Date: Tue Jun 28 1994 17:03:02 Subj: SRA SRA - The San Diego Union-Tribune Thursday, June
Date: Tue Jun 28 1994 17:03:02
From: Scott McNabb
The San Diego Union-Tribune
Thursday, June 16, 1994
Chasing Satan in Sacramento
By MARK SAUER
Zealous senator pushes law adding ritual-abuse penalties
Claims that a secret network of Satanists is abusing children in
rituals featuring blood, urine, feces, etc., seem to have finally gone the
way of the Red Scare in the 1950s and the Salem Witch Hunts of the
After a decade of digging, the FBI could find nothing to indicate the
existence of a satanic conspiracy anywhere in the United States; in
San Diego this month, the county grand jury declared it "found no
evidence of satanic ritual child molestation" here.
But state Sen. Newton Russell is not convinced.
In each of the past two years, the conservative Glendale Republican
has sponsored legislation that, if passed, would have placed the state
of California's imprimatur on the highly controversial notion of ritual
Russell's initial effort was to commission a Ritual Child Abuse
Advisory Committee to study the prevalence of the problem. That idea
was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee but derailed last
year by the Assembly's Public Safety Committee.
This year Russell came back with SB 1997. It sought to add three
years to the sentence of anyone convicted of molesting a child "as part
of a ceremony, rite or any similar observance."
Yet ritual-abuse investigations elsewhere have turned up nothing.
Lawmakers in Virginia studied the tales of abuse and found them as
baseless as they were lurid. Months-long investigations in Minnesota,
Michigan and Pennsylvania were also fruitless, as were similar probes
in dozens of communities across the United States and in Great
Britain, Canada, the Netherlands and other countries.
Ritual abuse, as defined by Russell's bill, might involve:
þ "Actual or simulated torture, mutilation or sacrifice of any
warm-blooded animal or human being."
þ "Forced ingestion or external application of human or animal feces,
flesh, blood, bones, body secretions, nonprescribed drugs or chemical
þ "Involvement of the child in a mock, unauthorized or unlawful
marriage ceremony with another person or representation of any force
or deity, followed by sexual contact with the child."
þ "Placement of a living child into a coffin or open grave containing a
human corpse or remains."
þ "Unlawful dissection, mutilation or incineration of a human corpse."
Arlene McElhenney, legislative aide to Russell, said the senator's staff
has been researching ritual abuse for 3 1/2 years.
"Law-enforcement people have come to us and said there is a valid
need for such a bill, McElhenney said. She was referring to a handful
of district-attorney investigators from Orange, Monterey and Butte
counties who insist the ritual-abuse threat is real.
But when pressed to cite a single case of verified ritual abuse in
California, McElhenney said: "None that I could talk about."
Russell himself could not be reached for comment.
But in a recent speech before the National Crimes Against Children
Conference in Washington, D.C., the state senator stated that he has
"read many reports of physical/sexual abuse of children, which
included being urinated and defecated upon, made to eat feces and
drink blood, put in cages, forced into sexual contact with other
children, adults and animals and babies."
He did not cite any specific case in his speech, however.
Russell did say that at first he was skeptical of ritual abuse. But he
came to realize that, like most people, he was "in denial."
Earlier this year, Russell's latest bill was approved by the Senate
Judiciary Committee on a vote of 8 to O. The idea is being studied
now in the Assembly's Public Safety Committee.
After hearing testimony from supporters and detractors, the Assembly
committee decided this week to table its vote on Russell's bill until
>> Perplexing to prove
A 24-page report on Russell's proposed legislation, prepared by the
Assembly Office of Research, notes the "perplexing matter of proof."
"No courts have found evidence of the existence of ritual child abuse,"
the report says, adding that the phenomena owe entirely to anecdotal
reports from psychotherapists, parents, children, religious zealots,
certain law-enforcement personnel and preachers.
The report also notes that Sen. Russell's staff provided as evidence of
the ritual-abuse conspiracy a paper by Mark Phillips of Nashville.
"Phillips has accused the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency of creating
Project Monarch, a genealogical mind-control research project ...
"Victims, according to Mr. Phillips' paper, are frequently tattooed
with blue or other-colored monarch
butterflies. Survivors are said to always possess homicidal and/or
suicidal tendencies which only recently have been determined to be
the result of `sophisticated trauma-based psychological programming.'"
Critics of Russell's indefatigable efforts to pass ritual-abuse
legislation say that not only are California's myriad child molestation
laws sufficient to protect children but also that validation of a dubious
phenomenon could lead to hysterical prosecutions.
"When crimes are on the books, district attorneys tend to charge
people on those offenses," said deputy public defender Kate Coyne,
who led the successful defense of Dale Akiki last year in San Diego's
longest and costliest criminal trial.
"If crimes like this do not occur, as the FBI says, then why take the
chance that some zealous cop or DA will deprive someone of their
freedom for 2 1/2 years?" said Coyne, referring to how long her client
was in jail without bail.
>> Unfounded issue
The San Diego County grand jury, in its report, decried the formation
three years ago of the county's ritual-abuse task force - several of
whose members were involved in the prosecution of Akiki.
"We don't think there should be guidelines for (ritual abuse) cases
when cases of that kind aren't occurring," said grand jury foreman Joe
Dolphin at a press conference. "It kind of perpetuates itself."
Jeffrey Victor, author of "Satanic Panic: The Creation of a
Contemporary Legend," said such a law would "provide government
sanction and credibility to the unfounded faith of those who believe
ritual abuse exists."
"I believe that public opinion and that of the authorities has finally
shifted toward extreme skepticism," said Victor, a professor of
sociology at the State University of New York.
When a San Diego jury last fall rejected prosecutors' ritual-abuse
charges in the Akiki trial, some critics declared the swift and decisive
verdict was the beginning of the end for the phenomenon.
But Victor predicts that "People with extremist beliefs about this will
be promoting it till the end of the century, although they will
essentially be ghettoized."
"Some people say, 'Well, what does it hurt to have such beliefs?' But
we don't need fools in government; there is plenty of serious business
for state representatives to attend to," Victor said. "It's the same with
certain police officers who run around looking for Satanists.
"These people are spending taxpayers' money, and victims of real
crime are being ignored in the process."
/* end of article */
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