Ecclestone: Daughter’s ‘vile’ claims of sex abuse should be tossed

Updated July 05, 2018
E. Llwyd Ecclestone said daughter Wendy Walker Mendelsohn’s “fake claims are nothing more than a shake down” in a motion asking a Palm Beach County court to toss Mendelsohn’s lawsuit. (George Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)

E. Llwyd Ecclestone, Jr., has asked a Palm Beach County court to throw out a lawsuit filed against him by his daughter, who alleges he sexually molested her when she was a child.

In his motion to dismiss filed on Tuesday, Ecclestone said daughter Wendy Walker Mendelsohn’s “fake claims are nothing more than a shake down” to coerce Ecclestone to pay exorbitant sums of money to her and her husband, Joshua, or else suffer damage to Ecclestone’s “impeccable reputation.”

Ecclestone, a prominent Palm Beach County developer and business leader, called “vile” the allegations in a lawsuit filed by Mendelsohn on Monday that he had inappropriately embraced and kissed her when she was 10 years old. The motion said Ecclestone “vehemently denies” the accusations.

Mendelsohn, the youngest daughter of Ecclestone’s four children, alleged in the Palm Beach County Circuit Court lawsuit that she recalled abuse by her father as part of her recovery from abuse by her brother, E. Llwyd Ecclestone III.

Through an attorney, Ecclestone III denied the allegations.

In the Tuesday legal filing, Ecclestone, Jr., Mendelsohn’s father, says the statute of limitations has expired regarding claims of sexual abuse. The filing also sought to raise doubts about Mendelsohn’s case by noting she recalled the alleged abuse by her brother but not, initially, her father.

Calling the disclosure “inconsistent,” the motion says the abuse recollections should have coincided: “Those universes should collide, but they do not and cannot.”

In her lawsuit, Mendelsohn said the abuse by her brother started when she was 10 and lasted for about two years. During the course of recovering from her brother’s alleged abuse, her complaint said she recalled abuse by her father when she was about the same age.

She said she was encouraged by mental health professionals to disclose the alleged behavior to her father, the lawsuit said. But Ecclestone did not respond sympathetically to Mendelsohn’s discussion of her childhood recollections, her lawsuit said.

Instead, according to the complaint, he isolated her from the rest of the family, eventually telling her to stop talking about the alleged abuse by her brother, and sign a letter of confidentiality regarding it, so she and her family would be allowed back into the family’s good graces.

Mendelsohn has been married for 21 years and has three children.

Four months before filing the lawsuit alleging abuse, Mendelsohn filed a separate lawsuit against her siblings and non-family trustees, alleging assets of at least $15 million promised to her were improperly put into Ecclestone’s wife’s name.

That trust lawsuit has spawned a separate, major legal battle that includes non-family trustee members such as former University of Florida President Marshall Criser and real estate developer John Temple. An attorney for both on Tuesday said the allegations against his clients in the trust case have no merit.

As part of the Tuesday filings, Ecclestone also sought to toss a reference by Mendelsohn that she successfully passed polygraph tests in 2016 and 2017. According to Mendelsohn’s lawsuit, the tests indicate she was truthful regarding allegations of abuse by her father and brother.

Ecclestone said lie-detector tests are inadmissible as evidence and should be stricken from the lawsuit.

Rod Coleman, Mendelsohn’s lawyer, said on Thursday that the rebuttal outlined in Ecclestone’s filing are “without merit.”

Ecclestone has been a driving force in Palm Beach County’s development for 50 years. He’s known for building such north Palm Beach County communities as PGA National Resort & Spa and Ibis Golf and Country Club.

Ecclestone, who lives on an oceanfront Palm Beach mansion with his wife, Diana, serves on the board of the Palm Beach Police Foundation and on the town of Palm Beach Shore Protection Board.