Witch Hunt

Today, I was made aware of a movie project – called Witch Hunt– it is a documentary produced and narrated by Sean Penn.

This movie highlights the story of John Stoll, and dozens of other men and women, who found themselves falsely accused – and falsely convicted – of child molestation in Kern County, California!

Below is the synopsis as it appears on the movie’s website:

On the night John Stoll was roused from his bed and carted off to jail, his attitude bordered on the cavalier.
“Aren’t you worried?” His lawyer wondered.
“Hell no, I ain’t worried,” John answered. “I didn’t do this. You can’t convict me of something I didn’t do.”

It was more than two decades before John Stoll was free again.

Executive Producer Sean Penn proudly presents “Witch Hunt,” a gripping indictment of the United States justice system told through the lens of one small town. It’s John Stoll’s story, but it’s also the story of dozens of other men and women who found themselves ensnared in a spiral of fear, ignorance and hysteria. These people are Americans, working class moms and dads, who were rounded up with little or no evidence, charged and convicted of almost unimaginable crimes. All sexual. All crimes against children. Years, sometimes decades later, they would find freedom again, but their lives and the lives of their children would be changed forever. This film shows viewers what the real crime in this case is, not molestation, but the crime of coercion. Viewers hear from the child witnesses who were forced to lie on the witness stand as they describe scary sessions with sheriff’s deputies in which they were told — not asked — about sexual experiences that happened to them. Their coerced testimony led to dozens of convictions. Many times their own parents were the ones they put behind bars.

Soon after the trials, the children started to crack. They told adults of the lies they’d been forced to tell on the stand and hoped it would make a difference. It didn’t and the convicted continued to sit in prison. As the allegations grew more outlandish, California’s Attorney General wrote a scathing report on the court misconduct, but instead of being buried by criticism, Kern County District Attorney Ed Jagels thrived, doing what he did best– putting people away. He boasted one of the highest conviction rates in the country. This strategy served him well. Jagels is still in office today. Through new interviews, archival footage, and unflinching narration by Mr. Penn, the filmmakers construct an intimate film that illustrates a universal point; when power is allowed to exist without oversight from the press, the community or law enforcement, the rights of everyday citizens can be lost for decades. National film critic Marshall Fine says, “This is a chilling story about American law-enforcement run amok and untethered. It’s particularly timely in the wake of revelations about the way the Bush administration has trampled American civil rights. A movie that can’t help but move you – to tears and to action.”

I immediately purchased, and watched this movie…and, even having personally gone through a similar story, I find it frightening to think that this kind of thing can happen to anyone.  One of the most impactful quotes for me from this movie is from Jeff Modahl, who served 15 years in prison before his conviction was overturned.  Jeff speaks about false allegations and says, “This does happen – and it can be you, your neighbor, your son or daughter.  It can happen right now in your own home.  There’s no rhyme or reason why it happens.  If somebody wants to do it – it can happen.”

I highly recommend this movie to everyone.  It will certainly make you think twice, even three times, every time you hear an allegation!  For more information on the movie, and how it benefits the California Innocence Project, please click HERE.  To purchase the DVD, please click HERE, or to download from iTunes click HERE.

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Life goes on?

Please Note: Posts in the ‘My Story’ page always have the newest post on the top. If you would like to read the story from the beginning – start with “An Introduction”. Thanks for reading! ~IWFA

What do you do the day after you are accused of a horrible and unthinkable crime that you didn’t commit?  Where do you start?  Are there things you should be doing?  There is no handbook for this type of scenario.  But the thoughts about all the “what if’s” begin in your head.  How do you go on “if” you lose the career you had worked on for your entire life?  What if you lose your home…your savings…your friends…?  What is the penalty for this kind of crime?  Worst case scenarios start immediately.

The first thing I could think of was to try to figure out what yesterday really meant.  Is it a good thing that I was not arrested – just questioned and let go?  Did the detective actually know I was telling the truth like I thought he did?  Should I tell my friends what happened?  How do you figure all of this out?

