Fenger Pointing

Becky Fenger | December 16, 2009

Becky FengerA real grinch

Massachusetts Democrats really came up with a doozy last week when they picked Attorney General Martha Coakley to be their nominee to replace the late U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy. If anyone deserves a lump of coal in her stocking this Christmas, it is Coakley.

Back in the 1980s, it became fashionable to view nursery schools as hotbeds of child sexual abuse. Those of us who followed the Pulitzer prize-winning coverage by Dorothy Rabinowitz in the Wall Street Journal are familiar with the egregious convictions in the McMartin Case in California, the Edenton Case in North Carolina, the Wee Care Case in New Jersey, or the prosecutions in Wenatchee, Washington. Dozens of convictions were won on nothing more than the testimony of 4-year-olds telling rabid prosecutors what they wanted to hear. Janet Reno, then Dade County State Attorney, made quite a name for herself with some of these questionable convictions. Innocent people were as likely to be found guilty as those who committed child sexual abuse crimes.

It was an era when sex therapists championed the infallibility of "repressed memories" and with certitude told jurors that little children don't ever lie about sexual abuse. In reality, the kids were browbeaten by these "experts" who used anatomically-correct dolls and words the tots had never heard before to elicit "correct" answers from them. If the kids said that no "bad touching" happened, the experts showed their unhappiness with them until the story changed. Then the little ones were rewarded with praise and sometimes toys. One little girl went through this leading interrogation ten times before she cracked and agreed that she was molested. The jurors were not aware of any of this.

No case was more Orwellian that that of Gerald, Violet and Cheryl Amirault of Boston, Mass. Gerald, his mother Violet and sister Cheryl ran Fells Acres preschool in Malden. They were accused of torturing and raping the children with butcher knives and other objects, tying them to trees outside and all manner of dastardly deeds inside – like a Harry Potter gone porno scene. Of course, there were the ever popular animal sacrifices. This would be horrible if it were true, but there was not a shred of evidence that any of it took place. None of the employees who came and went, unhampered, ever witnessed a thing. No parents ever noticed any mental or physical signs of abuse. It wasn't until it became the rage, not to mention career enhancer, for prosecutors to insist otherwise that parents were frightened into suspicions.

All three Amirault family members were put in prison. Violet and Cheryl spent eight years for a crime that never took place. It would be eighteen years before Gerald was released. By that time, the whole world knew that the Amiraults were innocent of the charges.

After serving fifteen years, Gerald Amirault came up for parole. The Board voted unanimously for clemency. Gov. Jane Swift was about to free Gerald when Middlesex District Attorney Martha Coakley ferociously lobbied Gov. Swift to keep him imprisoned for three more years. Three long years of an innocent man's life because Coakley wanted to appear tough on crime and a champion of the children!

The only abuse of children that took place was from the justice system run amok. Even judges later admitted this. Coakley never did, however. She merely declined to try to keep him imprisoned longer as a dangerous sex criminal with another trial, citing that she had "insufficient evidence of such a change." There you have it.

Gerald Amirault walked out of prison on April 30, 2004.

A woman who kept an innocent man from breathing the air of freedom for three extra years merely to feed her own political ambitions does not deserve to breath the rarified air of the U.S. Senate or to be called "The Honorable" Martha Coakley. Not by a long shot.

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