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tv   [untitled]  CSPAN  June 27, 2009 6:00pm-6:30pm EDT

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court cases that took place in the '80s and '90s. the program is an hour. c-span: dorothy rabinowitz, where did you get the title, "no crueler tyrannies"? >> guest: from montesque, the philosopher, by way of my very enterprising editor at simon & schuster. and i thought it served very well -- no crueler tyrannies than those that are perpetrated under the shield of law and in the name of justice. a perfect title. c-span: why the book? you've written a lot about this in "the wall street journal." >> guest: a lot, and mostly because i came to "the journal" on the wings of one case like this. and i had an editor-in-chief at "the journal," bob bartley, who instantly recognized the importance and -- of this event that was taking place, this sweep of false accusations of child sex abuse. and he
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recognized that there was a larger issue here called prosecutorial zealots -- that is, runaway prosecutors who, quite simply, in many cases don't care. they don't really care if you're guilty or you're not guilty and who'll never give up the conviction. and all of that -- runaway prosecutorial zealots combined with the pathos of the cases of american citizens, most of them -- almost all of them -- middle-class, lower middle-class people who got up and saluted the flag and were genuinely kind of believers in our society and believed in law and believed that if you are falsely accused of something, our system of justice is there for you and you will be rescued. someone will come forward. in every case i wrote about, these citizens said, it's a mistake. someone will come forward. and they believed it to
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the end. c-span: before we start on any of the cases, maybe 15 seconds on each one. i mean -- then we'll come back to it. the amiraults -- who were they? >> guest: the amiraults. they were caught up at the height of -- in 1984, which may seem like a long time to people -- ago to people, but it really wasn't. in 1984, 1983, 1982 began a great, great sweep, a tidal wave of false mass abuse -- that is, 20 school teachers accused. there was the famous mcmartin case in california. well, prosecutors all over america picked up on nursery schools. that was where the great thrust of all of these cases were. nursery school teachers, child care workers, all of them were somehow accused of being a part of child molestation rings, for heaven knows what ends. and there was something called the national child abuse act. so the government poured money into
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agencies that went out to look for child abuse. if you pour money in, you're going to find child abuse. they'd created jobs for workers to go out and find child abuse. anyway, the amiraults -- an italian-american family run by a woman who had been on welfare, violet amirault, pulled herself up, clawed herself up into this marvelous position, brought up two children alone -- very successful child abuse -- child agency. and people relished getting their children in there. suddenly, one day, there was an anonymous phone call. it was labor day, 1984. she was advised that her son, gerald, her adult son, had been accused of molesting a child. in 1984 -- and indeed, in some places still now -- you don't need any more than an
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accusation. gerald was immediately taken away two days later to prison. they got him out on bail. no one confirmed the accusation. no one did anything. as time went on -- and a pattern was established in all of these cases, and this was typical of the amiraults. mrs. amirault was then in her late 60s. she was then accused. her adult daughter, cheryl, she was accused. it was alleged to be a family conspiracy to molest children. they were arrested. they were convicted in two separate trials. they were given enormous sentences. gerald amirault, being the male -- and you have to understand it is the rule in all of these cases that gender matters. if you were the male, you were seen as a major perpetrator, although if you were a lone woman, as kelly michaels was, the weight falls on you. anyhow, they were sent away to
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prison. and i began writing about them after mrs. amirault and her daughter had both served about six years and gerald had served eight years. and a couple of months after the first piece hit "the wall street journal," they were -- the women were released on a plea, and gerald was kept. and there began our fight to free gerald. the prosecutors fought and fought and fought to get the women back into prison, and they almost won. but by this time, the publicity that had been generated by the writings about this -- which were taken up later afterwards in "the boston globe" and everywhere -- was so great, so enormous, the tidal wave of investigation into what really happened. prior to the amiraults had been my very first encounter with this entire matter. i was working as a television
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commentator. i was at wwor-tv in new jersey, doing three times a week some sort of media criticism. and i looked up at the screen, something like that, and i saw this woman in her 20s, late 20s, rosy, apple cheeks, innocent, accused of something like 2,800 charges of child sex abuse. oh, i thought, well, that's very odd. but i didn't think -- what do i know? i was never interested in work in schools or teachers. it never occurred to me. but something seemed odd about this. and you know, when you're a journalist, if there is a story that seems very strange and paradoxical to you, there comes a point when you still get a little click in your head that says, ok, i see how this bizarre thing happened, how it's possible. i never got this click. i thought, how can one woman, one young, lone woman in