Fortunately – my mother has a close friend who is an attorney, and a local level prosecutor.  While he never handles cases of this magnitude, he was an amazing source of information on how things like this work.  What he told us, though, was the start of my total disbelief in our justice system!  He told us, of course, that when an allegation like this is brought to the police, they have to fully investigate it.  That makes perfect sense to me.  I hope they would investigate something this serious…but what made no sense is that they owe the ‘accused’ no more explanation than that.  We learned that the techniques they use in their ‘interrogation’ are designed only to get a confession – NOT to determine the truth.  The detectives don’t even have to give factual information to you in an interrogation in order to get a confession.  They can tell you that there were accusations made that actually were not.  They can phrase questions in a way to lead you to believe things that are not true.  They can promise you things about “deals” and “everything will be ok” if you just confess.  They can outright lie about the reason you are being questioned…all are legally acceptable ‘interrogation techniques’.

After the interrogation, the police don’t ever have to follow-up with you again.  The advice we were given is that if we heard nothing more about this for the next 90 days it is safe to assume they have dropped the investigation.  But – there are no rules either – they can sit on the accusations for a year if they want before they decide to act.  If they decide they are dropping the case – they don’t tell the ‘accused’…so you spend your entire life wondering.  So – our friend’s advice was to just go on with life as if this never happened…because you may never hear anything about it again.  Easier said than done!

From this day forward, I feel like nothing will ever be the same.  Are phone calls being listened to?  Are emails being read?  Quick trips to the store for milk are no longer an easy thing to do.  You look at everyone in the store…do they know?  You scan cars in the parking lot looking for an unmarked police car…are they watching me?  Leaving your house to check the mail raises so many new questions…  Who was in that car that just drove by?  Did I see a neighbor watching me from their window?  And forget about going out to eat…  A knock on the door makes your heart skip a beat every time…is this the knock before they arrest me?

But as the days and weeks go by – it actually becomes easier.  I return to work quickly – and it seems like nothing has changed at all.  No one seems to know.  Day to day activities become easier again as well.  I feel like I am not watching over my shoulder all the time anymore.  Christmas and New Years come and go.  Activities with friends and family happen as they always have.  My life actually feels like everything is back to normal now!  This has to be a good thing…right?

If you enjoy following my story please subscribe to this site by entering your email address at the very bottom of the page – then you will be notified immediately of new posts!  You can always unsubscribe at anytime! ~ IWFA Blog

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Breaking the News

Please Note: Posts in the ‘My Story’ page always have the newest post on the top. If you would like to read the story from the beginning – start with “An Introduction”. Thanks for reading! ~IWFA

I had just been told by detectives that I was accused of sexually abusing a child.  Worse yet – accused by a friend…someone who I considered to be my family.  And…I did not do it!

What do you do when something like this happens to you?  This is something you aren’t taught in school.  What you are taught, though, by society…what you see in the media every day…is that “these people” – those accused of crimes like this – no longer have a life.  They are shunned by family, by friends, by the community.  They are the targets of violence.  They lose everything.  They live meaningless lives in dingy motels –  if they even survive the decades of abuse in prison.  What is going to happen to my life that I worked so hard to be successful at?  I strived to be a moral and ethical person every day.  I made the right decisions.  What about my career?  It is all I know and love.  My house?  My friends…what will they think?  Will they believe me?  My family – how do I even begin to tell my family about this?

As I get in my car to drive away from the prosecutor’s office I am numb.  I don’t know where I should go.  I don’t know who I should call.  I don’t know if I am even able to drive.  I remember turning my phone back on.  The detectives had made me turn it off earlier because it kept ringing.  There were so many messages from work…from my boss.  I had left hours ago to address what I thought was a simple problem with John.  I did not have a position where I could ignore these types of phone calls…but I went missing to them for 6 hours!  And at that point I couldn’t bear to return those calls.

I remember starting to drive towards home, making the turn out of that parking lot…and nothing else.  I don’t know how I arrived safely!  When I walked in my door John was sitting on the couch.  He didn’t expect for me to be able to come home, and jumped into my arms…and we both started crying.  I told him my life was over…everything I had worked for was gone!  I don’t remember much from that day…but I will never forget John saying to me at that moment “no one will believe it”.

Then, I remember feeling sick…almost feelingless…like I was watching all this happen from the outside somehow as the gravity of this allegation really started to sink in.  I climbed the stairs and got into bed.  I just wanted all of this to be over.  Before too long (I think..time seemed to stand still for a couple days) my best friend Charles was standing in my room with John.  I am told that I called him on the drive home, but I don’t remember that phone call.  He was at work, and immediately left without explanation to come make sure I was ok.  What a friend!  He asked me if I had told my parents what happened.  I told him there was no way I could tell them…how do you have that conversation?  I couldn’t do it.  Charles left my house – drove to my mother’s house – and told them the news.  Before too long he returned with my mom and step-dad.  She was crying…he was cursing about Michael – about how we let him into our family – took care of him when his own family didn’t – and now he does this.

I remember my mother saying “if you are innocent then you need to go on with your life”.  She said “you get up tomorrow morning and live like you are innocent”.  I shared my fears about my life…my job…my house…my friends.  This began what turned into an all-night discussion.  I called my boss, who arrived at my house in minutes.  John’s mom showed up soon after.  I called my immediate ex-girlfriend…she had a young son, so I thought she needed to hear about this directly from me.  She also dropped what she was doing and came right over.  The group of us sat around and talked all night.  My boss thought it was outrageous – he told me to take whatever time off I needed, and whenever I was ready to come back to just do so.  My girlfriend was extraordinarily supportive.  She told me there was no way she would have believed it no matter how she heard – and that no one else that knew me would either.

While this should have taken away some of the edge because two of my biggest concerns really didn’t seem to be there anymore…nothing too much had changed for me mentally.  I reached a point where I just could no longer think about it…I could no longer function.  I went to bed thinking “NOW WHAT”.  What do I do when I wake up tomorrow?  What happens next?  Will everyone know?  Now what?

If you enjoy following my story please subscribe to this site by entering your email address at the very bottom of the page – then you will be notified immediately of new posts!  You can always unsubscribe at anytime! ~ IWFA Blog

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Gregory Taylor’s first day of freedom is a whirlwind

A news report from 2/18/10 that highlights some of the effects of a wrongful conviction! Click the article title below to be redirected to the full story, with video of his interview.

Gregory Taylor’s first day of freedom is a whirlwind

RALEIGH, N.C. — For his first full day of freedom in more than 16 years, Greg Taylor woke up and hit the gym for the same upper-body workout he did every Thursday in his cell.

Then he shook off the one thing he believes publicly branded him as a former prisoner: his eyewear.

After breakfast and a shower, he went to an eyeglass store in Durham to replace the thick, tortoise-shell frames given to prisoners with a pair of oval-shaped, chocolate-colored wire frames that more suit his long, narrow face.

It wasn’t just that the glasses were unfashionable, he said.

It’s what they said about him and his conviction in the beating death of a prostitute in Raleigh in 1991. Three judges decided Wednesday he was innocent of that crime and released him from his life sentence.

“People can look at them and say, ‘he just got out of prison,'” Taylor said. “I want to get rid of these.”

Taylor spoke to reporters while holding the hand of his 26-year-old daughter, Kristen Puryear, and pushing a stroller carrying his 23-month-old grandson, Charles.

He counted off all the loved ones he lost while behind bars: a grandmother, a sister, three uncles, a cousin, a dog and two cats. But it was when he discussed the happy events he missed that he choked up.

“Her 10th birthday party,” he said of his daughter.

“Her high school graduation was a big one,” he said. “These are the things you can’t get back.”

He also went back to prison – the Johnston County Correctional Center – to collect his personal belongings, some money in a prison trust fund and a $45 gate check that all prisoners who’ve served two years or more receive when they leave.

