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Psychiatrist survives more abuse charges

Psychiatrist Melvin Wise, who has survived charges of sexual abuse by five former patients, now has escaped accusations by two more.

The Florida Department of Professional Regulation (DPR) has dropped the two pending charges against Wise because both of the women who were due to testify had second thoughts, a DPR spokeswoman said Thursday.

Wise's whereabouts are not known. He once practiced child and adolescent psychiatry in Miami, but publicity about the first five cases drove him to Orlando. After further publicity there, he left Orlando and reportedly has left the state.

Linda Hatch of Missouri, the first to file a complaint against Wise, said she understands why the women backed out.

"The process was grueling, and the memories were more difficult to deal with than they'd anticipated," she said. "It cost me my health and a lot of money, so I can't recommend it as something to do."

Hatch, who has made a point of being identified to dispel the notion that Wise's accusers did anything wrong, is unusually persistent. She has made six trips to Florida and has spent more than $20,000 in pursuit of what she sees as justice.

She has tried to keep up with the progress of the case even while undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer during the past year. But the news Thursday from DPR "makes me feel like there's no hope at all," she said.

There is a slim chance the Wise case could be revived. That depends on state Hearing Officer William R. Dorsey Jr., who said he didn't believe any of the five women who testified against Wise in years past. Since the women had been in psychiatric treatment, he said, they might be imagining things.

The women, who said the abuse took place when they were teen-agers, included a flight attendant, a public defender, a social worker and Hatch, co-owner of a contracting business.

In 1989, Dorsey recommended that the charges against Wise be dropped. In February 1990, the Florida Board of Medicine did so on a 6-5 vote, with nearly all members saying they thought what they were doing was a travesty of justice. Under Florida law, hearing officers have the sole authority to judge who is believable.

DPR appealed the case. The 1st District Court of Appeal said Dorsey should not have allowed Wise's attorney to grill the women on their sex lives because it was irrelevant.

The appeals court sent the case back to Dorsey, telling him to reconsider it without giving weight to any of the unrelated sex testimony. That was a year ago. Dorsey has not been heard from.