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an absolutely open place like the child care center of the church in new jersey that she worked for -- how could she have committed these enormous crimes against 20 children, dressed and undressed them and sent -- you know what it is to dress and undress even one child every day without getting their socks lost? -- 20 children in a perfectly public place, torture them for two years, frighten and terrorize them, and they never went home and told their parents anything? covered them with peanut butter, it was alleged. and she licked the peanut butter off. made them eat feces. made them drink urine. terrorized them. this did seem strange. c-span: what was her name? >> guest: kelly michaels, margaret kelly michaels. c-span: where is she today? >> guest: margaret kelly michaels -- we did get her out, and she won on her first appeal, and today she lives with her four children and has just delivered a fifth children with her husband, former prosecutor,
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one of the few people that i wrote about who has put her life together in so healthful a way and without being haunted. because once you endure false imprisonment of this kind -- and remember, there is no one more despised, no one, than the alleged child molester. i mean, the amirault women, when they were thrown into prison. you could not have imagined people more used to comfort, upright status. they were church goers -- be throw into a prison on a dirty mattress while they waited, being moved to their cell to have people spit at them, call them child abusers. these people were invariably thrown into isolation cells for their own protection. c-span: i want to come back to that. i want to just get a little bit on each one of these people. grant snowden (ph)? >> guest: grant snowden. as they would say in one of our local papers, hero police officer,
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which he was, miami police officer. wanted all of his life to be in police, finally made it, though he was short, too short. he stretched himself. accused, because he had a quarrel with a fellow police officer, of sodomizing a child. it was such an absurd contention on the face of it that even a miami jury -- and this was all in 1980s, the early '80s -- they refused to convict him. but here's the other aspect of these things. prosecutors will not accept, even when a jury says no. they came back with newer charges and newer victims. and the victims got younger and younger because you can inform little children with a lot more persuasive memories of abuse that never took place than older ones. ultimately, he got six life terms, and he is now out. c-span: patrick griffin (ph).
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>> guest: patrick griffin. patrick griffin was a much-loved physician in manhattan. some of this doesn't bear telling, just because of its stomach-turning aspects. but patrick griffin was accused by a patient who was angry at him for not helping her with her phony lawsuit against some institution, of sodomizing her while he was performing a colonoscopy on her. and anybody who knows anything about a colonoscopy knows that the nature of what goes on -- remarkably revolting things happen. and the idea that this man committed oral sodomy on her... in any event, patrick griffin was convicted, and by the marvel -- marvelous talents of his appellate lawyer, he was able to prevail. they had a second
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trial. anybody who ever gets to a second trial is in grave danger because the statistics will tell you a jury is going to convict you something like 60 percent of all people who go back, but not in this case. it was something too grotesque. all of these people i'm telling you about are haunted by all of this. and then there were the people in wenatchee (ph), washington, where there was a wholesale pursuit by one lone detective who decided he knew what child abuse was. now, this was in the '90s, so it's sort of extended. and he became the hero of the small town of wenatchee, washington. and most of the people he picked up were welfare clients, people on welfare who knew nothing, who had poor lawyers, no lawyers. and they were all supposed to be part of a sex ring where people climbed in and out of a church. every one of the stories that i am telling you about was brought
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on convictions that no sane jury would have credited, on evidence that was simply incredible to behold. they were all the same kinds of pieces of evidence because in all of these cases, the prosecutors had an interconnected link of intelligence -- the same charges in every case. they had clowns, bad people dressed in costumes, children were made to watch animal sacrifices. i ask you in how many places... so it was nonetheless the case that the prosecutors in every case said, this case is different. it's not like these other cases. in every case, all the evidence was the same. that's because -- i have to stress this -- they had expert witnesses, and the expert witnesses would travel from trial to trial to serve the prosecutors. and they all came up with the same list of charges. now, you can ask yourself why
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did the jury believe these things? how could the jury believe that, as in the amirault case, old mrs. amirault, one of the most upright of citizens, had suddenly turned at the age of 67 into a child molester who raped children? she was accused and convicted of inserting a stick into the body orifice of a little boy, tied him to a tree stark naked in front of everyone, in front of the house in massachusetts, and the children all attested to this, the ones that were part of the case. now, who would believe this? but if you have a prosecutor who tells the jury, here are all of these brave children. these brave children have come forward to ask that you credit their story because they have endured so much suffering, and if you don't do this, you're betraying the children -- it is not easy to find a jury that is stalwart enough to say, hey, you know, this really is a pile of
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nonsense. c-span: john carroll (ph). >> guest: john carroll, upstate new york, owner of a boat marina, who simply had no -- no school business (unintelligible) your wife mad at you, a woman who is angry at you, a separated wife, and also the sense of rumor -- the case you speak of now, john carroll, is the kind of case that is much more often now heard. you're not going to find, because of all of -- all that we know now -- you're not going to find people in schools being walked out en mass, the way they did in the '80s, and chained together. you're going to find husbands angry at wives, wives angry at husbands, bitter divorce cases in which the most powerful weapon is child sex abuse. that was never true before the 1980s. now it is the weapon of choice, and anybody can be accused. and in this case, mr. carroll was convicted. the