For Taylor, the trip was definitely different – after spending the last nine years beyond the facility’s barbed-wire fence.

“It’s a different perspective, that’s for sure,” he said. “I’m looking at the same fence, but from the other side, it doesn’t look familiar at all.”

Taylor also met with someone who was part of the chain of events leading to his exoneration: former state Chief Justice I. Beverly Lake Jr., who launched the study panel that led to creating the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission.

Taylor’s case was the first exoneration to result from the work of the commission, which is the only state-run agency in the country dedicated to proving a convicted person’s innocence.

If the governor grants Taylor a pardon, he can apply for compensation from the state Industrial Commission for $50,000 a year up to a maximum of $750,000.

The rest of the day was a whirlwind catching up to a world that changed quickly in the time he was locked away.

In the gym, he found a spacious room with a wall of mirrors, banks of exercise equipment and state-of-the-art weights instead of an outdoor space with a view of a guard tower.

Before a technician examined his eyes at the store in Durham, Taylor had to sign his name on a computer screen. “I don’t understand,” he said before figuring it out.

Although he has read numerous books on computer programming, Taylor saw the Internet for the first time Wednesday night when his daughter gave him a brief tutorial on his laptop.

She updated his wardrobe with jeans, a black polo shirt and boxer-briefs, which he had never worn. He could only surmise that she didn’t know if he preferred boxers or briefs, so she split the difference.

When a friend tried to explain how a thumb drive would extend the storage space of his newly purchased digital camera, Taylor responded: “Oh, so it’s like film?”

His lack of knowledge about cell phones – he saw his first one this week – overwhelmed the sales clerk. “Wow. I don’t even know where to start,” she said.

All the bright and shiny newness seemed to take a toll on Taylor. “Everything has been smell and see and hear – no thoughts,” he said.

He slept with a light on Wednesday night, not so much a reaction to brightly lit prison cells, but because he wanted to be able to see the new surroundings of his daughter’s house if he woke up during the night. And it felt strange to shower in his bare feet after wearing flip-flops in the shower for so long.

“Do you wear shoes in the shower?” he asked two reporters

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The Interrogation

Please Note: Posts in the ‘My Story’ page always have the newest post on the top. If you would like to read the story from the beginning – start with “An Introduction”. Thanks for reading! ~IWFA

November 16, 2006…continued:

As I am sitting in the reception area of the Prosecutor’s Office I continue to think of exactly what kind of issue there could be with John.  Remember – at this point the way the Detective got me into their office was to tell me that there was a custody issue with John that we had to address today.  Eventually Detective Smith came out – introduced himself, and said “let’s go inside and talk”.  As we are walking down the hall, we get into an elevator, then down another hall.  During this time Detective Smith is making small talk about the day, my job, what I was working on today, etc.  My initial impression was that he was very friendly and likable.

We eventually made our way into an interrogation room.  Detective Smith introduced me to Detective Johnson, a female detective who was already seated in the room.  They explained that due to ‘procedure’ they had to have this conversation in a room where it could be recorded.  They then advised me that because the conversation was occurring in ‘this setting’, that they had to provide me with a paper explaining my rights, which was ‘very standard in this type of situation’.  They asked me to read each of the rights below out loud ‘for the tape’, then initial the paper next to each right that I understood them.

  1. You have the right to remain silent
  2. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law
  3. You have the right to talk to a lawyer and have one present with you while you are being questioned
  4. If you cannot afford to hire a lawyer, one will be appointed for you before any questioning, if you wish
  5. A decision to waive these rights is not final and you may withdraw your Waiver at any times either before or during questioning.

Finally they had me sign the following waiver:

“I acknowledge that I have been advised of my rights and I understand what my rights are.  I am willing to make a statement and answer questions.  I understand and know what I am doing.  No promises or threats have been made to me.”

