A year and a half ago, a woman filed a civil suit against Palm Coast physician Gerald Abate, claiming he had deceived, drugged, battered and raped her at the home he owned on Cinnamon Beach Way in 2017. She filed a police report with the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office almost two years later. It was not pursued.
The civil suit is seeking damages of more than $30,000. Abate, 67 when the suit was filed, never contested it in court. Her attorney, Michael Dolce of Palm Beach Gardens, filed a motion for a final judgment, finding Abate liable by default. In September, Circuit Judge Terence Perkins granted the order.
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“The fact that somebody gets sued for something and fails to defend themselves after receiving notice of the lawsuit doesn’t mean that there’s any legal confession, if you will, for lack of a better term to responsibility outside of that suit.,” Dolce said. “So it doesn’t work to establish criminal culpability.” What it does mean, Dolce continued, is that “he has confessed to liability in the eyes of the law for the allegations of the complaint.”
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To secure the default judgment, Dolce had to prove that the lawsuit had been served by a process server in person. It was served in New Jersey. ” We had found a vehicle in the driveway to match a registration of his, and a knock on the door and he answered,” he said.
“He had the ability to defend himself because at the same time, shortly after my lawsuit was filed,” Dolce said, “his wife filed for divorce in the same courthouse, and he hired a lawyer. He hired a lawyer to represent him in that case.” Abate hired Flagler Beach lawyer William White in that case. “So obviously he’s got the capacity to hire a lawyer, he’s a doctor and he makes money so he can afford a lawyer, but for whatever reason, he chose not to defend this case.” Dolce also wrote Abate before the lawsuit was filed, then gave him extra time after it was filed. He added: “I’ve not heard from a living suit.”
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Witness lists Dolce submitted include the alleged victim herself, a psychologist, a counselor, a financial advisor, several people in health care and a rape crisis center, records custodians and others. Abate is also listed on Dolce’s witness list. The lists trace the outlines of Dolce’s plan: to tell the woman’s story in part through her medical and psychological records. The exhibit list will include texts and emails Abate exchanged with the woman, cancelled checks from Abate to the woman–he had paid her several thousand dollars in the aftermath of their relationship–and “photographs of damage to the Plaintiff’s car on the night of the assault.”
Should damages be awarded, the judgment would be strictly civil. In such cases the defendant could then be compelled by the court to provide financial documents. If the defendant ignores the court, only then can a contempt motion be filed, resulting in a bench warrant that could lead to arrest.
A survivor himself, Dolce specializes in representing survivors of sex crimes. In this case, he was struck by the way the alleged victim met Abate on a dating website, then was in his analysis unnecessarily subjected to deceptive, predatory behavior in a society where anyone wishing to have an affair can do so–without deception.
“We’ve got emails back and forth between my client and Dr. Abate before any assault occurred, where it’s like, ‘probably the only thing missing in my life is somebody to walk on the beach with and enjoy seafood dinners and stuff,'” Dolce said. “That painted the picture that he was what my client was looking for, someone for a committed relationship. That wasn’t a trip. So why would somebody behave like that? You have to ask yourself, why would somebody behave like that in this day and age? Well, because they’re getting some charge. It seems to me some emotional charge or something that excites them about getting somebody into bed. Right? That’s what it seems like the goal is, it seems to me, because he had alternatives, didn’t he?”
Read the article on FlaglerLive.