Florida court seals records in sex abuse case
FLORIDA — A Florida state circuit court in Ocala ruled in early February that records and testimony in a sex-abuse case involving a father accused of infecting six of his daughters with syphilis will be sealed, according to the state prosecutor.
Marion County Circuit Judge Victor Musleh issued the ruling at the suggestion of prosecutor Jerry Burford because of a state law requiring health service officials to get a patient’s permission before testifying about an examination of the patient for venereal disease. Burford, who wants the official who investigates venereal diseases to testify, said one of the daughters refuses to participate in the prosecution, and suggested to the court that consent would not be necessary if the records of the testimony were sealed.
Lawyers for the health services department agreed to Burford’s proposal to seal records of the testimony but have filed a motion to stop the employee from testifying. One of the lawyers said the agency wants to cooperate but does not want to violate the law or jeopardize the official’s license.
The father, whose identity is being withheld to protect the daughters’ privacy, was arrested in April 1993 and charged with five counts of sexual battery on a child under 12 and one count of sexual activity with a child, according to a New York Times report.
The Times reported that court records show that when child abuse investigators looked into complaints against the man, health workers treated several of his 14 children for venereal disease and implanted birth control devices in two of the girls.
The health department had received 16 reports on the family since 1986, most accusing the father of physical abuse or neglect. Some of the children now are living with relatives or with foster parents, while others already are adults. Two of the girls had children that paternity tests indicate the man probably fathered, the Times reported.
Under state law, material concerning health-service officials’ investigations of venereal disease are exempt from the state open records law.