The late Dan Finneran was an attorney who worked pro bono as part of the appellate team for the Margaret Kelly Michaels case and for the Fells Acres case. The following document, which was not filed, was written as an appendix for the 1995 appeal. It was not written as a stand-alone document. Every entry cross-references the trial transcripts, the child interviews, and pre-trial reports – none of which are currently available online. Nevertheless, I found the document interesting and informative and well worth sharing.
The main problems of reading this Appendix without the supporting documentation is that one doesn't see the process by which the allegations were produced or how the allegations were developed over time. To appreciate this, one must see the videotapes of the actual interviews, or at least read their transcripts.
There's an interesting old parlor game I sometimes played as a student. You send someone out of the room and tell them that the rest of the players are going to make up a story in his absence. When the person returns, he must figure out the story by asking questions that can be answered with a yes or no. But no story is made up by the other players. Answers are given depending on the final letter of the question. Almost invariably a fantastic – and often graphically sexually explicit – story is created. But the story is created entirely from the imagination of the questioner.
Something similar (but much worse) occurred in the daycare cases. The questioner in the parlor game at least would believe the answers given. In the case of the daycare investigations, "wrong" answers were just ignored. The question was repeated, or a follow-up question was phrased as if a different answer was given. ("Did he touch your dinky?" "No." "How did you feel when he touched your dinky?") Questions were not only leading, they were often loaded with thinly veiled bribes – and threats.
As attorney Robert Rosenthal pointed out at a conference at Harvard Law School, the key to understanding these cases is that the interrogators, not the children, are the narrators. While these cases were raging, interrogators from all over the country were in contact, sharing theories and "information." (Scott Harshbarger, for example, flew Larry Hardoon out to California so that Hardoon could consult with the McMartin investigators. Harshbarger now tries to claim with a straight face that Fells Acres was nothing like McMartin.)
The narratives that attorney Finneran details in this appendix typical of the daycare cases. They provide an interesting – and disturbing – insight into the thinking and prejudices of police, prosecutors, social workers, and therapists. The pedophile of these narratives was a new kind of monster, different from anything the world had seen before or since:
The kinds of fantasies projected on the children weren't, of course, brand-new. In the past, similar fantasies were projected upon Jews, who were believed to kill Christian children and use their blood in Jewish rites. (Someone who didn't believe in Christ was often considered capable of doing anything.) And fantasies like this were often projected upon homosexuals, especially male homosexuals. (The taboo against homosexual behavior was – and is – very powerful in our culture. Someone who breaks this taboo is still often considered capable of doing anything.)
- These pedophiles were psychologically normal, with no history of suspicious behavior. These pedophiles were just like everyone else. Anyone might be a pedophile. No child was safe.
- These pedophiles were incredibly reckless and took chances that would almost certainly ensure their discovery. Yet they allegedly operated undetected for years. None of the teachers, parents, or adult employees of the daycare centers ever witnessed suspicious behavior. These pedophiles seem to possess almost supernatural power.
- These pedophiles abused girls and boys indifferently. Homosexuals were accused of abusing children of the opposite sex. Heterosexuals were accused of same-sex abuse. (These cases almost invariably began, however, with a man being accused of sexually abusing a little boy. This was true in Fells Acres.)
- These pedophiles were sadistic, focused on hurting children. Real pedophiles gain a child's trust, and sexual activity is usually confined to gentle fondling that leaves no physical trace. The last thing a real pedophile wants to do is frighten or upset a child. That would almost certainly lead to discovery. But these pedophiles brutally penetrated toddlers, often with sharp objects such as knives and scissors.
- These pedophiles secured silence by terrible threats. Typically, they threatened to kill the child's parents if he or she were to tell. Real pedophiles don't want to frighten or upset children and thus get caught. They may beg the child not to tell because something terrible will happen to the pedophile, whom the child considers a friend.
The daycare sex-panic, like all moral panics of the past, was a product of superstition, bigotry, and political opportunism.
I made one important change to Mr. Finneran's document. He identified all 10 of the children by their initials. I did this for seven of them, but used the full names of Brian Martinello, Phaedra Hopkins and Jennifer Bennett. Middlesex DA Martha Coakley has gone public with these three "victims" (and with Martinello's mother, Barbara Standke) in a disinformation campaign to preserve the Fells Acres "victory." Coakley is encouraging these "victims" in making freshly-minted charges, unsupported by anything on the record. Thus I felt it important that people be able to check the new claims against the record. For instance, no allegation was recorded anywhere before 9/2/84. Yet Standke, for one, now alleges disclosures by her son before that date. Standke also alleges medical "evidence" supporting her claims. No such evidence exists.
Martha Coakley's disinformation campaign is unethical, immoral, and highly unprofessional. It would be tragic if it succeeds.
Interviews and Pre-Trial Reports
Volume Numbers and Page Numbers: 1986 and 1987 Trial Transcripts
Grand Jury Transcripts
Web Site About This Case: