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In a rare action, a 19-year-old Florida woman has sued her mother for negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress for allegedly allowing her husband, the teen-ager’s stepfather, to molest her when she was a child. In another twist to the case, Marybel Reinoso, the former Palm Beach County, Fla., assistant state attorney who prosecuted the criminal case against the stepfather, is now in private practice and representing the plaintiff. Frederick v. Frederick Jr. and Kellar, No. CA 03-093 AF (Palm Beach Co., Fla., Cir. Ct.). In 1999, Edward Lee Frederick Jr., a former Greenacres, Fla., police officer, was convicted of multiple felonies that stemmed from his sexual abuse of Mellissa Frederick, which began when she was 7. He was sentenced to life imprisonment. Edward Frederick is also named in the suit that alleges that Mellissa suffered silently for four years before telling her mother. Reinoso said the suit “is not about money. For Mellissa, I think it’s about getting some vindication — there’s never been that acknowledgement from either one of them, no remorse.” Though Reinoso has one other nearly identical case, litigation in which a mother is sued for allegedly knowingly allowing her child to be abused is rare. Jim Ferguson, director of the National Crime Victim Bar Association, said that while he’s seen child abuse cases, they have not involved suits filed by children against their parents. “Often the defendants are neighbors or day care centers,” he said. But “we certainly support the rights of crime victims, including victims of child sexual abuse, to seek compensation from any responsible party — that includes perpetrators and in the many settings where there are responsible third parties.” Both Edward Frederick and Mellissa’s mother, Velda Ann Kellar, who has divorced him, are representing themselves. Neither could be reached for comment. Both Kellar and Frederick deny the abuse in court documents. Kellar, among other allegations, accuses Reinoso of having a personal vendetta and of forcing Mellissa to lie. Reinoso, who denies Kellar’s accusations, is exploring the possibility of adding other defendants — family members and clergy who allegedly had knowledge and a duty to act. The abuse began in 1991 and continued through 1997. In 1998, according to the suit, Mellissa’s mother allegedly informed her that she would be home-schooled, while her brothers would continue to go to school. Mellissa said she was terrified that she would then be at constant risk and, for the first time, told a friend of her history and her fears. The friend took her to a children’s refuge, and counselors there reported Edward Frederick’s crimes to police. Reinoso and Mellissa established a professional relationship as the criminal case progressed. Since the conviction three years ago, Mellissa called her every six months or so, “just to check in, let me know how she was doing,” Reinoso said. When she last called it was to ask Reinoso to recommend a lawyer. Mellissa was told that Reinoso had left her county job, so she called her at her new office at Plasencia and Associates in West Palm Beach. Reinoso called it “pure luck and coincidence.” Since nothing had been suppressed at the 13-day trial, which took place three years ago, and everything in prosecutor Reinoso’s file was in the public record, there was no ethical bar to her taking the case, Reinoso said. Her boss, Leonel Plasencia, checked with the State Bar’s ethics hotline and received a thumbs-up.

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