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     MindNet Journal - Vol. 1, No. 93A * [Part 1 of 2 parts]
     V E R I C O M M sm                 "Quid veritas est?"

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By Alex Constantine

December 1996


In 1992 some 2,300 copies of a report on child abuse were mailed
by a San Diego County grand jury to legislators, newspaper
reporters, social service agencies and college faculty. The
touted on network television and in the public print. Even the
liberal Mother Jones magazine, in its July 1996 number, lauded
the efforts of Carol Hopkins, deputy forewoman of the original
San Diego grand jury and organizer of the mailing campaign, for
countering "unfounded allegations" of child abuse. The Mother
Jones story, written by Judith Levine, was typical of the
publicity given the report, which claimed "panic" over child
abuse "seems to sprout from the desert soil of San Diego as
abundantly as neon fuchsia succulents and bougainvillea":

"The county has been the scene of a string of highly publicized
false allegations of molestation, including satanic ritual abuse,
going back to the 1980s. In 1992, a major grand jury
investigation found the county's child welfare agencies and
juvenile courts to be 'a system out of control,' so keen on
protecting children from predation that it took hundreds of them
away from their parents on what turned out to be false charges.
The report called for 'profound change' throughout the system."

Verbatim copies of the report are available from "men's rights"
organizations and legal advocacy groups on the Internet promoting
the "false memory" thesis of ritual child abuse. Defense
attorneys representing accused pedophiles and ritual abusers have
quoted from it in the courtroom.

And much of the report has been proven to be confabulated --
sheared from whole cloth and sewn into a legal parachute for
child abuse defendants facing conviction. In the second,
unpublicized inquiry into claims made in the 1991-92 report, it
was discovered that the first grand jury, chaired by retired Navy
Captain Richard Macfie, had misrepresented case histories, cooked
courtroom testimony and ignored physical evidence of sexual abuse
to arrive at the erroneous conclusion that a "family crisis"
exists in the justice system, that a break-up of families is
endemic, aggravated by overzealous social workers and a fury of
unfounded accusations.

The '91-'92 "Families in Crisis" report concluded that the issue
of ritual molestation has "suffered from excessive, sometimes
bordering on hysterical, media attention, reporting of inaccurate
or questionable statistics, and the failure to define and
identify child sexual abuse accurately." In fact, rarely is media
support thrown to victims of ritual child abuse. And the panel's
own handling of facts and statistics can, ironically enough, be
interpreted as an attempt to generate hysteria, to arouse
parental fear of child protective services and promote the
ongoing backlash against ritually abused children and their

An April 1993 report by the San Diego County Commission on
Children conflicts flatly with the original grand jury's argument
that "children lie about these issues." On the contrary, the
commission's study, cited in the second grand jury's review,
refutes the "false memory" argument and the original panel's
suggestion that children frequently "lie" about sexual

"Goodman (1986, 1989) and Saywitz (1989) on children's memory
and on the reliability of children's allegations of sexual
abuse ... demonstrate: 1) It is uncommon for children to make
false allegations about being molested. 2) Children's memories
are relatively good when compared to adult's memories. 3) Errors
by children in the recall of events are usually those of
omission, rather than commission. 4) While children may be more
suggestible with respect to their memory of peripheral details,
their recall of significant events that they have experienced,
rather than things they have merely observed, cannot be easily
changed or manipulated."

The second grand jury protested that its investigation was
"hampered by missing 1991-92 files" -- a cover-up. The files
"had been removed from the grand jury offices." A grand total of
"fourteen files were returned on June 14, 1993, following a court
hearing." The review panel's report, completed in 1993, details
serious "flaws" in the '91-92 findings, and uncovers an
unmistakable pattern of misrepresentation, arriving at the
false impression that families are routinely torn asunder by
"unfounded accusations."

A review of the original report found more unblushing
falsifications in the presentation of abuse histories from county
files, as evident in the following excerpts:

The 1991-92 Grand Jury Report:

"[A] school teacher was tried for child abuse after pushing a
child. A jury found her not guilty. It was acknowledged by the
supervising Deputy D.A. that this was a weak case, prosecuted
'to teach a lesson, test the parameter of the law, educate the

Review Findings:

"The 1992-93 Grand Jury found there were seven victims. The
defendant was not charged at all due to technical complications
(statute of limitations and lack of witness availability). One
child had been lifted by one arm and thrown into his desk,
another was slapped hard on the head. She also had her hair
pulled. A third child was slapped twice on the head and a fourth
was hit on top of the head during a school assembly.

"The children said that the defendant called them such names as
'stupid' or 'idiot.' This teacher's personnel file showed that
she had received ten notices complaining about her inappropriate
use of physical discipline on 8-year-old children. One of them
suggested termination."

The 1991-92 Grand Jury Report:

"A teenager was prosecuted for felony child molest upon an
allegation by a foster child in his mother's home. There was
no physical evidence. The D.A.'s office prosecuted despite its
awareness that this child's DSS file contained references to
previous unfounded allegations as well as psychological
evaluations of the child as a pathological liar."

Review Findings:

"The case was based on a report by a 12-year-old boy to his
social worker. He said that the defendant had molested him
numerous times during a two-year period by oral copulation,
sodomy and masturbation/fondling. The abuse began about one
month after the victim was placed in foster care at the
defendant's mother's house. The victim described weapons that
the defendant had either used or threatened to use, including
a whip, a knife, brass knuckles and a rifle. These weapons
were found in a subsequent police search of the defendant's
living quarters. The examining physician detailed physical
findings which supported the victim's claim of having been

"The victim was borderline retarded, had sociopathic behaviors
and psychological problems, but no reference to a report that
the victim was a pathological liar was found.

"The defendant pled guilty to Penal Code 647.6 (child molest).
The 1991-92 report makes additional comments about this case ...
and alleges that the District Attorney's 'decision to prosecute
was based solely on the child's accusation.' The files that were
reviewed contained references to far more physical evidence, and
in a civil suit brought by the victim against the County of San
Diego, an award of over $1 million was made. This fact is a
positive indication that the County felt their the case was
valid, and that the victim was truly a victim."

The 1991-92 Grand Jury Report:

"A step-grandfather was prosecuted for the felony child molest of
his 11 year old granddaughter. He and the family adamantly denied
the allegations. Again, DSS files available to the D.A. contained
contradictory information and evaluations of the child as a
pathological liar. There was also a child molest report involving
the natural father and the child. None of this information was
revealed to the defense. The child testified at the preliminary
hearing but was not cross-examined. At the time of trial, the
D.A. stated that the child could not be located. The preliminary
hearing testimony of the child was entered. The step-grandfather
was convicted. Between conviction and sentencing the defense
became aware that the child's whereabouts was known, and had been
known, by the D.A. The defense asked for a retrial. It has been

Review Findings:

"This case involves the molest of a 9-year-old girl by the
boyfriend of the girl's grandmother. After trial, he was
convicted of eight counts of violating Penal code 288(a) and he
was sentenced to six years in a state prison. His motion for a
new trial was denied. No reference in the reports contained in
the dependency file contained any reference to the victim as a
'pathological liar.' The girl's grandmother did accuse the girl
of being a pathological liar. No police report was ever made
regarding a molest of the victim by her father, after a report
by the brother of an ex-landlord who said that he once saw some
'messing around' between the father and the victim, but the
incident was written up by the San Diego Police Department and
referred to Child Protective Services.

"The statement that the victim was not cross-examined at the
preliminary hearing is untrue, and the preliminary hearing
transcript shows such cross-examination. The prosecution found
out where the victim was after the trial, when the victim's
grandmother told the deputy where she was. Prior to this time,
the prosecution had no information on the whereabouts of the
girl. The defense did ask for a new trial, but the motion was
denied and the defendant was sentenced to prison."

Among other many "flaws" in the '91-'92 child abuse report, the
grand jury cited the statement that a chief deputy county counsel
pressed subordinates to file charges in cases based on dubious
allegations. The counselor in question, however, states that she
had overruled deputies on only four petitions of child abuse, and
all four petitions were sustained by the court.

The initial San Diego grand jury report also quoted the director
of Child Protection Services in San Diego, who denied that he had
ever said, "I don't think I'm as good as some doctors at
maintaining an objective outlook, but I do the best I can." This
was based on a misquote in a newspaper story. He emphasizes that
errors in "non-intervention" far outnumber "intervention" errors.
The '92-'93 grand jury review confirmed the observation with
statistical analysis demonstrating that, if anything, the system
is hardly "out of control," but errs most often in favor of the

"Of the current annual level of 68,000 plus calls entering the
San Diego Child protection system, most are closed without
action, many result in children being referred to 'diversion' or
left at home relying on 'family preservation' programs, with only
1,500 (at current rates) resulting in removal of the child and
dependency court petitions, less than half the number three years
ago... Complaints may be expected from adults who feel deeply
offended, regardless of the merits of the removal from the
viewpoint of the best interests of the child. The adults may be
articulate, or at least have articulate counsel. Adults can
organize politically, contribute to campaigns, issue press
releases, grant interviews to the media, testify before the
legislature and attempt to persuade the grand jury. In fact,
adults have done so -- particularly those accused of sexual
abuse of their children.

"The troubling question is, who speaks for the errors made among
the 64,000 in which no action takes place? Here, there is no
articulate spokesperson. Even where there is counsel for the
child, that counsel is circumscribed by rules of confidentiality,
meant to protect the child. In addition, no civil remedy for the
child exists where the state fails to remove -- even where
failure to do is gross negligence by the state."

