other children in the shelter.

"There were several incidents between 1998 and 2000 where (my daughter) was a victim of sexual molestation," Abbott said. That, he said, may have led her to become sexually aggressive, a reaction child welfare experts say is not unusual for young victims of child abuse.

The latest development in the case, namely the girl's sexual behavior, has only added fuel to Abbott's fire.

"It's gotten to the point now, I literally send out hundreds of faxes and e-mails to local media, national media, people who have been following the case, people with various advocacy groups and religious organizations," said Abbott, a lay pastor and freelance journalist who has worked for the Sun-Sentinel.

"We've got prayer chains going literally around the world," Abbott said. He sent one of his motions to the 4th District Court of Appeal, which responded by telling the lower court to settle the matter. He has sued the state and Children & Families' Kearney. He even has subpoenaed the governor for deposition.

Abbott is motivated by his belief that the state holds his daughter to punish him for speaking out against the department.

Children & Families officials have declined to comment on the case.

Monday's hearing, which is supposed to prepare the court for a trial in early September, will be before Judge Daniel True Andrews from Polk County, Abbott said. He is one of nearly a dozen judges who has handled this case.

"You will see judges from other circuits when there is, for example, a criminal prosecution going on of a public official," said Bernard Perlmutter of the University of Miami's Children & Youth Law Clinic. "In the context of a juvenile dependency proceeding, this is very, very unusual."

Whether today's hearing will address Abbott's latest motion to return his daughter or bring closure to this painful, public case no one can say. But Abbott says, "I'll continue to fight, I'll just keep on fighting until the day she is brought home."

Shana Gruskin can be reached at or 561-243-6537.

Thursday, Sept. 7

Trial Now to Start Sept. 25, in Case of Broward 5-year-old Illegally Held 2 1/3 Years, as Child Hearsay Motion Considered

Specially appointed Judge Daniel True Andrews says he is determined to complete trial by Oct. 4 at 8 p.m., even if it takes 12-hours-a-day hearings starting Sept. 25, in the case in which the state has illegally held Ashleigh Danielle Abbott, now 5, for nearly half her life in a Fort Lauderdale group emergency shelter.

After hearing attorneys' arguments today (Thursday, Sept. 7) on the state's motion to allow Ashleigh's hearsay statements into evidence, Judge Andrews took the motion under advisement, saying he intends to review transcripts and case law. His decision is expected before trial starts Monday, Sept. 25, at 8 a.m., in Room 540, Broward County Courthouse, 201 S.E. 6th St., Fort Lauderdale.

In the meantime, attorneys for Ashleigh's father, Paul Scott Abbott, 43, of Miramar, are expected to file additional actions aimed at the return of Ashleigh to the home from which she was seized in April 1998 on a bogus dependency petition. Ashleigh has yet to be declared dependent in relation to the father who virtually singlehandedly raised her. It is the longest group emergency shelter captivity in U.S. history without a dependency adjudication against the protective parent.

Ashleigh's captors, including Gov. Jeb Bush, named her "ultimate captor" in a filing in connection with his dodging deposition, move closer to their goal of moving Ashleigh's return past the presidential election.

This week, when trial was supposed to have begun but the state bogged things down with days of motion hearing, the state once again admitted to having no evidence of abuse or neglect on the part of the father. Instead, they claimed she might be somehow "at risk" with the father, who, they claim, has taught her to dance seductively and, they contend, is somehow responsible for the masturbation Ashleigh has engaged in following her seizure from her home and placement in the group shelter just past her 3rd birthday.

Although state officials aware they have turned Ashleigh into a sexual victim as well as predator at the facility (as reported by media), they continue to hold her at the shelter, despite laws limiting such stays to 30 to 60 days.

A writ from the Fourth District Court of Appeal in West Palm Beach demanded the adjudicatory trial take place "forthwith." Experts have termed the matter a "witch hunt."

