Judge Borenstein's decision-- Part III-C4

Child Witness #4: BL

12 Jun 98

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4. BL

BL had been subjected to multiple, suggestive interviews for almost five months before he made his first disclosure against the defendant on January 30, 1985. Although evidence of interviewer bias can be found throughout the record, one of the most striking things to this Court is how law enforcement officials and medical personnel were well aware of the enormous amount of parental pressure placed on BL to disclose, yet did not factor that into their assessment of BL's disclosures. The record is replete with examples of how Mother was convinced that BL had been abused and how she would constantly question him about FADS, an inappropriate and dangerous way to determine the truthfulness of what, if anything, had occurred to him. By June, 1985, the frequency and intensity of Mother's questioning reached the point where BL informed his therapist that he was relieved that Mother stopped questioning him about FADS. This is the same parent who in a report to BL's therapist had stated that one of her concerns about her child was his propensity to lie.

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Equally disturbing to this Court is the investigators total disregard for the numerous fantastical allegations contained in BL's reports, such as tales of robots and animal torture and killings. Investigators used only those claims which were useful in building their case against the defendants and discarded those that were not. There is not a single instance in this lengthy record where an investigator questioned the veracity of BL's reports.

Investigators were presented with an overwhelming amount of evidence that BL's allegations were not true, including the inconsistency of many of his allegations as well as his well-documented propensity to lie, and his vivid imagination, yet they ignored that information in favor of building a case against the defendant. The case of BL presents another glaring and compelling example of interviewer bias. Without the newly discovered evidence at her trial, the defendant was unable to combat BL's allegations of abuse and defeat the devastating effects of the constant, inappropriate interviewer bias and efforts to get him to disclose what he obviously would not. Therefore, for these reasons, the reasons that follow and all the facts in the case, I find that BL's testimony is unreliable.

Disclosure History

BL was born on April 8, 1978. (Ex. 56, 4/42) BL attended FADS Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. or 9:00 a.m. to five-thirty p.m., from February or March of 1982 until the school closed in September, 1984. (Ex. 56,

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4/42-43) In early September, 1984, BL went to FADS after school. (EX. 56, 4/43)

Mother learned that FADS was closed and the reason for the closing in September, 1984. (Ex. 56, 4/43) Cheryl Amirault LeFave herself called Mother and informed her about the meeting at the Malden police station on September 12, 1984 and Mother attended the meeting. (Ex. 56, 4/80-81) Upon learning that FADS had closed Mother did not question BL in any way. (Ex. 56, 4/44) At the end of September, 1984, two police officers came to her house and asked Mother if she would ask BL two questions: if he had ever seen a clown or a magic room. (Ex. 56, 4/44) Having been "deputized" by the police, Mother picked BL up from school and on the drive home asked him if he had ever heard about a magic room or a clown. (Ex. 56, 4/45) BL informed Mother that she wasn't supposed to know about that. (Ex. 56, 4/45) Mother ceased the questioning of BL and took him home where the police were waiting. (Ex. 56, 4/45-46) Mother informed the police about what BL said. She then introduced BL to the police, who said "hi" to BL and then left. (Ex. 56, 4/46)

A week or two later BL acknowledged that he knew about the magic room and the clown, and Mother scheduled BL to have an interview at the police station with Detective Joe Connelly, a family friend, and Janet Fine. BL made no disclosures during that interview.

At some point in late September or early October, BL told Mother that he was made to remove his clothes behind a partition and stand under spotlights while

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pictures were taken of him. (Ex. 2A-116)

On October 11, 1984, both Janet Fine and Detective Connelly had interviewed BL "without success." (emphasis added) (Ex. 2A-116) Although BL had made no disclosures, the investigators nevertheless persisted. On October 11, 1984, a DSS worker, Karen Gaughan, interviewed BL at the YMCA where he went after-school. Mother was not present at that interview. (Ex. 56, 4/48, 77) BL knew that he was going to be interviewed at the YMCA and in fact upon seeing Gaughan stated "I know what she is here to talk about." (Ex. 2A-141) Gaughan reported that "no topic brought a look of nervousness, fear or secrecy to his face." (Ex. 2A-116) During the interview, BL was anxious to leave and play with his friends. BL had no knowledge of a magic room and said that the only thing that bothered him about FADS were the little girls who would chase him and try to kiss him. (Ex. 2A-116) Gaughan asked him if there were any secrets at FADS and BL told her that there was a "cage under the porch, one in front and one on the side." (Ex. 56, 4/48, Ex. 2A-141) BL reported that there was a "purple room" at the school where the bad kids went and were made to lie on a cot and sometimes were hit by Miss Cheryl. (Ex. 2A-142) Miss Vi hit a lot of the kids on the buttocks. (Ex. 2A-142) Gaughan asked BL about the magic room and BL asked her "what magic room?" He told her the secret room was at Miss Vi's pool. (Ex. 2A-143) When asked about pictures and clowns, BL referred only to class pictures and clowns he saw at the circus. (Ex. 2A-143) BL explicitly denied that anyone ever took his clothes off at school. After the interview,