LESSON #1:

NEVER give a statement, or answer ANY questions without a lawyer present once you are provided with your rights.  The logical thought process is that “if I didn’t do anything wrong, I have nothing to hide so there is no reason I should not answer their questions”.  This is what law enforcement counts on – yet through my ordeal I learned that especially if you are innocent you need to stop and request an attorney immediately to protect your interests!  As nice as the police may seem they never have your interest in mind – and have only one goal – a confession at all costs!  At the time that I was provided, and waived, my rights I still had no idea why I was really there, but, looking back, even if I had known I still would have waived my rights because I knew I had nothing to hide.  This is the biggest and most damaging mistake anyone accused of a crime makes.  It is well-known that “anything you say can and will be used against you”.  The reality is that “anything you say will be taken out of the context it was said in and will be used against you”.  This is so critically important that it bears repeating – If you are ever provided with your Miranda Rights for ANY reason, STOP IMMEDIATELY.  NEVER give any statement, and NEVER answer any questions without an attorney present! Even though you know your innocence, it WILL come back to hurt you later on!

Back to the story…

This waiving of my rights begins what was to be a five-hour interrogation!  A five-hour interrogation that takes less than one page in the detective’s written report.

The interrogation started with a lot of small talk about my life…how I met John…how he came to live with me…what our relationship was.  Detective Smith questioned me about my job because it was ‘something he was interested in as well’.  He constantly made statements such as ‘people in careers that help people, like us, have to work together’, and ‘we are both on the same team’.  Eventually he turned the questioning to John’s friends, and which of his friends I knew.  I began talking about friends of John’s and how I knew each one.  When I said Michael’s name they stopped me, and started focusing on him.

They asked more details about Michael than about any other of John’s friends.  The questions started with how I met him – and turned more and more bizarre.  They asked questions about what Michael slept in when he was younger (I told them that he had always slept in underwear, just like both of his brothers), and what he slept in now (I told them I did not know, as I had not seen what he slept in since he was about 11).  They asked if I had ever seen Michael naked (I told them I had several times when he was much younger – he had a habit of getting out of the bathtub and running around the entire house naked when he was 8 and 9 because he thought it was funny that everyone yelled at him to put clothes on – so anyone who was in the house at those times saw him naked).  They asked if he had ever seen me naked (I told them that he had not to my knowledge).  They asked if I had any ‘identifiable characteristics’ that only Michael would know (I responded no…because I don’t).  They asked if I had ever provided Michael with alcohol (I answered no – and that in fact I had taken alcohol away from him on several occasions at his families parties – which was witnessed by many people each time). They asked if I had ever allowed Michael to watch pornography at my house (I answered “of course not!”).  Then they asked me if Michael had come to me and made allegations that someone had molested him, would I believe him.  (I answered yes – because at the time if he would have told me that about someone else I would have believed him). They asked me why I would have believed him.  (I told them because I trusted him – he was like family to me.)

It was at this point that Detective Smith told me that Michael had accused me of sexually assaulting him “a few years ago”.  Now – it seems like it should have been obvious what they were getting to from that line of questioning, but when someone who you have been there for and helped countless times since they were a little kid accuses you of molesting them, it is the furthest thing from the realm of possibility in your mind!  This was a kid who I literally thought of as a little brother – who I would do anything for…and he just accused me of something unthinkable.  I was speechless, nauseous, and honestly did not believe that he said it.  There was no way in my mind Michael would say that!

The next several hours were spent trying to get me to confess to a crime I did not – and would NEVER – do!  They started with statement such as “the only way we can help you is if you are honest with us”.  They tried to be friends – they tried to make me believe that it was not so bad.  And said things like “this is the type of situations we deal with every day, and on a scale of 1 to 10 we are only at about a 2 here”.  After they were unable to get what they wanted this way they stepped up their act.  Detective Johnson, for the first time, stepped in.  She choose an insulting route asking questions like “what could you have been thinking” and slamming her fists on the table and saying “we know what the f**king truth is”.  To every accusation I would answer “I didn’t do it”.  Eventually they told me that “I didn’t do it” won’t work anymore, and that “we can stay here all night” until you decide you are going to be honest with us.  When they felt they got nowhere, they both stepped out of the room – and left me in there alone for what felt like an hour.

