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!!!!!!!! Search error!  If the URL ends something like .htm/  or .htm# delete the character(s) after .htm and hit return.

PART 3:

THE "FELLS ACRE" RITUAL ABUSE CASE

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Continued from Part 2

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Quotation:

bullet"By now, too, the recognition that this prosecution--and other child abuse cases like it around the country--was built on concocted testimony has become widespread. So widespread that it is now the sort of thing studied in colleges and universities. The 49-year-old Mr. Amirault is about to finish his liberal arts degree in prison. Not long ago he had the surprising experience of opening a sociology textbook, and finding there--in a list of hysteria-driven prosecutions--the Amirault case. Things have certainly come far since the day he was carted off to do 30-40 years, a despised cast-off from society." Editorial in the Wall Street Journal. 1

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Developments during 2001:

bullet2001-APR-2: The purpose of the state's Advisory Board of Pardons is to deliver a recommendation to the governor for or against commutation of an inmate's sentence. They are required by law to deliver their decision within six months of the filing of a petition. In the case of Gerald Amirault, this time limit expired in 2000-OCT. As of 2001-APR, they have still have taken no action. There is speculation that the Board's decision is on hold pending the outcome of Senate hearings that are expected to approve Governor Cellucci as Ambassador to Canada.  The Wall Street Journal commented:

"That silence has, we suspect, everything to do with Governor Cellucci's hopes for political appointment -- hopes that the Governor doubtless considered endangered by any decision he might take, especially a decision to commute the sentence of a convicted child abuser, Gerald Amirault. Who knew what the reaction would be from some hostile quarter of the press or what some Senator might say? You never know."

"So it happened that Gerald Amirault has been left swinging in the wind, waiting for word of what's left of life from a Board rendered mute by Mr. Cellucci's career imperatives. It is now clear that the Governor has decided to dump the commutation decision on his successor, Lieutenant Governor Jane Swift. We don't, of course, expect to see many profiles in courage among politicians yearning for Presidential appointments. Still there's every reason to question the credentials of a nominee as driven by political expediency as Governor Cellucci has shown himself to be -- one who would serve an Administration that has put a premium on the issue of character." 2

bullet2001-JUL-6: In a 5 to 0 vote, the state parole board recommended that Gerald "Tooky" Amirault's sentence be commuted. 3 They wrote that there was "real and substantial doubt" in his guilt because of the lack of physical evidence. Keeping him imprisoned would "constitute gross unfairness." The board also noted that Amirault was unfairly denied a chance to reduce his sentence because his lawyer missed a deadline for filing an appeal. They noted that "It is clearly a matter of public knowledge that, at the minimum, real and substantial doubt exists concerning (Amirault's) conviction...[The case] contained little in the way of physical evidence to corroborate in some instances extraordinary, if not bizarre allegations. [The case record is] replete with inconsistent and conflicting judicial opinions concerning whether justice was done. Even the District Attorney has acknowledged that flawed interviewing procedures were employed in interviewing the victims...While executive clemency should never, of course, be simply a response to public clamor . . . where, as here, the record of a case raises real and substantial doubt the entire record of the case should be given careful consideration" Referring to the flawed interview techniques and the lack of physical evidence, the board commented: "These and like flaws in the investigative procedures in similar cases elsewhere in the nation have since led to the discrediting of some of those convictions." The decision whether to recommend commutation of his sentence will be made by Governor Swift. The final decision would be made by the Governor's Council.
bullet2001-JUL-7: According to an article on Page 4 of the Boston Herald, some of the people who believe that they were victimized by the Amiraults want "Tookie" to remain behind bars. They are now in their 20s. One alleged victim said: "Let me tell you one thing. I did not lie. How could we (the victims) all come up with the same stories if we were not molested by monsters?" The mother of an alleged victim said "They (victims) have not been able to heal because they have been portrayed as liars in the media. They know vast numbers of people don't believe them, and that causes a great deal of turmoil for them because these abusers (the Amiraults) told them nobody would believe them." Kimberly Hart, executive director of the National Child Abuse Defense and Resource Center stated that "Gerald is one of the few remaining incarcerated victims of the early '80s witch hunts."
bullet2001-JUL-15: Channel 56 TV in Boston took a public opinion poll on whether "Tooky" Amirault should be released. Their question is: "Do you agree with the parole board's recommendation to release Gerald 'Tooky' Amirault?" With 355 people responding, Yes outnumber No by 61.4% to 38.6%.
bullet2001-NOV-29: Governor Jane Swift met with three alleged victims in the Fells Acres case. They urged her to not commute Gerald Amirault's sentence. She is expected to meet with additional alleged victims and with members of Amirault's family during the week of DEC-2. 4