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evidence was grotesque -- two detectives who appeared on the stand to testify that they could tell from his body language that he was guilty. what was the body language these two detectives knew? well, he held his legs like this, and he moved forward. it meant he was looking at the door. all of this -- all of this impressed the jury in upstate new york. the same prosecutor's witness that testified in the '80s to the kelly michaels case, her theory being that, as a child says, no, no, no, nothing ever happened, was the absolute proof that something did happen. and the jurors bought that. she was here to say that roughly in the same way again. how is it, you could ask, that prosecutors could pick for their expert witnesses so discredited an expert as this particular
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one. eileen tracy (ph) was her name. she had been denounced regularly. people wanted nothing to do with her. because prosecutors want to win. they call one another up, and they say, hey, i need an expert witness. call tracy. we'll get her for you. that's the way it works. what i'm saying is an ugly truth i think most people i think apprehend. prosecutors have among them some -- many honest and -- people who know the meaning of their -- the integrity and uphold their -- but others, many others, simply want to win their cases and will go down to their last breath, when someone has been acquitted, saying, he's guilty. when dr. griffin was acquitted by the second jury trial, and
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the judge in the case said to his attorney, why did you even ask for a jury? i would have had this man acquitted in two minutes at a benching. prosecutor in new york, in the manhattan district attorney's famous sex abuse unit, called me the next day after i wrote the piece about him and said, he's as guilty as sin. there has to be something in the capacity of -- in the mental capacities of prosecutors who know, against all of the evidence. they want to hold onto their conviction. and so people are still in prison. gerald amirault is still in prison because the state of massachusetts won't let him go because the integrity of their case -- he represents their victory. so you can say, what is one man's life? he's been locked up. everybody else is out. he has been locked up in the state of massachusetts because the supreme judicial court of massachusetts, one of the most venerable institutions in the united states -- it was formed
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immediately after the salem witch trials -- that -- it is that old. nonetheless, the supreme judicial court of massachusetts ruled that there have been so many appeals in gerald's case that time is more important than justice. we have to put an end to this process. this shocked many, many, many people in the legal establishment in massachusetts. so there we are. c-span: so how do you know -- i mean, what -- what sense do you have that -- as i was reading, i was thinking, why does dorothy rabinowitz write about this? and why are all these other people wrong? i mean, what... >> guest: they aren't all wrong. they -- i knew -- the first that told me what was wrong was -- the kelly michaels trial was my first encounter with this in the '80s. the atmosphere was very like the ayatollah's camp when i
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raised to the television news editor -- i said, you know, we should do a story on this. there's something wrong with this case. and here was a wonderful piece by a journalist in the "village voice," debbie nathan (ph), who also raised questions. the look on the face of the editor was such that i knew you're not even allowed to raise this. he said, don't ever mention this to me again. this is the most hated person in new jersey. everywhere in the newsroom i went, i said, you know, there's something wrong with this story. how dare you? it's the "how dare you?" i knew there was something sacrosanct about questioning these charges. this should raise questions. but how did i know? i didn't know. i thought, well, maybe the prosecutor knows what he's doing. so i asked to meet the prosecutor. glen goldberg (ph) was his name. and he was happy to meet with me. why? because i was no liberal person. i was a grown-up woman with a fairly conservative writing
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credentials. and he told me how much evidence he had against her. it was nonsense. he followed me down the stairs after i raised the questions and he said, by the way, now i'm going to tell you the real evidence i have against her. what was that, sir? he said, she didn't wear underpants under her jeans. imagine. i said, and what did that mean? he said, don't you know? that was the kind of evidence. c-span: how did he know? >> guest: they arrested her, and i guess they found out. but the other thing was, they sealed the transcript. what are they hiding when they seal a transcript? "the new york times" went and asked, in a desultory kind of way, "the new york times" and a couple of other papers went to court to open the record. and they said no. i found my way to the record. i got somebody to open it for me. and that's when i knew. i read the testimony. i read the entire children's testimony and the interviews. i
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saw what the jurors did not see. and here's what i saw. the children are interviewed. they're 5. they're 4. they're frightened. they want to please this adult sitting in front of them, and they don't know what they're there for. but the adult is suddenly showing them a big doll, and the doll has what is called sexual organs, sexually explicit organs. and the interviewer is very persistent and very nice and says to the child, do you want to help? your little friends helped. do you want to tell us if something bad happened? what, said the children. well, you know something bad happened. and the child doesn't know. c-span: are they doing this, by the way, alone, just the two of them? >> guest: just the two of them. c-span: so is there... >> guest: and... c-span: ... a transcript being created? >> guest: that's right. you see, they're so certain of their virtue and the rectitude of their cause that they let the tape recorders take this down.
