Not since the Salem witchcraft trials has there been a worse disgrace in the annals of Massachusetts jurisprudence: the railroading of an innocent Malden family during the legally sanctioned insanity known as the Fells Acres child-abuse case. Probably the apogee of the mass hysteria that gripped the U.S. beginning about 1995, the Amirault case continues to resonate – in part thanks to Martha Coakley’s inexplicable disinterest in seeing that justice was done.
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And this: Why did Martha Coakley not lift a finger to free an obviously innocent man? As Ann Coulter noted just after the primary last month, she’s “too immoral for Teddy Kennedy’s seat,” which is really saying something:
In Tuesday’s primary election, Massachusetts Democrats chose as their Senate nominee a woman who kept a clearly innocent man in prison in order to advance her political career.
During the day care/child molestation hysteria of the ’80s, Gerald Amirault, his mother, Violet, and sister, Cheryl, were accused of raping children at the family’s preschool in Malden, in what came to be known as the second-most notorious witch trial in Massachusetts history.
It’s one thing to put a person in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. It’s another to put an entire family in prison for a crime that didn’t take place…
Coakley, the Middlesex County district attorney who became Mass. attorney general in 2006, was not the original prosecutor in the case. No, that would be her predecessor in the Middlesex job, our old friend Scott Harshbarger, best known recently as the man who whitewashed the ACORN investigation.
What was her role, then? Dorothy Rabinowitz, the brilliant, indefatigable columnist for The Wall Street Journal who did more than anybody to bring this travesty to public attention with a series of devasting articles while the case was going on, picks up the story in her Jan. 14 Journal column. Be sure to read the whole thing:
In 2000, the Massachusetts Governor’s Board of Pardons and Paroles met to consider a commutation of Gerald’s sentence. After nine months of investigation, the board, reputed to be the toughest in the country, voted 5-0, with one abstention, to commute his sentence. Still more newsworthy was an added statement, signed by a majority of the board, which pointed to the lack of evidence against the Amiraults, and the “extraordinary if not bizarre allegations” on which they had been convicted.
Editorials in every major and minor paper in the state applauded the Board’s findings. District Attorney Coakley was not idle either, and quickly set about organizing the parents and children in the case, bringing them to meetings with Acting Gov. Jane Swift, to persuade her to reject the board’s ruling. Ms. Coakley also worked the press, setting up a special interview so that the now adult accusers could tell reporters, once more, of the tortures they had suffered at the hands of the Amiraults, and of their panic at the prospect of Gerald going free.
On Feb. 20, 2002, six months after the Board of Pardons issued its findings, the governor denied Gerald’s commutation.
Gerald Amirault spent nearly two years more in prison before being granted parole in 2004.
How could this happen? A perfect storm of anti-male feminists, child psychologists and “recovered memory” snake-oil salesmen resulted in the ruining of the lives of a perfectly innocent family. You can see and hear Gerald Amirault speak about it some more to Boston radio host Howie Carr here and decide whom you believe:
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For most people, it was obvious from the start that the Amiraults were innocent. From The Boston Herald, August 12, 2001:
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
A scandal continues
The cynical manipulation by the Middlesex County prosecutor’s office of the child witnesses against Gerald Amirault who are now young adults makes it depressingly clear that the office of prosecutor is intended by its occupants to serve their political ambitions and not the cause of justice (“Amirault victims come out of hiding to keep him jailed,” Aug. 3). Martha Coakley and her cohorts and precursors know full well that children who were 3, 4 and 5 years old at the time of the Fells Acres trials some 15 years ago – 15 years filled with constant reassertions by prosecutors and parents of the validity of the original claims – do not, cannot and will not ever be able to have untainted memories of their experiences. Hauling these innocent young people out for a press conference was disgraceful.
These children were victims of politically ambitious and woefully ignorant prosecutors who chose to disregard the coercive interrogations by the inexperienced graduate student assigned to dig the “truth” out of the children, to ignore bizarre claims that defied all rationality (e.g. sodomy with lobsters and knives) and to close their eyes to the utter lack of substantiating physical evidence.
– Margaret A. Hagen, Department of Psychology Boston University.
Gerald Amirault remains a convicted felon and a registered sex offender in the state of Massachusetts.
Martha Coakley, arrogant as ever, is running for the United States Senate.