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Florida drops child-sex charge against former Alaskan

Lisa Demer
Bill Weimar leaves federal court following his sentencing on Wednesday, November 12, 2008. Erik Hill

Prosecutors in Florida have decided not to bring charges of child sexual battery against former Alaska halfway house mogul Bill Weimar, who had been accused by the Sarasota sheriff's office of illegal sexual contact with a 6-year-old girl.

Dawn Buff, an assistant state attorney who specializes in sex crimes, filed a notice in Sarasota Circuit Court Wednesday that the case was being declined by her office.

Weimar, now 71, was arrested earlier this year after U.S. marshals found him on his yacht in Cancun, Mexico, after he briefly traveled to Havana. Before he left Florida for Cuba, he had been interviewed by Sarasota sheriff's office investigators about the allegations, and he denied doing anything inappropriate with the little girl. When he left Florida, authorities there declared him a fugitive, but his lawyer said Wednesday that Weimar had only been taking a planned vacation.

The investigation began after the girl's mother overheard her playing with her Barbie and Ken dolls in a sexual way. The girl told her mother she had done the same act with Weimar. The sheriff's office detective asserted the abuse happened in August when the mother went to the airport and asked Weimar to watch the child.

The mother called child protective services, and the girl eventually told an investigator that Weimar had asked her to perform fellatio, which she did.

There was no corroborating evidence, Buff wrote in a memo explaining the decision not to pursue the case. Investigators didn't find other, similar victims after placing notices in Alaska and Seattle, where Weimar also lived. There was no medical or physical evidence. And Weimar didn't incriminate himself during a secretly recorded phone call or in interviews with investigators, Buff said.

"It certainly doesn't have anything to do with the credibility of the child," Buff said in a phone interview.

Weimar, a law school graduate, ran halfway houses in Alaska for years. He knew the ramifications of any admission, Buff said.

"He's crafty enough with his words and certainly knew anything he said could be used against him," she said.

In the recorded call, Weimar said he couldn't trust himself to be around the child after being accused by her. Buff's memo said that when investigators interviewed him, he explained that was for fear of false allegations.

While Weimar left for the Caribbean, the state couldn't prove that he did so because he was guilty, rather than a desire to move up an already planned trip, the memo said.

The child's father said he was disappointed the case wasn't being pursued but relieved his daughter would not have to testify in court. The Daily News has a general policy against identifying sexual abuse victims, so it's not naming the father to shield the child.

The father called Weimar on Sunday, before the prosecution decision, to press him on what happened but said Weimar wouldn't talk. He said he never liked Weimar being around his daughter because Weimar didn't seem to like children very much.

"I don't really think we got to the bottom of it," the father said.

Weimar's Sarasota attorney, Martin Burzynski, said Weimar should never have been arrested based on the word of a small child with no other evidence.

"These are false allegations that go to the core of his being," Burzynski said.

In Mexico, Weimar was captured by the Mexican navy.

"Based on a single statement by a child, a man can be arrested on his vacation in Mexico, with helicopters, gunships, dogs, blacked-out Suburbans and machine guns," Burzynski said. "Thrown into a jail in Mexico, transported to the border, handed over to the U.S. marshals, brought to a jail in Texas, thrown into a holding cell for a week or two without being able to contact his lawyer or know what's going on, and then transported in a van across the country that took almost 2 1/2 weeks going from county to county."

The case cost Weimar a small fortune -- and his reputation, Burzynski said.

"He was greatly relieved that the truth finally emerged," the lawyer said.

Buff said the Constitution protects the rights of the accused, not the victims. It's hard to prove a case with a single witness, she said.

In 2008, Weimar was convicted in the Alaska political corruption scandal. He pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy and financial misconduct charges related to money he poured into a state senator's campaign.

Reach Lisa Demer at ldemer@adn.com or 257-4390.


By LISA DEMER
ldemer@adn.com