Now I am sitting in a small room alone – I know that I am being taped – I know that they are watching me through the glass.  There are countless thoughts going through my head.  I later learn that is the intent of this technique.  We are now probably 3 hours or more into me being interrogated, accused over and over of something I didn’t do.  I am physically and emotionally exhausted.  I had been told ‘there is no way out of this’.  I had been led to believe that the only way to avoid going to jail where people ‘eat stuff like this up’ was to confess.  They said ‘you do not want to go in that jail accused of a crime like this, do you?’.  As I sat there alone I kept thinking – maybe I should just tell them what they want to hear so that this will just end.  Several times I was actually close to knocking on the window just to make the torture of the interrogation stop – thank God, looking back, I stayed strong!

Eventually, Detective Smith comes back in the room alone.  His jacket is now off, his tie is loose, and the top couple buttons of his shirt are undone.  He brings me a glass of water, and pulls a chair up next to me (prior to this both detectives had been sitting across the table from me).  He puts his hand on my arm and says “I really want to help you”…he talks about how he can tell I am a “good person at heart” and probably just made a mistake.  He tells me that he will put in a word for me if I am just honest with him now.  When I tell him that I would not confess to something I didn’t do he became very upset.  He asked me “why would Michael say that if it wasn’t true?”.  I said “I don’t know”.  He said “I don’t know isn’t f**king good enough anymore”.  I asked him how I was supposed to answer a question I don’t know the answer to.  He told me that the answer was “because I did it”.

Well – this back and forth technique continued for five hours.  They would try to be friendly, then would be intimidating and mean (honestly very terrifying…).  Finally I was left alone in the room again.  I felt like this would never end.  I was unable to even think anymore.  I had no comprehension of what was going on.  I was starving – it was now almost 6:00PM and I had not eaten since breakfast.  I had not been allowed to use the bathroom (I learned this is another frequent technique – they give you water to make you have to use the bathroom so you will be more uncomfortable in the interrogation).  Just when I thought this would never end, Detective Smith came in and said “you are free to go now”.  I was unable to even respond…I stood up to leave without a word.  As we were walking through the maze of hallways on the way out Detective Smith says to me in the friendliest way possible “listen, that back there was all just investigative techniques we use – it was nothing personal”.  I felt at this point that maybe he actually knew I was telling truth.

As I got into my car and started the long drive home all I could think was what do I do now…how do I tell my family what has happened…what will my friends think?…

If you enjoy following my story please subscribe to this site by entering your email address at the very bottom of the page – then you will be notified immediately of new posts!  You can always unsubscribe at anytime! ~ IWFA Blog

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The precursor…

Please Note: Posts in the ‘My Story’ page always have the newest post on the top. If you would like to read the story from the beginning – start with “An Introduction”. Thanks for reading! ~IWFA

November 15, 2006:

This was the day before my world felt like it was coming to an end.  That morning I was at a work meeting relating to ADA compliance.  While in the meeting, I received numerous calls on my company cell phone from one of the employees who worked for me.  Becoming concerned with the number of calls – and the fact that they knew I was in a meeting – I stepped out of the room and returned the call.  I was informed that a police officer assigned as the school resource officer in our local high school needed me to contact him as soon as possible.  I knew this officer well, and returned his call immediately.  He asked me if I knew John.  I said, “of course – he lives with me”.  The officer informed me that a detective in the Prosecutor’s Office was looking to speak to John and his mother, but they had no record of John being enrolled in the high school.  I explained that John went to a vocational high school at the time, and provided the officer with his mother’s phone number.

As I hung up the phone – I was very concerned.  As I mentioned previously, John has had some issues with behavior for some time, and even at his age was really no stranger to our local police department…but the Prosecutor looking to speak with him…that is much more serious than anything we were used to with him.  I called his mother, and told her about my phone call.  She shared the same concerns…what could he possibly have done that would involve the Prosecutor’s Office?