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Developments during 2002:

bullet2002-FEB-20: Governor Swift decided to let 'Tooky' Amirault rot in jail. When asked: "Was the parole board wrong." she responded: "We performed a more careful evaluation." She violated her promise to give the Amirault family advanced notice of her decision so that they could emotionally prepare themselves; the family learned about her decision from the media. The governor and her legal team interviewed about 100 cases of child abuse before making the decision to keep Amirault behind bars. There is no indication that among these cases were studies of the dozens of ritual abuse cases which later have been shown to be entirely made up of false accusations. The team appears to have assumed that Amirault was guilty. Thus their main concerns were whether: "Amirault would be a danger, the effects on victims and their families if he were released, the length of his sentence and his rehabilitative activities while behind bars." 5 One of Tooky's lawyers, Jamie Sultan, addressed a press conference, saying that: "Today, [Governor] Jane Swift, a person with absolutely no experience or expertise in the field of criminal justice, rejected the unanimous recommendation of the Parole Board following a secret process which she declined to detail or illuminate. As a result, Gerald Amirault is condemned to remain in prison, and those ludicrous allegations of mass, ritualistic sex abuse which led to the destruction of an entire family of innocent people live on. Was her decision based purely on political self-interest of how it might affect her chances to be elected Governor? Should a man's freedom depend upon political polling, rather than upon what is right and just? Has Gerald Amirault become, in a very real sense, a political prisoner? The answers to these questions are self-evident."
bullet2002-FEB-21: The Boston Globe conducted a public opinion poll on their web site. They asked: "Do you think Acting Gov. Jane Swift is correct to refuse to commute Gerald Amirault's prison term for child abuse?" By FEB-21 at 10:00 hrs, 2.297 people had voted:
bullet72.8% voted "No." "Swift let political pressure and recent revelations of priest sex abuse sway her against Amirault."
bullet27.4% voted "Yes." "It appears Swift did  Extensive research and carefully weighed all factors before reaching her decision." 5
bullet2002-MAR-14: Gerald Amirault will be eligible for parole in 2004-MAR, when he will have served 17 years, 6 months of his 30 to 40 year sentence. He has applied for early parole. His application is a long shot; it would have to be approved by many levels of public safety officials before it will even be heard by the parole board. 6
bullet2002-APR: The classification board refused to allow his petition for early parole to go forward. The reason given was that he shows no remorse for the crimes that he was convicted of. He has refused to participate in treatment programs for sex offenders and is considered to be in denial. Since it is obvious that Gerald Amirault is innocent of those crimes, and that those crimes never even happened, it is difficult for him to show remorse. He is caught in a catch-22. Unfortunately, there is no provision in the system for a prisoner who has been wrongfully convicted. There is a slim possibility that he can successfully appeal to higher authorities such as the Commissioner of Corrections.
bullet2002-SEP: The Boston Globe asked seven candidates for Governor of Massachusetts whether they felt that Gerald Amirault should be released from prison. Carla Howell (Libertarian Party) said that he should be freed. Shannon O'Brien (D) is leaning towards his release, based on the unanimous vote of the Parole Board. Tom Birmingham (D) would prefer that he rot in jail. The others, Robert Reich (D), Mitt Romney (R), Jill Stein (Green) and Warren Tolman (D) were non-committal; they said that, as candidates, they did not have access to all of the information. 7

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Developments during 2003:

bullet2003-FEB-27: Gerald Amirault asked Governor Mitt Romney to commute his sentence. He has served 17 years of his 30 to 40 year sentence. One of his three children, Katie Amirault, 22, said: "I'm just hopeful that this time Governor Romney will take a good look at this and do the right thing and send my dad home. We really do need him home." 8
bullet2003-MAR-15: The Massachusetts Parole Board turned down Amirault's request. They ruled that there was no time for them to consider his case before his next parole hearing, which is expected about 60 days before his next possible parole date in 2003-DEC. Amirault's attorney, James Sultan, said he wasn't surprised by the decision. However, he was disappointed because he feels that Amirault remains wrongly imprisoned. "To (the board), six months isn't much. To him and his family, it's another six months of misery." 9
bullet2003-APR-4: A forum on Fells Acres was held at the Harvard Law School. The panel was moderated by Professor Charles Ogletree. Speakers included Pulitzer Prize-winning author Dorothy Rabinowitz; former Massachusetts Attorney General James Shannon; former Massachusetts Superior Court Judge Robert A. Barton; Patricia Amirault; Cheryl Amirault LeFave; and attorney James Sultan. Attorney Harvey Silverglate later joined the panel. A summary of the forum is online. 10
bullet2003-OCT-17:  The Massachusetts Parole Board has voted to parole Gerald Amirault. Their decision was unanimous. He is expected to be released sometime early 2004, after having served more than 17 years for crimes that clearly never happened. Under the terms of the parole decision, the District Attorney may still file a petition for a dangerousness offender hearing at any time up to 2004-APR-30.

