Martha Coakley, the Amirault case, and the demonization of men in the 1980s.

Check out this article by Radley Balko of the libertarian Reason magazine:

This part stopped me short:

"Despite a parole board’s 5-0 recommendation to grant Gerald Amirault clemency and mounting doubts about the evidence against him, Coakley publicly and aggressively lobbied then-Gov. Jane Swift to deny Amirault relief. Amirault remained in prison."

This case was also known as the Fells Acre Day Care Center case. I remember it vividly from my time in Massachusetts. I remember it as a disaster of a case, marked by countless poor decisions by prosecutors throughout both the trial and its lonnnnng and painful aftermath.

I remember it as a milestone in the rise of day care sex abuse hysteria in the 1980s and think of it still as a tipping point in the demonization of men in our culture.

I remember it as the case that caused a generation of men to view interacting with other people's children as a risk.

It was the case that caused men to hesitate before volunteering at the Y, hesitate before helping out with the girl scout cookie drive, and hesitate before signing up to coach youth sports.

It was the case that caused men to think twice before watching a neighbor's kid, think twice about driving a child's teammate home from practice, and think twice about entering the teaching profession.

It's possible that Balko has somehow gotten it wrong.

But if I still lived in Massachusetts, I wouldn't pull the lever for Martha Coakley until I heard an explanation about her role in the clemency arguments of the Amirault case.


  1. Amirault was found guilty and this verdict was upheld several times by both political parties. There were physical findings of abuse in the children and the children showed signs of strong sexualized behaviors after the abuse. The children as adults continue to state they were abused.

    Letters to the Editor: The Real Darkness Is Child Abuse WALL STREET JOURNAL 02/24/95 Hardoon
    The three Amiraults — Gerald, Violet and Cheryl – were convicted after two trials before different judges and juries almost one year apart. They were represented by able and well-known defense counsel. The convictions were upheld after review by state and federal appellate courts….in Amirault, the majority of the female children who testified had some relevant physical findings, as did several female children involved in the investigation who did not participate in the trial. The findings included labial adhesions and hymenal scarring....The victims and their families in these cases have been irrevocably harmed by what was done to them by the Amiraults....The juries, by their verdicts, rejected these arguments. Justice was done.

  2. I trust Dorothy Rabinowitz's research more than yours: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704281204575003341640657862.html

  3. Rabinowitz one-sided articles do a great disservice to the victims of these crimes. There is more than enough evidence to show his guilt in the trial records and the media.

    Witness praises Amirault decision By John Ellement, Globe Staff, 2/23/2002 Amirault supporters are focusing on 2 percent of the children’s claims that "seem inexplicable and they are conveniently ignoring the 98 percent of the case that was overwhelming” against Amirault. http://web.archive.org/web/20020224045327/http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/054/metro/Witness_praises_Amirault_decision+.shtml

    COMMONWEALTH vs. GERALD AMIRAULT. 404 Mass. 221 December 6, 1988 – March 6, 1989 “The parents of the child witnesses testified about their children’s behavior while, or shortly after, attending Fells Acres. The children complained and cried about the school; they complained of stomachaches, headaches, pain in their genital areas, and bowel problems. They began bedwetting, lost their appetites, had nightmares, used baby talk, became fearful of lights, of men, and of being left alone. The children also displayed sexually explicit behavior; some began masturbating. Two of the boys tried to stick their tongues into their mothers’ mouths.