The State of California, which gave us such outrages as the McMartin Case and the Kerns County prosecutions, claims to have learned its lesson, and the Sacramento Bee has solemnly assured its readers that the Bee no longer runs over the cliff when someone is accused of child molestation. That self-congratulatory statement came as the Bee once again stood on the edge of the cliff and jumped.
As of this writing, Robert Adams, the former headmaster of the now-shuttered Creative Frontiers School in Citrus Heights, is charged with child molestation, although the State of California still has not turned over its “evidence” to the defense, despite the fact that it has had this case for more than a year. (This is part of the “bleed ‘em” strategy that prosecutors employ. When they don’t have a case, they lie and hide evidence so that the proceedings will drag out and the defendant will plead to something just to get this thing behind him. It is a smarmy strategy, but most American prosecutors fall into the “smarmy” category, so it all fits together perfectly.)
So it was that the Bee triumphantly claimed that since McMartin, everyone in the system now is careful not to make false accusations. Really. The Bee proclaimed:
The legacy of the notorious McMartin Preschool case of the 1980s is playing out this week in Sacramento.
As the principal of a private elementary school in Citrus Heights stands accused of molesting his students, authorities are warning the school’s parents against aggressively questioning their children about the man they affectionately know as “Mr. Bob.”
It is the exact opposite of what police asked parents to do during the McMartin case, in which members of a Southern California family who ran a highly regarded preschool in Manhattan Beach were charged with numerous acts of sexual abuse.
The Bee continued:
The state Department of Social Services, in a complaint filed in support of revoking the preschool’s license, accuses Adams of “inappropriate physical and sexual contact with female children” on “numerous occasions” beginning in 1997. The complaint cites two specific allegations, including the one by Mertens, and other more general accusations. Those include Adams touching children’s bodies under their shirts and down their pants, and lying with female children on a mat in a secluded area.
However, the article went on to describe how much better investigators do than they did 30 years ago when the McMartin allegations broke out. I must admit, having been involved with a number of faux child molestation cases against innocent people, that the following statement from the newspaper is a howler:
In response to the McMartin debacle, authorities across the country established “child advocacy centers” with special rooms where youngsters can be questioned by trained psychologists or law enforcement specialists.
Sorry, folks, it does not work that way. Most Child Advocacy Center interviewers are poorly-trained, and often are people with an agenda. The two CACs that were involved in the Tonya Craft case had interviewers asking leading and manipulative questions and admitted proudly on the stand that they could not be bothered to have more training or to read any relevant academic and research literature that dealt with their interviews and interviewing techniques. I include the transcript of an interview of Tonya Craft’s six-year-old (at the time) daughter so that readers can see a CAC “expert” at work. It is pretty disgusting.
(Chris Arnt, the lead prosecutor in the Craft case, managed to get six indictments against Craft from this interview.)
Here is what the executive editor of the Bee, Joyce Terhaar, wrote right after the investigation began and the school was closed:
The shadow of the McMartin Preschool fiasco hung over Sacramento law enforcement and media last week.
You likely followed the news of the abrupt closure Monday of a private elementary school in Citrus Heights because of allegations the principal molested students beginning in 1997.
Just as law enforcement learned from the McMartin molestation allegations in the 1980s, and changed its investigative approach in such cases, the media learned to be more skeptical.
Yes, the Bee was so skeptical of the charges that soon after Terhaar’s column that it ran a story claiming that Adams had faked his credentials, thus helping to cement in the minds of its readers that the guy was a fraud, which meant he must be guilty of child molestation. However, when Adams produced the documentation that showed he had the educational credentials that he had claimed, the Bee was too busy to run a correction. (I would add that the Sacramento television news stations have been no better than the Bee, but since the Bee claims to always have a reasoned and correct perspective about nearly everything, I figure that this paper should be held to higher standards than the makeup-slathered folks we see on the evening news.)
Lest anyone think the Bee has simply tried to objectively cover this case, this lead in an article from Sam Stanton should put things into perspective:
On a chilly December day when Bob Adams normally might be thinking about a holiday pageant at his family’s school, he found himself walking into court again to deal with charges that he is a child molester.
He goes on:
Adams faces six felony counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a child under 14 and one misdemeanor count of annoying or molesting a child under 18.
Court documents indicate Adams was first investigated in connection with molestation allegations in 2000, but it was not until September that charges were filed accusing him of molesting girls as young as 6 or 7 in alleged incidents dating back to 1996.
Yes, everything Stanton wrote is true, but the way he puts it leaves little doubt he believes Adams is guilty.
At this point the reader might ask me, “Why do you think this guy is innocent?” I use the word “innocence” carefully, but I have no doubt. And neither does the writer, Christian Peet, who has published a number of excellent blog posts that go into this case — and the accusers — into detail. It is Peet, not the faux journalists at the Sacramento Bee, who has done the digging and done the due diligence that the ancients once called research. (They are too busy to do research at the Bee, instead being satisfied with repeating the press releases from the police and Sacramento County prosecutors.)
Peet has an excellent post from last May, and I include a few excerpts:
Prosecutors’ decision to build a case against Adams even in the wake of the public implosion of their original star witness (and, by her own account, their “only witness“), Irma Mertens, has only solidified public doubt about the veracity of the State’s case.
Mertens, a volunteer at Creative Frontiers, who was passed over for paid employment prior to making her felony allegations against Adams in July 2011, went on to embarrass social services and police by giving a string of newspaper and television interviews in which she embellished and contradicted previous statements released to the media, providing sudden new “details” such as watching Adams stick his thumb in a child’s rectum,3 all within 48 hours of authorities having released her original allegations in a press packet that was unblinkingly trumpeted by local papers and recycled by major media across the US and into the UK, destroying the names of the prestigious 35-year-old school and branding its founder, for the rest of his life, an accused child molester.
I would urge readers to go through Peet’s account of the lurid tales that Mertens told the media — and how those tales later fell apart, although one never would guess that from reading the Bee or watching the news in Sacramento. Peet also debunks the notion that the police were careful in their investigation:
Just three days after Creative Frontiers was closed, an article at the Sacramento Bee, as if written by the prosecution itself, sought to reassure the public that city and county authorities, despite appearances, weren’t repeating the same mistakes. Declared the headline: “McMartin Preschool abuse-case fiasco led to new child interview techniques.”
“In [the Mcmartin Preschool] case,” write reporters Hubert and Stanton, “following an initial accusation from one mother, police sent form letters to more than 200 parents at the preschool, urging them to question their children about possible sexual abuse.” The difference, however, between these troubling aspects of McMartin and those of Creative Frontiers, is scarcely any difference at all. Instead of Judy Johnson making false allegations in 1983, we have Irma Mertens making false allegations in 2011. Instead of a telephone-tree panic between parents, we have online comments at the Sacramento Bee and other digital newspapers.
Likewise only updated technology separates the ill-advised tactics of the police departments in each case. In 1983 police in Manhattan Beach mailed parents 200 form letters. In 2011, Citrus Heights police set up an online form, making the reporting of allegations as easy as clicking of a mouse.
At this writing, the defense STILL does not have the prosecution files on the case, which places the State of California in violation of the Brady ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. Not that prosecutors ever have worried about obeying the law, but it should be noted that the Bee has not reported on this legal transgression.
Peet’s blogging on this case has been extremely valuable, as he has put it into perspective and, like me, he points out the dishonesty and hypocrisy of the Bee’s coverage. He takes apart the allegations and the statements by police and accusers better than I could do. So if you want to better understand why I believe that the State of California is perpetuating a fraud and is being aided and abetted by the Sacramento Bee, read Peet’s work.
– William Anderson