Some children who attended Fells Acres and their parents reportedly still believe that abuse actually happened in the early 1980s:
bulletPaul Bennett, whose daughter, Jennifer, attended the school said: "I would say he's a threat because, once again, he's not admitting guilt. You're putting a dangerous man back out on the streets." He also said: "As far as we're concerned, he should not be getting out. He's never admitted his guilt. The jury's verdict was a proper one."
bulletJennifer said she was "horrified and disgusted" by the parole board's decision.
bulletBarbara Standke,  whose son, Brian Martinello, was a Fells Acres student, said she "knew he would be freed one day. What can I say? My son is still suffering to this day." She also said: "The parole officer told me he would have to stay away from children, and at this point I guess that's all we can ask for. But it's not going to help my son any."
bulletFormer attorney general Scott Harshbarger, who was the Middlesex district attorney at the time of Amirault's trial, called the decision to release Amirault ''unfortunate." He said: "I think we often forget there are a lot of victims out there, people whose lives have been dramatically changed." 11,12,13
bulletAn editorial in the Wall Street Journal stated, in part: "By now, too, the recognition that this prosecution--and other child abuse cases like it around the country--was built on concocted testimony has become widespread. So widespread that it is now the sort of thing studied in colleges and universities. The 49-year-old Mr. Amirault is about to finish his liberal arts degree in prison. Not long ago he had the surprising experience of opening a sociology textbook, and finding there--in a list of hysteria-driven prosecutions--the Amirault case. Things have certainly come far since the day he was carted off to do 30-40 years, a despised cast-off from society." 1

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Developments during 2004:

bullet2004-APR-21: Martha Coakley, The Middlesex District Attorney, had six months to decide to file a petition seeking Amirault's civil commitment as a sexually dangerous person. She waited until almost the last day before releasing a statement saying, in part: "The commonwealth does not believe that it could garner evidence to meet its burden of proof required under the statute that Mr. Amirault would likely re-offend." Contained in this statement is the assumption that Amirault actually did offend in the 1980s -- i.e. that the molestation actually happened, and that Amirault was guilty.
bullet2004-APR-30: "Tookie" Amirault was released to the community on 2004-APR-30 after having spent 18 years in jail. He will be registered as a sex offender, be on parole until the year 2023, and will not be allowed to be in contact with anyone under the age of 18. He maintains his innocence, believing that the crimes of which he was committed never happened. He said: "I'm going to fight this case until the day I die to clear my family's name. I'm going to get my name back." Jennifer Bennett, 25, is one of the individuals that believes themselves as having been abusedby Amirault. She has been in counseling since she was 3 years old. Jennifer Bennett's father, Paul said that it has: "Been hell for all of us. Can't describe it any better; can't describe it any worse. Hell is hell....We'd like to bury this thing and obviously with what Mr. Amirault said today, it is not going to be buried. Lets put this thing to an end. Now all he wants to do clear his name -- there is no name to clear. He is guilty, he did what he did and that's it." Jennifer Bennett said that, when she was a young child, Amirault told her "If (she) ever said anything he would come and kill (her)." Paul Bennett said: "Absolutely right. This is one of the threats he threw, plus she has given more information that he'd light the house on fire, he'd light her bed on fire, kill her entire family." 16

TheBostonChannel.com has conducted a public opinion poll asking: "Do you think that Gerald 'Tooky' Amirault should have been released?" As of 2004-MAY-1, results were: 69% in favor; 22% opposed; 10% unsure. N = 1,861. 16

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Developments during 2005:

bullet2005-MAR-25: Amirault given most dangerous sex offender level: Gerald Amirault has been classified as a level three sex offender. This indicates that the Sex Offender Registry Board believes him to be at the highest risk to reoffend. He has appealed the decision but was unsuccessful. He shares this rating with about 1,300 of the 8,000 registered offenders in the state. 17

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Amirault defense fund:

Contributions to the Amirault defense fund can be sent, with an explanatory note, to The Funding Exchange, Attn: Judy Hatcher, 666 Broadway, New York, NY, 10012. 14

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How to get at the truth, even now:

There are many loose ends in this case. The public holds divided opinions: Were the Amiraults guilty of horrendous abuse? Did the children make up the abuse stories and lie in court? Even at this date, it is possible to lay these questions to rest forever, through the use of polygraph testing.

