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.
Martha Coakley isn’t even fit for the late Teddy Kennedy’s old seat. (What is it about this particular Senate seat?)
During the daycare–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, Mass., in what came to be known as the second-most notorious witch trial in Massachusetts history.
The allegations against the Amiraults were preposterous on their face. Children made claims of robots abusing them, a “bad clown” who took the children to a “magic room” for sex play, rape with a 2-foot butcher knife, other acts of sodomy with a “magic wand,” naked children tied to trees within view of a highway, and – standard fare in the child-abuse-hysteria era – animal sacrifices.
There was not one shred of physical evidence to support the allegations – no mutilated animals, no magic rooms, no butcher knives, no photographs, no physical signs of any abuse on the children.
Not one parent noticed so much as unusual behavior in their children – until after the molestation hysteria began.
There were no witnesses to the alleged acts of abuse, despite the continuous and unannounced presence of staff members, teachers, parents and other visitors at the school.
Not one student ever spontaneously claimed to have been abused. Indeed, the allegations of abuse didn’t arise until the child therapists arrived.
Nor was there anything in the backgrounds of the Amiraults that fit the profile of sadistic, child-abusing monsters. Violet Amirault had started the Fells Acres Day School 18 years before the child-molestation hysteria erupted.
Thousands of happy and well-adjusted students had passed through Fells Acres. Many returned to visit the school; some even attended Cheryl’s wedding a few years before the inquisition began.
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.
In the most outrageous miscarriage of justice since the Salem witch trials, in July 1986, Gerald Amirault was convicted of raping and assaulting six girls and three boys and sentenced to 30 to 40 years in prison. The following year, Violet and Cheryl Amirault were convicted of raping and assaulting three girls and a boy and were sentenced to 8 to 20 years.
The motto of the witch-hunters was “Believe the Children!” But the therapists resolutely refused to believe the children as long as they denied being abused. As the police advised the parents: In cases of child abuse, “no” can mean “yes.”
To the children’s credit, they held firm to their denials for heroic amounts of time in the face of relentless questioning.
But as copious research in the wake of the child-abuse cases has demonstrated, small children are highly suggestible. It’s surprisingly easy to implant false memories into young minds by simply asking the same questions over and over again.
Indeed, the interviewing techniques in the Amirault case were so successful that the children also made accusations against three other teachers, two imaginary people named “Mr. Gatt” and “Al” and even against the child therapist herself – the one claim of abuse that was probably true.
But only the Amiraults were put on trial for any alleged acts of abuse.
Coakley wasn’t the prosecutor on the original trial. What she did was worse.
At least the original prosecutors, craven and ambition-driven though they were, could claim to have been caught up in the child-abuse panic of the ’80s. There had not yet been extensive psychological studies on the suggestibility of small children. A dozen similar cases from around the country had not already been discredited and the innocent freed.
Of all the men and women falsely convicted during the child-molestation hysteria of the ’80s, by 2001, only Gerald Amirault still sat in prison. Even his sister and mother had been released after serving eight years in prison for crimes that never occurred.
In July 2001, the notoriously tough Massachusetts parole board voted unanimously to grant Gerald Amirault clemency. Although the parole board is not permitted to consider guilt or innocence, its recommendation said: “(I)t is clearly a matter of public knowledge that, at the minimum, real and substantial doubt exists concerning petitioner’s conviction.”
Immediately after the board’s recommendation, The Boston Globe reported that Gov. Jane Swift was leaning toward accepting the board’s recommendation and freeing Amirault.
Enter Martha Coakley, Middlesex district attorney. Gerald Amirault had already spent 15 years in prison for crimes he no more committed than anyone reading this column did. But Coakley put on a full-court press to keep Amirault in prison simply to further her political ambitions.
By then, every sentient person knew that Amirault was innocent. But instead of saying nothing, Coakley frantically lobbied Gov. Jane Swift to keep him in prison to show that she was a take-no-prisoners prosecutor, who stood up for “the children.” As a result of Coakley’s efforts – and her contagious ambition – Gov. Swift denied Amirault’s clemency.
Thanks to Martha Coakley, Gerald Amirault sat in prison for another three years.
Remember all that talk about President Bush shredding constitutional rights? Overzealous liberal prosecutors and feminist do-gooders allowed Gerald Amirault to sit in prison for 18 years for crimes that didn’t exist – except in the imaginations of small children under the influence of incompetent child “therapists.”
Martha Coakley allowed her ambition to trump basic human decency as she campaigned to keep a patently innocent man in prison.
Anyone with the smallest sense of justice cannot vote to put this woman in any office. If you absolutely cannot vote for a Republican on Jan. 19, 2010, write in the name “Gerald Amirault.”