$8 million sex abuse judgment
Judge rules against Merill Lynch vice president in civil suit brought by daughter
By Jay Reeves
Associated Press Writer
BIRMINGHAM — A judge ordered a prominent Alabama businessman to pay $8 million to his daughter, who claimed he subjected her to three decades of sexual abuse that began when she was a preschooler and included a rape the night she was crowned homecoming queen at her high school.
Circuit Judge Helen Shores Lee ruled against Fred M. Blackmon of Montgomery, a vice president with Merrill Lynch & Co., in a civil lawsuit filed by Louise Plott, who also claimed to be the victim of horrific emotional torture along with physical assaults that began when she was 5 and continued through recent years.
Plott had asked for a judgment of $32 million.
An attorney for Blackmon said Thursday his client was considering options for challenging the verdict, including an appeal. Blackmon had testified his daughter's case against him was "an absolute lie," and his lawyers argued that her claims — which include a murder in her own home — were both too outlandish for belief and not supported by corroborating evidence.
"We're disappointed with the order. Our client has always denied wrongdoing," said defense lawyer Allen Hammer.
Attorneys for Plott, 35, said she felt vindicated by the judge's decision, released Nov. 6 but not previously reported.
"Louise showed great determination throughout this case. She overcame incredible obstacles just to publicly confront her abuser," said a statement by her attorneys, James L. North and J. Timothy Francis.
Blackmon testified during the trial that he no longer loved Plott because of what he said were false allegations. He said he quit giving Plott an $8,000-a-month "allowance" after she contacted attorneys in January 2006 about a lawsuit.
Helping victims of incest
The Associated Press's policy is not to name alleged victims of sexual abuse in most cases, but Plott told the AP in an interview Thursday that she hopes to help other victims of incest by letting her story be told publicly.
"I think there's an amazing misunderstanding that this does not go on, but it does," said Plott. She filed suit using the name Louise Parker, but has since remarried and adopted her husband's last name, Plott.
Lee heard 28 witnesses during a trial that was held without a jury in August. In her ruling, the judge said four therapists testified that Plott had symptoms that are common among victims of childhood sexual abuse, and that two experts who testified for Blackmon couldn't say whether Plott had been abused.
In a sworn statement, Plott recounted decades of abuse she said began in her bedroom of the family's home in Montgomery, where the Blackmons lived on one of the most exclusive streets in town.
"I remember my father fondling me at night when he put me to bed," she said. "He often said that this was our secret, that he loved me, and he loved making me feel good."
Plott claimed Blackmon raped her the night she was named homecoming queen at The Montgomery Academy as a teenager and again the night before her first wedding. She recounted numerous other assaults, claiming she never reported any of the attacks for fear her father would harm her or, later, her three children.
Documents filed by the defense show Plott's mother, Bess Blackmon, and four siblings denied during testimony that they saw signs of abuse, but one of her sisters also described the allegations as "complicated." Plott claimed two of her brothers were forced as children to join in the sexual assaults by their father, an allegation both brothers denied.
Blackmon's attorneys argued unsuccessfully that many of Plott's claims were too wild to believe, including her allegations that Blackmon repeatedly took her to orgies at a hotel as a young girl and lined up cohorts to rape her as many as three times.
Plott also claimed her father once mailed her a dismembered thumb and a fetus, and that she was forced to participate in the stabbing death of a young man who was brought to her home by her father and another, unidentified man.
Plott's attorneys acknowledged that some of her stories were "bizarre," but they argued that evidence showed some embellishments could be linked to mental problems from decades of abuse by Blackmon.
Blackmon is a one-time University of Alabama golfer who has received recognition for donating money to Crimson Tide athletics. He has served on church boards and is listed as president of a family foundation that has more than $1.2 million in assets and has given tens of thousands to charity.
While most of the alleged rapes and abuse occurred in Montgomery, where Plott grew up, she filed suit last year in Jefferson County, where she lives and where some of the alleged assaults occurred.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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