July 25 2000

State Drags Father through More Manure,
Bogging Down Efforts for Daughter's Return;
Please Show Support at Next Hearing, Aug. 8

Actions that could have speeded the return of a 5-year-old South Florida girl to the home from which she was snatched by state authorities more than 2 years ago again were not addressed Tuesday (July 25), as the court became mired in more false allegations against the father.

Orlando attorney H. Robert Dowd (phone 407-849-0548) again drove down to Broward County in hopes something might be done to return Ashleigh Danielle Abbott to the dad who had raised her since infancy -- until she was placed by Broward Dependency Judge Kathleen Kearney (now secretary of the Florida Department of Children and Families) in an emergency shelter where she has been illegally detained for what is approaching half her life.

Dowd was hoping Judge Dorian Damoorgian would act upon the petition for writ of habeas corpus that he filed the previous week in Broward Circuit Court, after a similar petition was ignored by the 4th District Court of Appeal in West Palm Beach. Dowd also was hoping something might be done in with requests to open to the public all court files and DCF records in the state's abduction and continued false imprisonment of Ashleigh.

However, the court chose instead to hear from a licensed clinical social worker who made wild false allegations about alleged sexual abuse of Ashleigh by the father. Although there was no corroboration and it was abundantly clear after cross-examination that this is yet another state-staged smoke screen in the continuing witch hunt against the father, Paul Scott Abbott of Miramar (phone 954-962-2503), the so-called testimony consumed the 1 1/2 hours allotted by the court.

The next hearing is set for Tuesday, Aug. 8, at 3:30 p.m., in Room 241, Broward County Courthouse, 201 S.E. 6th St., Fort Lauderdale. (SUPPORTERS ARE URGED TO PLEASE BE THERE IN PERSON AND/OR PRAYER!) In addition to the opportunity to put on its case fighting state efforts to force the father's access to Ashleigh to remain limited to 1 or 2 hours a week in a prison-like environment, attorneys for the father are hoping action can be taken on:

o Forcing Gov. Jeb Bush to appear for deposition.
o The petition for writ of habeas corpus, demanding Ashleigh's release from captivity.
o The father's efforts to get immediate public release of all files and records in the case, as well as strike an 83-paragraph fictitious "factual background" filed by DCF in its own motion -- incredible as it seems -- to seek release of the files. (What makes the DCF motion for release so incredible is that the state had fought for months against releasing the records to Karen Gievers' Children's Advocacy Foundation (phone 850-222-1961)
before being finally court-ordered to do so.)
o The father's voluminous filing fighting efforts by the state to move Ashleigh in, at least on weekends, with the mentally ill mother whose history includes felony child abuse on a first child from her first marriage, battery on Ashleigh's father, commitment to a mental hospital for attempting suicide when pregnant with Ashleigh, etc.

It appears Broward Sheriff's Office Deputy Dennis Wise will finally get an opportunity on Aug. 8 to detail the state's successful removal of him from involvement as he has been prepared to disclose numerous lies and nefarious acts of the state. Back when Kearney seized Ashleigh in April 1998, on grounds the father "failed to protect" her when she returned from a court-ordered supervised visit with her mother with a fat lip, Kearney did not permit Wise to testify, To this day, Deputy Wise has never been afforded a chance to present evidence that could expedite her return to her father, against whom the false sex allegations did not surface until the state decided to employ another shamefully deceitful tactic to protect itself following the father going to the media, legislators and others, including lawyers who are attacking the state in individual and class actions.

Ashleigh's captivity is believed the longest any U.S. child has been held in a group emergency shelter without adjudication against the protective parent; law limits such holding to 30 days. Records note Ashleigh -- a bright, healthy, well-adjusted girl when taken shortly after her 3rd birthday now functions at only 50 percent psychological level.

The state's filing indicates a website has been maintained with extensive information on Ashleigh's case -- at

Do you know where your kids go on the computer? What they are viewing? Bet they could tell you a thing or two.