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        "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-
        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
        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.
For more details on this and other witch hunts access 

my page on the witchhunts, 

Finally the press has started to cover this case. January 30, 1995
the Wall Street Journal had a beautiful piece written by Dorothy Rabinowitz.
This led to another piece in the Malden Observer by Jay Lindsay. Later
Charlie Sennot did a thorough and dispassionate investigation of the
Fells Acres prosecution in the Boston Globe March 19, 1995, page 1.  
The Wall Street Journal has published two more pieces by Dorothy Rabinowitz
and an editorial asking Governor Weld to commute the Amirault's sentences.
The WSJ also announced the establishment of a defense fund for the Amiraults.

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

Violet Amirault                  Gerald Amirault 
Cheryl LeFave                    26 Long Pond Road
Box 9007                         Unit A-1
Framingham,  MA  01701           Plymouth, MA 02360 

witchhunt information center: anonymous ftp to
                              cd to /pub/harris/witchhunt
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-
         Jonathan   G.   Harris
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