BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – A judge ordered a prominent businessman to pay $8 million to his daughter, who claimed he sexually abused her for decades beginning when she was a preschooler and included a rape the night she was crowned homecoming queen.
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.
Blackmon's attorneys argued unsuccessfully that many of Plott's claims were too wild to believe and unsupported by evidence. Among other things, she alleged 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.
An attorney for Blackmon said Thursday his client was considering an appeal. Blackmon had testified his daughter's case against him was "an absolute lie."
"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. Plott had asked for a judgment of $32 million.
"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.
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," Plott said.
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.
Plott claimed Blackmon raped her the night she was named homecoming queen at her high school, 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.
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.
The judge 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.
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.
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 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.