The result of the original San Diego grand jury's "investigation"
has been, according to the subsequent grand jury report, that
Children's Services Bureau employees "were caused unneeded
difficulty in performing their jobs." Morale is "seriously
affected." Prosecutors and social workers identified by job title
and "accused of misconduct or worse have suffered greatly. And,
because of the prestige associated with the imprimatur of the
grand jury, the reports are now held up as authoritative proof of
a malaise in child protection services generally, and by
implication, those associated with the process."

The review panel also blamed the '91-'92 child abuse report and
attendant media coverage for creating an atmosphere in which
"errors are more likely to be made in the failure to remove
children than in their inappropriate removal," rendering abused
children defenseless. Contrary to the widely reported findings of
the original panel, the most significant flaw in the system was
determined to be a failure to "adequately investigate and
intervene where there is an indication of serious child abuse."
The intransigence of child services was found to contribute to
"substantial numbers of errors in failure to remove, failure to
intervene, failure to treat," with the result that many children
are "condemned to years of suffering."

Failure to separate a child from parents suspected of abuse can
culminate in tragic circumstances:

"There has been a great deal of attention placed on voluntary
diversion (family agrees to CSB contract terms in return for
having children left at home) in the last few months. The family
of Tiffany C. was offered a voluntary contract, which the father
signed, agreeing that he would move out of the house, attend
anger management classes, and never be alone with the children
(Tiffany and her sibling). Two months after the contract was
signed, Tiffany was dead of injuries sustained in her home.

"Natasha B.'s mother has borne six children. The youngest, and
the only one still in the mother's custody is Natasha, now six
months old. When Natasha was 11 days old, her mother signed a
voluntary services case plan. On two separate occasions since,
Natasha has suffered head injuries inflicted during her parents'
domestic disputes."

The original grand jury detailed the handling of one child,
Alicia W., which has since become something of a cause
celebre in the "men's rights" movement. The review panel
acknowledged that errors were made in the deputy D.A.'s
investigation -- but as a result of statements made by Alicia
and her parents themselves, and by confusion in verifying the
identity of the true perpetrator, not an inquisitional campaign
of persecution waged by the San Diego D.A.'s office, as the
'91-'92 report claimed. There was no question that Alicia had
been sexually abused. Alicia W. sustained serious injuries,
conclusively. But the first grand jury report neglected to
mention this fact and treated the molestation charge as

1991-92 Grand Jury Report:

"In the case of Alicia W., the father persisted in denying
allegations of molest, but the mother was repeatedly told by her
attorney and social worker that her only chance to reunite with
Alicia was to say that she believed her husband did it. The
child, who persistently described a strange perpetrator, was not
believed. In order to allow her 'the freedom to remember'
without trauma, visits with her parents were terminated until she
could come up with 'a more believable story.' This child was kept
in court-ordered therapy for two and a half years, twice a week,
'dealing with the molest.'"

Review Findings:

"Albert Carder was charged with [four] child molests ... in July
1989. The deputy district attorney assigned to the case filed
charges against Carder alleging molestations of these children.
Carder pled guilty just before his preliminary hearing. Although
the deputy D.A. had heard of the incident involving Alicia, which
had occurred in May 1989, no evidence had been presented to her
requesting additional charges against Carder since no evidence was
known to the police connecting Carder to that case at that time.

"In the case of the four victims mentioned above, the deputy D.A.
learned that Carder knew the victims and their mothers. The
attacks did not result in serious injury as they did with
Alicia... The explanation given by Alicia's parents for her
injuries was odd. Mr. W. told police that if he had done it, he
did not recall it. The detective assigned to the case had
received a report that Mrs. W. had told another person that her
husband had committed the molest.

"The grand jury report on Alicia W. unleashed an attack on [the]
deputy district attorney, accusing her of ethical violations. She
was threatened with criminal prosecution. This harmed her
professionally, socially and emotionally. This attack was
unjustified, based on sworn testimony given before the 1992-93
grand jury."

It is a horrific irony, in light of the many sexually-abused
children neglected by the legal system, that the specious
findings of the original grand jury report have been gleefully
aired by the corporate press, while the grand jury examination
issued in 1993 has been largely overlooked.

It is serious enough that the 1991-92 "Families in Crisis"
jury report defrauded San Diego's legal system into
adopting policies inimical to the lives of children. Equally
outrageous was the plagiarizing of the report by a grand jury
in Merced County, a farming community in California's Central
Valley, explained by Charyl Borba, forewoman of the Merced
"investigation": "the cases we were involved with were very
similar. As far as this plagiarism stuff, that is not what we
did." But the San Diego Union-Tribune reported on July 9, 1992
that the original red herring had propagated: "The Merced report
is uncannily similar -- virtually word-for-word in most sections
-- to the San Diego jury's report. Even some of the testimony
quoted by the San Diego panel appears in the Merced jury's
report." The pirating was discovered when officials of Merced
County's Human Services Agency compared the documents, and
concluded that at least three-fourths of the Merced report had
been cribbed from the deception written under the watch of
Captain MacFie in San Diego.

[Continued to part 2]
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