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Multi-victim, multi-offendor cases

Yankton Indian Reservation abuse case

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Background of the case:

Five young Native American men, Jesse Rouse, Desmond Rouse, Garfield Feather, Russell Hubbeling and Duane Rouse, from the Sioux reservation in Marty SD, were accused of gang raping 5 of their nieces, aged 4 and 5 in sadistic orgies which included some ritual elements. The ritual component in this case is much smaller than in others described at this site, and were undoubtedly the product of defective interview techniques; they did not actually happen, but were likely implanted memories. The result appears to be an obvious miscarriage of justice.

"R.R.", age 5 year old girl was staying with her grandmother, but wanted to return home to be with her mother. She told a teacher that her grandmother was mean to her and was not feeding her. The tribe's Department of Social Services investigated, and transferred R.R. to a foster home. Several months later, the girl told her foster mother, Ms. Jordan, that she was having nightmares, and that she had been sexually abused. She was interviewed by a counselor, Ellen Kelson, who reported to the Department that many children at the Rouse residence had been sexually abused. Unfortunately, that interview was not recorded in audio or video format. On the basis of that interview, about 13 children were removed from the Rouse home and another nearby home; they were taken to the Jordan foster home in 1994-JAN.

A social worker for the Department, Jean Brock, allegedly told the children that they were being placed in a foster home because their uncles were doing "bad things" to them. Both Brock and Jordon allegedly told the children that they could not go home until they told the "truth" about their abuse. Brock interviewed the children extensively over a six month period. About 9 children positively and repeatedly denied being abused; they were allowed to return to their parents. "R.R." and the remaining 4 children eventually claimed that they had been sexually abused. In spite of a tribal court order, only "T.R." was permitted to visit with her parents, and then only once over the next 6 months. Ms. Jordon allegedly told the children that the uncles were at fault, that the situation was not the children's fault. She was very specific about what their uncles had done to them. The children were also interviewed by FBI agent William Van Roe and Bureau of Indian Affairs Criminal Investigator Dan Hudspeth on two separate days. The prosecuting attorney also interviewed the children several times.

As has occurred in previous cases, the number of allegations grew in number and became more bizarre. They accused a number of additional family members, including their grandmother, of sexual abuse. Several of the children claimed that their uncles tied them up with ropes during the abuse; one child claimed that the uncles locked him in the closet while his sister was abused. "L.R." and "J.R." said that they had told the counselor that their uncles tied up their aunts and grandmother and sexually abused them as well. "T.R." described how the uncles locked five children in the pantry while they tied her up and abused her.

A total of 23 counts of aggravated sexual abuse were laid. Because the accused are Native and the alleged crimes took place on a reservation, the trial was held in federal district court.

After the jury trial in Sioux Falls SD, Duane Rouse was found not guilty. The remaining four defendants were found guilty of a total of 14 charges and each given sentences of 30 to 33 years.

The 8th Circuit Court overturned the decision because the judge:
bullet refused to allow expert opinion by a court appointed psychologist. He would probably have testified that the children's evidence and testimony was tainted by suggestive questioning
bullet denied a request by the defense for an "independent psychological examination of the allegedly abused children."

The prosecution requested a reconsideration of the Court of Appeal's decision by the entire court. The convicted four are being held in separate Federal prisons across the US. As of 2011-JAN, they remain in prison.

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Disquieting factors in the original trial:

Quotations in italics and some additional text are taken from the Circuit Court decision.

bullet The main expert witnesses for the defense were severely limited by the trial judge. They were not allowed to interview the children; their testimony was severely curtailed.

bullet The defendants were Native. The judge, attorneys, prosecutors, experts and jury were all white. There were "allegations of one juror's racism and that juror's contention that racial jokes regarding Native Americans were told in the jury room".

bullet Some parents reported that they had been told their children would be taken away again if they talked to or cooperated with defense counsel.

bullet Deena LaPoint, a Department's social worker assigned to this case 1994-MAY-23 testified that the Rouse children's files were not turned over to the defense counsel as requested.

bullet The appeals court found that "medical evidence was inconclusive as to abuse" either by the defendants or by anyone else.

bullet The only other evidence of guilt was "the children's reports of abuse [which] may have been tainted by the influence of social workers and law enforcement officials...the children may have had induced memories that sexual abuse occurred." Commenting on the Salem witch trials of 3 centuries ago, the Circuit Court commented that "memory, particularly children's memory, may be falsely induced. Where that occurs, the testimony may be true in the child's mind, but false in fact."

bullet The court suppressed some important testimony "relating to inter-child sexual activity among the alleged victims." If one were to assume from the physical evidence and child testimony that some children did engage in sexual activity, then it might have been with each other, and not with their uncles.

bullet None of the interviews by the counselor, FBI, BIA, or DA were videotaped or audiotaped. The degree of direct, leading and repeated questioning during the interviews will never be known.

bullet T.R. allegedly admitted to another girl that she was "making stuff up" about Jesse Rouse and the other uncles because she was mad at Jesse.

bullet The closet that one of the children said they were locked in did not have a lock.

bullet The pantry that the 5 children were allegedly locked inside did not have sufficient room for even one child.

bullet Melanie Rouse testified that she had previously told T.R. that in an unrelated incident, someone tied her up and sexually abused her while her brother was locked in a closet.

bullet A second interview of the children was conducted by law enforcement agents in 1994-MAR. The children's charges had expanded fantastically by that time. According to the defense, the interviews were "rife" with inconsistent statements. The court decided that the interviews were "unreliable" and refused to permit any discussion of the interviews during trial.

bullet An 11 old boy "M.R." testified that he and "T.R." had had sex for a long time. Other children verified this. There was other evidence that he also had engaged in sexual relations with another boy named "Tom." The jury was not permitted to hear this critical information.

bullet The prosecution promised the children "picnics, vacations, and even a chance to return home as rewards for their 'truthful,' successful testimony at trial....they were told they could not go home until their uncles had been successfully removed."

bullet "At trial, the children were asked almost exclusively leading questions over closed circuit television. Rather than asking the children if the abuse occurred, the government asked them whether they had told various third persons that abuse had occurred. On redirect examination, J.R. basically denied that any abuse occurred."

bullet The trial judge "rejected any proposed testimony directly relating to the credibility of the alleged abused victims as witnesses, but more than that barred the expert witness from testifying on whether or not the investigative practices constituted 'a practice of suggestibility.'" By ruling in this way, the presiding judge appeared to misunderstand the Daubert rules for the admission of expert testimony.

bullet The expert witness, Dr. Underwager, testified that there had been "a practice of suggestibility employed in these [interview] techniques." In the words of the circuit court, Dr. Underwager testified that:

bullet the counselor had exerted a massive influence over the children.

bullet she had a powerful prior assumption or conclusion that the children had been abused.

bullet she engaged in highly suggestive and contaminating practices.

bullet children will provide an inaccurate response when other children have "already told," in order to go along with a peer group or be part of the crowd.

bullet the prosecutor had asked the children only if they remembered reporting an incident to a particular social worker, agent etc. He should have asked whether they remember the incident itself.

bullet the prosecutor used exclusively leading questions when questioning the children.

bullet The FBI's use of sexually explicit diagrams were very suggestive and leading.

Dr. Underwager concluded that powerful and potentially coercive influences had been brought to bear on the small four and five-year-old children who were taken without notice from their mothers, families and homes, without being told the reasons and kept incommunicado in a strange place where all the people around them urged them to talk about sex abuse. He said that the level of adult influence is such as to make it highly likely any statements are so contaminated by adult behaviors as to be unreliable. His opinion was there is such a low probability of any sexual abuse by the defendants, that a reasonable person must conclude it did not take place.

bullet The appeal court concluded that "There is simply no way of telling what occurred at these interviews, the nature and form of the questions, or whether or not some children who are now complaining witnesses, at first denied the abuse occurred, or whether there have been retractions or recantations."

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What probably happened?

Nobody will ever know. It is probable that even the alleged victims are unclear about which of their memories are of real events and which are implanted by the lengthy and suggestive interviews.

Our best guess, based largely upon the Circuit Court documentation is that:
bullet R.R. had nightmares, perhaps involving sexual activities. She told a story based on those dreams to her foster mother.

bullet An over eager social worker saw multiple victim, multiple offender abuse everywhere in R.R.'s extended family.

bullet The 5 children were extensively questioned in a suggestive, leading, and repetitive manner by a variety of authority figures.

bullet Any physical evidence that suggested sexual activity might well have been the result of inter-child sexual experimentation.

bullet The four convicted uncles are probably innocent.

bullet The crimes of which they were accused probably never happened.

bullet Any social worker could probably:

bullet Select at random thirteen 4 and 5 year old children anywhere in North America;
bullet Place them in a foster home;
bullet Tell them repeatedly that they are sexual assault victims of male relatives;
bullet Interview them extensively over a 6 month interval, using suggestive, manipulative techniques, and direct leading questions, repeated frequently;
bullet Coax at least 5 children to make multiple accusations of sexual abuse.
bullet Observe innocent adults be convicted and given multiple-decade jail sentences

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A petition has been initiated:

See, and consider signing the "FREE Feather, Hubbeling, Rouse!" petition site at: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/

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Copyright © by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2011-JAN-29
Author: B.A. Robinson

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References used:

bullet US Circuit Court of Appeals, 8th Circuit, No. 95-1554, 6, 8, 9 "United States of America v Jesse Rouse, Garfield Feather, Russell Hubbeling: http://www.ljextra.com/

bullet

Image of book cover Stephen J. Ceci & Maggie Bruck, Jeopardy in the Courtroom: A Scientific Analysis of Children's Testimony", American Psychological Association, (1999). Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store. This book was quoted extensively by the Court of Appeals was the book:

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