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Thought witch hunts went out of style with the end of the 17th century? Read the following story and find out about what a modern witch hunt is. Scary? Then send our government the message: END THE WITCH-HUNT. Below is a description of one of Massachusetts most notorious modern witch hunts along with the addresses of the governor and the parole board. Remember they work for you (even if you are not a Massachusetts taxpayer, the feds give them some of your tax money). THE RETURN OF THE WITCH HUNTS (c) Copyright Jonathan G. Harris. Permission is granted to repro- duce this for non profit use provided this notice is attached. "I went to that preschool since I was a baby. I even went there during the first grade after school. I had fun. We painted and colored," Karen (name changed for privacy), now 16, describes some happy times that ended when her preschool closed ten years ago. Her parents have similar memories. The center was open and they could drop in any time. Her father said that today Karen jumped with joy at the prospect of visiting Miss Vi; but visiting the school's seventy year old former owner or her two children, Gerald and Cheryl, is somewhat difficult today. They all remain in Massachusetts prisons. The school was the infamous Massachusetts daycare, Fells Acres. Many consider the Fells Acres prosecution, which will be ten years old this September, a landmark for child protec- tion. Unfortunately, two juries and the media have overlooked an overwhelming body of evidence that suggests the case is a complete hoax -- part of the "ritual abuse" hysteria that be- gan in the 1980s. The result is that for the past seven years three innocent people have languished in prison. It was Labor Day weekend of 1984. Gerald and his wife, Patti, were awaiting the birth of their third child. Cheryl and her husband, Al, married for scarcely sixteen months were ready to start their family. Vi was thinking of retiring and passing the eighteen year old business on to her two chil- dren. Sunday night the phone rang at a child abuse hot- line. A mother told the staffer that her son had accused Gerald Amirault of molesting him in a secret room which had a bed and a shelf with golden trophies. The boy had attended Fells Acres for approximately twenty days the previous spring, and had left in June for summer vacation. The mother and son told several conflicting versions of the story. The boy told the police that he was taken to the secret room on several occasions when his teachers were sick and Gerald took over the class; but the teachers knew that Gerald never took over that classroom. Initially the boy did not know where the secret room was because he was blindfolded. Another time the room was at Fells Acres. Finally at the trial the boy testified that he was driven in a car to the secret room and the magic room which were in a white house and a brown house. The mother told the grand jury that every day her son attended Fells Acres, Gerald removed him from the classroom and took him to the secret room to molest him. She added that he had to urinate in cups and drink the urine while his teachers were "in the room." The mother's testimony before the grand jury left it ambiguous as to whether this was supposed to have happened in the classroom or the secret room and which room the teachers were in. Nobody bothered to ask her to clarify this. The boy's teachers never saw him removed from the classroom during nap time or drinking urine. Police and social workers began interviewing children and asking about secret rooms. Soon a child accused an uniden- tified clown, and authorities warned parents to ask their children about a magic room, a secret room, and a clown. Accusations arose against Vi, Cheryl, most of the other teach- ers, and imaginary people such as Mr. Gatt and Abigail Cooper. By the time the investigators realized there were no hidden or unused rooms at the school, there were too many magic and secret room stories. They then decided these rooms were two classrooms and a bathroom. The police and DSS made no electronic recordings of the initial interviews, so it is impossible to evaluate how much the children were pressured into making accusations; nevertheless, DSS reports show how investigators subjected the children to re- peated leading questions and the use of anatomically detailed dolls with oversized genitals, even though initially the children said that no abuse occurred and denied the existence of a secret room. Recently, researchers Maggie Bruck of McGill and Stephen Ceci of Cornell have demonstrated that these techniques can pro- duce false accusations by preschool children. Such interviews themselves are an insidious form of child sexual abuse. The transcripts of the two trials read like a farce. Children admitted that they would have forgotten everything had they not practiced their testimony with their parents. Prosecu- tors Larry Hardoon and Patricia Bernstein had to re-ask and re- phrase questions when children responded "no" or "I forget that one," to abuse questions. Many children claimed that they were