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and they learned better later. they stopped recording these interviews. and they would hold up a spoon, say, show us where kelly molested you, did something bad to you? the child has no idea what's going on, but the child takes the spoon and hits the doll here. where else? child hits the shoulder. where else? because it's very clear to the child by now that her answers are insufficient. she's not giving the questioner what they want. there are "where elses" and "where elses" and "where elses" until the child comes to the sex organ, hits the sex organ with the spoon. all the questions stop. now more "where elses." the questioner has got what she wanted and what he wanted. what's presented to the jury is only -- not this odyssey around the doll's head but only, rachel showed us where kelly molested her with the spoon. she touched the genitals. that was the kind
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of evidence. when you see, i'm saying, in cold print the details of the questioning, then you know. and you can't miss it. c-span: why is it admissible? why is that kind of evidence admissible? >> guest: because it was a kind of sacred truth and because this is not hearsay. they -- they produce -- the prosecutors produce testimony from children that they dragged from children after hours of questioning and that is simply distorted. c-span: i assume, though, that in many case, the child's right. >> guest: the child is right? c-span: by saying, that's exactly where i was touched. i mean, in other words, there are cases where there are truly child molesters. >> guest: oh, there are child molesters. there are -- but it doesn't ever come out like this. when there are real cases of child molestation, let's -- you can take what's going on with the accusations with the priests, you know, the molestation. that's going -- that is such a scandal today. i
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have no doubt that there are a number of priests who are falsely accused, but i have no doubt that when i'm listening to the testimony of these children, now grown up, that these events took place. and what is the difference? one of the differences is there's a record these people said something. even little boys went home and told their mothers, and their mothers went to the priests, and their mothers went to places of officialdom. the other thing is, there is no crazy talk about clowns. there is no talk about bluebirds being slaughtered or being made to drink urine. you didn't need to fancify any of this. he touched me. he did this. there's a down-to-earth way of saying this. so i can vouch for the fact that these stories about the mad clown molesting all of these children -- none of that ever took place. c-span: the first year, the very first year, the very first time
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you looked up on that screen and saw kelly michaels was when? >> guest: yes. c-span: what year? >> guest: oh. it was 19 -- i believe it was 1987. i think it was that -- 1987. and it took me two years to write -- to get published the first... c-span: where did you publish the first story? >> guest: first piece -- "harper's" magazine. lewis lapham, the editor-in-chief, took a chance, and very quickly, when everybody else turned it down. and they turned it down for the strangest of reasons. i knew almost every editor at the time, and they were filled with commiseration. they said, look, but you know, i have a 4-year-old child, or, i just can't do this. because it w2as a piece that didn't just raise questions about her guilt, it just said this is an innocent person. you know, when you've seen an innocent person, that you know because you've seen the record, in prison, it's a life-altering experience. she was sitting there in solitary for two years... c-span: did you go see her? >> guest: oh, yes. and i almost fainted, and i don't faint. i
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went to this -- one of the most secure women's prisons in new jersey, and it was a dismal -- and this well-brought-up, highl maturation process of his journey into stock car racing. he said "i'm not being cautious, just a little more smart". in loudon, new hampshire, shannon, espn. and tony stewart will take a lead over jeff gordon tomorrow with johnson in third. and kenny perry led well in this round. and then on the par 3 11th, how about another bird for the leader. working the par 4 12th, once again putting for bird and once again going to get it to go. however, at this point at minus
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15, he was trailing. paul goydos on the par 4 7th from the fringe, then from the fringe on 16, up the hill eventually finds the bottom of the cup, moves to 16 under after the birdie. play with us suspended shortly after due to the threat of thunderstorms. perry now trailing by one. well, in case you didn't know, albert pujols has power. once again, it was on display. where today's long ball speed puts him on the cardinals history. ♪ 100 calorie light beer with lime. miller chill.
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come on. there for you... ( car starts ) and life's daily miracles. ♪ who's the best? this guy is. ♪ ( clapping )
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