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Gaughan spoke to Mother by telephone. At that point, Mother stated that she had not noticed any change in BL's behavior. Mother stated that she would pursue an evaluation because she did not want to learn ten or fifteen years down the road that BL had been abused. (Ex. 2A-117) At the defendant's trial, Gaughan testified that she was trained not to use leading questions, however her own report of the interview indicates that despite her training, she certainly used very leading questions with BL. (Ex. 56, 8/64)

On October 11, 1984, Gaughan made her substantiation decision based upon her interview with BL and stated that "There does not appear to be credible evidence that the child was abused at Fells Acres." (Ex. 2A-145)

Shortly after the interview at the YMCA, BL told Mother that he used to be in Vi's garage where there were big, bright lights and he would have to change his bathing suit. (Ex. 56, 4/49) In response to one of his Mother's questions, he also denied ever getting into a car with Tooky, even though Mother had seen him do so. Mother decided, notwithstanding the fact that BL had made no disclosures, to contact Children's Hospital. She was convinced at the time of this call that something had happened to BL at FADS, even though there was no evidence to support her conviction. (Ex. 2A-137) (Ex. 2A-137) BL began weekly therapy sessions at Children's Hospital, which he continued through the end of August, 1985, at which point BL began therapy at Tri-City Mental Health Center in Malden. (Ex. 2A-132; Ex. 56, 4/73) Mother was not present during any of the therapy sessions.

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(Ex. 56, 4/74) At the first session on November 1, 1984, BL made one of the several incredible claims that he would make throughout this investigation. He reported that sixteen kids from FADS had died. (Ex. 2A-121)

Later DSS reports state "Apparently crazy allegations began in November, after God knows what prodding by the psychologists." (Ex. 2A-117) An example of such "prodding" is contained in the psychologist's report from Children's Hospital dated December 12, 1984. At this session BL reported that he saw "balls of light coming at him to kill him". In an obvious effort to get him to say something about photographs, the therapist asked him if the "balls of light were like flashbulb lights". BL replied that they were - just like at the old school. (Ex. 2A-122) At a later session, the therapist reported that BL came prepared to talk about FADS, "obviously at his mother's insistence." (Ex. 2A-123) He acknowledged that kids "pulled down their pants" and worried about animals being lost, hurt or killed. (Ex. 2A-123)

BL's First Disclosure

On the evening of January 30, 1985, after nine therapy sessions at Children's Hospital, suggestive interviews with the police, DSS workers and relentless, leading questioning by his extremely distraught mother, BL made his first disclosure against the defendant.

After coming home from his therapy session, BL went to bed. There he told Mother's fiancÚ, ("FiancÚ") that nothing happened to him but that he wanted to tell what happened to the other children. (Ex. 56, 4/52) He related the following to

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FiancÚ while Mother listened right outside of the door: Vi would take him in the garage, pull his pants down and stick things in his bum while Tooky and Cheryl were taking pictures or standing there watching. (Ex. 56, 4/53) Cheryl would teach him how to kiss with his tongue in her mouth and her tongue in his mouth, how to suck on her neck, and touch her breasts. (Ex. 56, 4/53) Animals were killed and he was told that if he told anyone that the same thing would happen to his parents. (Ex.56, 4/53) BL said that Vi and Cheryl would punch him in the stomach and that Mother would die if he ever told. (Ex. 56, 4/57) Vi would give BL little white pills in the morning. (Ex. 56, 4/58) Mother also reported to DSS workers, but not at trial, that BL was made to have oral sex with Cheryl and Vi.

At some point during BL's conversation with FiancÚ, Mother entered the room. She and FiancÚ did not question BL. (Ex. 56, 4/58) BL allegedly spoke in a narrative form. (Ex. 56, 4/59)

The following day Mother contacted the police and informed them of BL's statements. BL went to the Malden Police Station for an interview and was interviewed by Detective Connelly and Maura Downs, a DSS worker. (Ex. 56, 4/59-60) He knew he was there to talk about FADS. (Ex. 2A-147) BL made allegations against Tooky, Vi, Cheryl, Miss Marie and Miss Carol. BL said that the robot told him not to tell parents anything or they would be mad. In response to leading questions, BL reported that Miss Cheryl put a stick in his bum, pulled down his pants and played with his "special part", penis. Yet in the same interview, BL stated that

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Cheryl did not penetrate his anus or take pictures. (Ex. 2A-149) BL was given anatomically correct dolls. He told the worker that the purple room was upstairs. It had two windows, a TV and teachers threw things like furniture in it. He claimed that Miss Vi took a picture of him in the garage and pulled down his pants and spanked him hard. He also implicated Miss Carol and Miss Ann Marie. Finally, he reported that Cheryl killed a dog by cutting its leg and threw a bird into a tree until it died and threatened the children that if they told of the abuse that the same would happen to them. (Ex. 2A-148-150). Mother also stated that BL had revealed to her that Vi and Cheryl kissed his "pee pee" and Vi and Cheryl punched the children. (Ex. 2A-151) On February, 4, 1985 DSS substantiated the allegations of abuse. On February 15, 1985, Susan Kelley interviewed BL.