removed from their classes and that they told their teachers that they were going to the magic room. No teacher had heard of such a room until the beginning of the investigation. Various children also described attacks or molestations by clowns, robots, and a lobster. No teacher ever saw anyone dressed as a clown except for Hicko, who performed magic at birthday parties. Supposedly, Miss Vi fed a child a frog that quacked like a duck; Miss Cheryl killed animals and buried their blood in the sandbox, leaving not a trace of evidence; and someone tied a naked boy to a tree in front of the all of the teachers and pupils. Parents testified on how Fells Acres converted their darlings to monsters. Every problem -- nightmares, bed wetting, overeating, undereating, temper tantrums, jealousy, sex play, lying, clinginess -- became a symptom of abuse. Without any scientific basis, Psychiatrist Renee Brant justi- fied this interpretation and introduced psychiatric jargon -- rescue fantasies, transference, and displacement -- to make palatable to the jury the children's stories of molesta- tions by imaginary people and assaults in the presence of their teachers. Prosecutors also introduced pediatric gynecologist Sara Jean Emans to satisfy the juries' and the public's need for "physical evidence" of the abuse. She told one jury that the vulvitis, an irritation and inflammation of the female geni- tals seen in three of the girls, is a "significant finding" in an evaluation for sexual abuse. This testimony was admitted in spite of the fact that one of these girls had not been at the school for eighteen months at the time Emans had examined her. When due to rubbing from abuse, such irritations generally heal within three weeks. She further added that it was unusual to see three girls from the same school with the condition, even though the gynecology book she co-authored states that the condition is common and usually due to hygiene problems. Recently New Jersey freed Kelly Michaels, who was con- victed under similar circumstances. Their supreme court recog- nized that suggestive interviews of children combined with the failure to record them and unscientific psychological tes- timony similar to Dr. Brant's violate our right to due process. In other states, the spirit of the Salem witch hunt remains alive. Not only have our courts upheld all convictions, but the parole board keeps Cheryl and Vi in prison because they will not confess. Gerald will not even be eligible for parole until he has spent twenty years in prison. Many in the psychiatric community make snide remarks about the experts who tried to warn the jury about how the outrageous interviews prevented any reliable information from being obtained from the children. Meanwhile, Dr. Emans, Dr. Brant, and the prosecutors continue to hold conferences boasting about the success of their "do any thing to obtain a conviction" approach to justice. As long as this injustice stands, it will be a model for others to follow, once they have found another victim. ---------------------------------------------------------------- Important addresses: write these people to tell them END THE WITCH HUNT and free Gerald, Cheryl, and Vi. Shiela Hubbard, Chair Governor William Weld Massachusetts Parole Board Room 360, Statehouse 27-43 Wormwood Boston, Massachusetts 02133 Boston, Massachusetts 02210 Give the victims your moral support, and let the know where you stand. Violet Amirault Gerald Amirault Cheryl LeFave Box 9007 P.O Box 565 Framingham, MA 01701 Billerica, MA 01821 ---------------------------------------------------------------------- witchhunt information center: anonymous ftp to liquid.mit.edu cd to /pub/witchhunt file://liquid.mit.edu/homepage.html fells: a more detailed description of this case who_are_e7: description of largest modern witchhunt in the US and other ritualistic abuse witchhunts. -------------------------------------------- About the author and sources: Jonathan G. Harris is an assistant professor of chem- ical engineering at MIT (affiliation mentioned for identification purposes only). He also follows "fringe science." and as part of this interest has studied the ritual abuse controversy for over a year. The information in this article comes primari- ly from transcripts of Gerald Amirault's trial and Cheryl LeFave's and Violet Amirault's trial and some DSS and police reports from the Fells Acres investigation. Also used were ap- pellate court decisions; a friend of the court brief on behalf of Kelly Michaels written by Professors Stephen Ceci and Maggie Bruck; interviews with several people involved in the case. "Karen"(alias) is a sixteen year old girl who attended Fells Acres from when she was a baby until it closed in September of 1984. Her name has been changed to protect the family's privacy. The interview was carried out with the parents' consent Documentation of any facts stated here can be provided upon re- quest. Jonathan G. Harris (617)253-5273 (work). Dept. of Chem Eng., MIT Rm 66-450 Cambridge, MA 02139 Fax: (617)253-9695 email: harris@mit.edu ----------

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