Fred Blackmon must decide whether he will now appeal a judge’s ruling that he sexually assaulted his daughter and must pay $8 million. A prominent businessman in Montgomery Alabama, Blackmon denies the often bizarre allegations of his daughter.The case presented difficult evidentiary questions and will likely present equally difficult appellate issues. Blackmon, a vice president with Merrill Lynch & Co., was sued by Louise Plott, who made some pretty strange allegations, including that Blackmon repeatedly took her to orgies at a hotel as a young girl, once mailed her a dismembered thumb and a fetus, and forced her to participate in the stabbing death of a young man.
Her attorney insisted that such bizarre accounts are merely the result of the mental anguish and problems caused by years of abuse, including alleged rapes the night she became prom queen and before her wedding. In one of the most glaring conflicts, Plott’s four siblings denied they saw signs of abuse. Moreover, Plott claimed two of her brothers were forced as children to join in the sexual assaults but both brothers denied the allegations.
Four therapists testified that Plott had symptoms that are common among victims of childhood sexual abuse, and two experts (who testified for Blackmon) couldn’t say whether Plott had been abused. The problem for Blackmon will be the appeal of what are largely questions of fact. In ruling in the case, the judge was making fact decisions of credibility and weight. Those decisions are given great deference on appeal as opposed to legal questions that are review de novo (new and without deference). By noting that four experts testified that victims of childhood abuse will create bizarre stories, the court was finding in favor of their testimony as a factual matter. The problem for defendants is that such expert testimony makes it very difficult to rebut any accounts no matter how strange. Indeed, the more bizarre the stories, the more they fit into the model of childhood abuse. This was the case in the Eric Foretich/Elizabeth Morgan case, where I represented Foretich. For a prior column, click here Nevertheless, while all of the siblings did support their father, one daughter called the matter “complicated.” For the full story, click here