Interviewer Bias

Kelley's bias against the Amiraults is evident in this interview from her complete disregard for the more incredible details of BL's story, including: that a robot was involved in the sexual abuse cover up; everyday all of the teachers tied BL and his classmates to a tree with their clothes off and Tooky dressed up as a lobster. (Ex. 2B - 161, 165, 184) In addition, her use of suggestive interviewing techniques also reflects her bias against the defendant.

The videotape of this interview reveals the use of several improper interviewing techniques:

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During the interview BL made the following disclosures:

By March, 1985, BL reported to the therapist that he admitted to thinking about FADS all of the time. (Ex. 2A-124) This is not surprising considering that his Mother had been questioning him incessantly about FADS for months.

In May, 1985, BL made disclosures to his Mother about "Al.". In therapy he called the "bad guys" Cheryl, Tooky and "Al" and the "good guys" Mother, police, the judge, and the therapist. (Ex. 2A-127)

Later that month, the therapist reported that BL was "seemingly relieved that his mother had stopped questioning him about FADS." (Ex. 2A-125) In June, 1985,

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BL informed the therapist that his mother had stopped crying since he stopped talking about FADS. (Ex. 2A-129)

Trial testimony

BL testified at Gerald's trial in 1986. He was nine years old when he testified at the defendant's trial in 1987. He made the following allegations against the defendant:

Behavioral Symptoms

None of the behavioral symptoms allegedly exhibited by BL were reported to anyone before October, 1984. Mother herself admitted, in the fall of 1984, that she had never noticed anything unusual about his behavior.

The prosecutor's questions at trial show how BL's behavioral changes occurred after the inappropriate interviews, parental pressure and suggestive questioning began:

Q: [W]as there any change in that aspect of his behavior at some point after he

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began to talk about what happened? (Ex. 56, 4/65)

About one week after the interview at the YMCA and after he had begun to be questioned about FADS, he started having nightmares where he would scream about the bright lights bothering him and hurting him. (Ex. 56, 4/49) BL would want to sleep with Mother all of the time. Up until that point, BL had little trouble sleeping alone. (Ex. 56, 4/50)

On November 6, 1984, Mother described BL as acting babyish, crying for no reason, hyperactive, awakening with nightmares and insisting with increasing frequency that Mother sleep with him. (Ex. 2A-121) Mother reported, for the first time, that for the last six months that BL had been at FADS he would begin to cry when he was left there. (Ex. 2A-121)

At trial, Mother testified that BL also started crying more after he was first interviewed. (Ex. 56, 4/51) BL lined up little "Master of the Universe Toys" and little soldiers along the door and windows. (Ex. 56, 4/51, Ex. 2A-121) Those behaviors were first reported to BL's therapist on December 12, 1984.

At trial, Mother testified that a year after he started at FADS, BL used to kiss his mother in a sexual way by grabbing both sides of her head, pulling her face towards him and trying to stick his tongue in her mouth. (Ex. 56, 4/61)

At trial Mother testified that either after BL disclosed in January, 1985 or after the Susan Kelley interview, BL started exhibiting sexualized behavior, he started making sexual advances toward Mother and "talking dirty". (Ex. 56, 4/61) For

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example, he would pull his pants down while sitting on a chair, masturbate, ask her if she liked sucking on things, if she could kiss him and then he would stand up and turn around, slap his bum and ask Mother to kiss it. (Ex. 56, 4/63) In response to this behavior, Mother would send him to his room. This behavior lasted for approximately one to two months and stopped when Mother was hospitalized for four to five weeks in early 1985. (Ex. 56, 4/63-64)

In February, 1985 BL began acting mean towards Mother. He would tell Mother that he hated her all the time for sending him to that school.

Physical Symptoms

There is absolutely no physical evidence that BL was ever sexually abused by anyone, let alone the defendant.

Other Factors Bearing on Behavior

Also indicative of interviewer bias, is the complete disregard for the numerous and significant personal issues going on in BL's life at the time of the investigation up until the time of trial that may have impacted the reliability of his disclosures.

BL had sporadic contact with his father since birth and lived with Mother and her then-fiancÚ during the investigation. (Ex. 2A-121) He expressed disappointment over not seeing his father on Father's Day in 1985 and was worried that Mother's

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fiancÚ, who felt more like a father to him than his own father, would move out. (Ex. 2A-130) Father, who was a member of the Hell's Angels, was killed in a motorcycle accident on September 21, 1985 and BL thought Father died because he made disclosures. (Ex. 56, 4/61)

From September 1984 on, Mother had a very difficult time dealing with the possibility that BL had been abused. She was very upset and emotional, which impacted BL. As the therapists' notes indicate, BL "worried about his mother who 'cries all the time.'" (Ex. 2A125) She underwent individual therapy and was hospitalized for a mental breakdown in early 1985. (Ex. 56, 4/64; Ex. 2A-127)

In 1986, Mother reported to Tri-City Mental Health Center that BL "lies a lot" and that he "makes up unbelievable stories". (Ex. 2A-172) (Ex. 2A-165, 172)

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