The Huge Law Enforcement Scandal that Cries Out for Justice

In the American Thinker (June 30), Jack Cashill offers an eloquent plea for an Atticus Finch to take up the cause of George Zimmerman in suing those responsible for perpetrating the Trayvon Hoax.  There is another case, also in Florida, awaiting its Atticus Finch, the product of an earlier moral panic, the now largely forgotten "mass sex abuse in daycare" hysteria.  These cases, replete with lurid charges the media mindlessly and breathlessly disseminated in the 1980s and '90s, are today widely recognized as a modern version of the Salem witch trials of the 1690s, down to allegations of Satanic rituals by caregivers.  Despite this, one victim remains incarcerated.  Frank Fuster has now served thirty-five years in prison for a crime not only that he did not commit, but that never happened.  His first parole hearing is scheduled an unbelievable 114 years from now — in March 2134.

Why is Fuster alone still in prison when the dozens of other victims of the daycare hysteria were all released, most of them long ago?  That includes— just to cite a sample — the Edenton 7 in North Carolina, whose plight was brilliantly set forth by Ofra Bikel on PBS; the Amiraults in Massachusetts, for whose defense, in the pages of The Wall Street Journal, Dorothy Rabinowitz won a Pulitzer; Kelly Michaels, the young aspiring actress sentenced to 47 years for supposedly sexually molesting virtually all the three- to five-year-old children at Wee Care Day Nursery in New Jersey; and the 43 adults charged with close to 30,000 crimes against young children in Wenatchee, Washington.  Sometimes justice was wickedly slow, as in the case of Fran and Dan Keller, who served 21 years in prison before they were finally released in 2013 and their conviction set aside.  The couple, who ran a daycare center out of their Texas home, had each been sentenced to 48 years on absurd testimony that included accusations that they had drowned and dismembered babies in front of other children, transported the children to Mexico to be sexually abused by soldiers in the Mexican army, dressed as pumpkins and shot children in the arms and legs, and so on.

I have detailed at length the reasons (among them simple bad luck) that account for Fuster's failure to win his freedom in "The Last Victim" in National Review of September 10, 2018.  Suffice it to say here that it was not that the case against him was any stronger — it was marked by the same egregious flaws as all the others.  The charges were the work of therapists who over many months badgered, bribed, coaxed, bullied, and coerced reluctant preschoolers — they initially denied anything happened — into saying what prosecutors wanted to hear.  Indeed, Robert Rosenthal, who served as appeals attorney for the defendants in many of the high-profile cases, has called the Fuster case (known as "Country Walk" for the upscale development in which it took place) "the worst I have ever seen."  That's because of the brutality with which then–state attorney Janet Reno treated Fuster's young wife, Ileana, in an effort to wring a confession from her.  In a sworn deposition, Stephen Dinerstein, the experienced investigator employed by the Fusters' attorneys, described how the bright, attractive 17-year-old girl with shiny black hair now, only months later, "appeared as if she was 50 years old[.] ... She has sores and infections on her skin and states that no sanitary conditions exist or are provided, that the shower, when received, is a hosing down in the cell.  That she is in a cell with nothing in it but a light in the ceiling and that she is often kept nude and in view of everybody and anybody."

Nonetheless, Ileana held out for eleven months, insisting she could not confess to things that had never happened.  She cracked only after her own lawyer (who wanted her to plea bargain) brought in an outfit called Behavior Changers to help her "recover" her supposedly repressed memories.  Reno now obtained the "confession" she sought and then some — Ileana testified that Frank hung her in the garage; spread feces on her; forced her, at knifepoint, to perform sexual acts on the children; put snakes in her genitals and the children's; and stuck a cross in her rectum.  In 2001, in an interview with Frontline, Ileana would testify how the false testimony had been elicited from her: "Since they had all the stories from the children and I didn't remember, they will make me close my eyes and they will tell me the story.  Then in my mind, I have to go step by step the way they were telling me the story[.] ... If I made a mistake, then they would correct me.  And we would do this over and over until I got the memory piece that supposedly was missing."  All this was done through 35 sessions, late at night, disturbing her sleep cycles and compounding her confusion.  This was enlightening but offered Frank no legal benefit.

That Fuster has survived over three decades in prison is astonishing.  Child-abusers are known to be in danger from fellow inmates.  In Fuster's case, the danger was exacerbated by ABC's occasional rebroadcasts of Unspeakable Acts, a docudrama that portrayed Fuster as a monster, accepting as fact the attacks on small children of which Fuster was accused.  He was seriously attacked five times and almost died when, shortly after a rebroadcast, an inmate stabbed him in the neck with a pen whose point went so close to the artery that it could not be removed.  As recently as July 2018, Fuster was badly beaten by a group of inmates while being transferred from one prison to another.  Several officers had openly discussed his case in the hearing of others on the bus, saying he had "raped 70 children."

For the past 17 years, Fuster, without financial resources, has had no legal representation.  Surely there is some lawyer in Florida who would be willing to take up the cudgels to set right this hideous blot on U.S. law enforcement.  Amy Gershenfeld Donnella, Fuster's last lawyer, who vainly sought to have his conviction overturned in federal court, says that although difficult, it would not be impossible to bring the case back into Florida state court.  She points out that "every state post-conviction statute, and all the cases interpreting them, have provisions that enable an innocent person — and a wrongly convicted person — to overcome procedural hurdles including statutes of limitation."

Rael Jean Isaac's most recent book is Roosters of the Apocalypse: How the Junk Science of Global Warming is Bankrupting the Western World.

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