A competent "lie detector" operator is correct about 85% of the time. Suppose that a polygraph test were performed one of the accused: Cheryl LeFave. If she were shown to be innocent, then the test results would not be particularly meaningful, because there would be a 15% chance that she was guilty and able to beat the instrument. But if she and Gerald Amirault were tested independently and both shown to be innocent, then the chances that they were guilty and able to fool the instrument would be quite small: about 2%. We could conclude with reasonable certainty that no abuse happened. If Virginia Amirault had been tested before her death and all three were shown to be innocent then the probability of them being guilty would have been reduced to an insignificant level, about 0.3%.

Similarly, if three of the accusers were given polygraph tests, and if -- as we expect -- all three were shown to be truthful in their assertion that they were abused, then we could be over 99% certain that they honestly believe that they were the victims of horrendous abuse at Fells Acres.

If the three plaintiffs and the three accusers were all shown to be telling the truth, then we could conclude that no abuse actually took place, but that memories of non-existent abuse were implanted in the minds of the children.

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Author's opinion:

No ritual abuse occurred. All three defendants are innocent of any crime. The Fells Acre case is similar to dozens of other multi-victim, multi-offender ritual abuse hoaxes which have been shown to be groundless. The main difference is that most of the other accused were  released from prison many years ago. The medical evidence given at trial is meaningless. The children's testimony was extracted under conditions that are almost guaranteed to produce false accusations. The Supreme Court of Massachusetts has basically admitted that at least some of the crimes that the Amiraults were convicted of never happened; they have admitted that the Amiraults were denied their constitutional rights during the trial. But they felt that the community's desire to have closure on this case is more important that the likelihood that the convicted are actually innocent. While other courts in other states have reviewing similar cases and released the innocent parties, the Massachusetts courts carried on their own private Witch hunt in the tradition of Salem, MA. Meanwhile, past improper interview techniques have left the children (now teenagers) with memories of horrible abuse. Their false memories will disable them all, to some degree, for the rest of their lives.

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References used:

  1. "Gerald Amirault's Day: He will finally go free -- 17 years too late," The Wall Street Journal, Editorial page, 2003-OCT-20.
  2. "Mr. Cellucci's Ambassadorship to Canada," The Wall Street Journal, 2001-APR-2, Page A22.
  3. "Mass. Parole Board majority opinion on Amirault Case," 2001-JUL-6, at: http://www.ultranet.com/~kyp/parole.html
  4. Frank Phillips, "Victims fight Amirault commutation: Swift urged to deny freedom," Boston Globe, 2001-NOV-30, at:  http://boston.com/dailyglobe2/334/metro/
  5. Steve LeBlanc, "Swift defends decision to reject commutation for convicted child abuser," Associated Press, 2002-FEB-21, at: http://www.boston.com/news/daily/20/amirault.htm
  6. "Amirault applies for early parole," Associated Press, 2002-MAR-13.
  7. "Does Gerald Amirault belong in prison?," Boston Globe, 2002-SEP-5, at:  http://www.boston.com/politics/specials/jacoby/question10.htm
  8. John Ellement, "Romney gets Amirault appeal," The Boston Globe, 2003-FEB-28.
  9. Jay Lindsay, "Parole board recommends against Amirault request for commutation," Associated Press, 2003-MAR-14.
  10. "The Harvard Law School Forum on Fells Acres," 2003-APR-4, at: http://users.rcn.com/kyp/hl030404.html
  11. Margaret Wente, "A darkness lifted at last," The Globe and Mail, Toronto, ON, 2003-OCT-18.
  12. Kathleen Burge, "Board grants parole to Amirault," Boston Globe, 2003-OCT-18, Page A1.
  13. Jennifer Peter, "Gerald 'Tooky' Amirault, at center of abuse scandal, gets parole," Associated Press, 2003-OCT-17.
  14. FMS Foundation Newsletter, 2001-JAN/FEB, Vol 10, #1.
  15. " 'Tooky' Amirault step closer to release," Associated Press, 2004-APR-21, at: http://www.boston.com/
  16. "Convicted Day-Care Rapist Released. Victims React To Amirault Release," Internet Broadcasting Systems, 2004-APR-30, at:  http://www.thebostonchannel.com/
  17. Allison Morgan, "Amirault gets top sex offender level," Malden (MA) Observer, 2005-MAR-25.

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Copyright 1997 to 2005 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2005-MAR-26
Author: B.A. Robinson

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