My next call was to John.  He said right away that he hasn’t been in any trouble.  I explained to him that the Prosecutor’s Office only handled major crimes.  His only thought was that he had witnessed a friend get assaulted at a local mall, and his name was included as a witness, so maybe they wanted to talk to him about that.  I was still concerned…

In the early afternoon John’s mother was contacted by a Detective with the Prosecutor’s Office.  The Detective stated to her that they needed to meet with her and John the next morning – and that “he may have been a victim of a crime”.  She immediately called me to ask if I was able to go to the meeting with them to find out what was going on.  Unfortunately, I had a commitment at work that I could not break, so they were going to the meeting alone.

November 16, 2006:

John and his mother drove to the Prosecutors Office, where they were met by a male and female detective.  They were immediately separated into different interrogation rooms.  They were told that cell phones were not allowed in the rooms due to ‘policy’ – so their phones were taken from them.  They first spoke to John’s mother, and told her that one of John’s friends had accused me of sexual assault, and they think John was also a “victim”.  She told them immediately that there was no way that could have happened.  She stated that I was a very close friend to her and her family, and they trusted me 100%.  She asked who made the accusation – they declined to tell her.  She told them that if it was Michael who made the accusation she was completely sure it was made up.  She told them that Michael had a long history of drug and alcohol abuse, and was known to lie and make up stories frequently to get himself out of situations.

Next they spoke to John.  They questioned him like HE was a suspect in a crime.  They asked him repeatedly if anyone had ever made him uncomfortable – if anyone had ever touched him inappropriately.  John continued to tell them that no one had ever done anything inappropriate to him.  The detective began to treat him as if he was being hostile by not answering their questions the way they wanted him to.  They finally asked him specifically about me.  They asked what our relationship was, what our sleeping arrangements were (John has always had his own room like any other child would).  They asked him about his sex life.  They asked him about my sex life.  They asked him if he viewed pornography.  They told him that all they did was investigate sex crimes and they “knew” that something had happened to him, and all he had to do was say it.  At this point, John became very upset.  He told them that not only has nothing ever happened to him, but that there was no way it would have happened to anyone else.  He asked to see his mother.  She tells me that she could hear him screaming from inside her room down the hall!

Eventually – they put John and his mother in the same room.  They told them that they would have to stay there until they were able to get in touch with me because they were not allowed to have any contact with me.  They would not return their phones to them until they left.  Their ‘interview’ lasted over two hours – yet the Detective condensed it to only 1/2 a page of typed notes.

(I think it’s important to note at this time that in the Detective’s written report secured as discovery he states “nothing inappropriate occurred” between John and I.)

The Phone Call That Started It All:

I am anxious all morning waiting to hear an update from John about what their meeting with the detective was about.  Calls to his phone and his mothers phone go unanswered.  I am worried about him.  Then my phone rings.  It is Detective Smith, with the Prosecutor’s Office.  Detective Smith tells me that he has John and his mother in his office right now, and that they need to speak to me immediately.  I advise the detective that I was in the middle of a commitment at work that was time-sensitive, and was unable to leave.  Detective Smith stated that there were some issues with the custody of John, and that this meeting had to occur today in order to “get this thing closed up”.  I invited the Detective to meet at my office, or told him that I would be happy to meet after work.  He informed me that “due to the nature of this” their policy required the meeting to be at their office, and that I really had to get there in the next hour.  He told me that it was really important for John’s welfare.  When I questioned him more about it – he told me that he would explain the whole situation when I got to his office.

Now – my heart is really racing.  I am thinking that John is in some kind of trouble.  He mentioned a custody issue – were they trying to put John in foster care?  There were so many thoughts…why hadn’t John or his mother called me?  I made arrangements at work – told them there was some kind of emergency with John – and drove to the Prosecutor’s Office.  When I arrived, I was brought into a reception area of the office, where I sat and waited.  Eventually Detective Smith came out – introduced himself, and said “let’s go inside and talk”…

If you enjoy following my story please subscribe to this site by entering your email address at the very bottom of the page – then you will be notified immediately of new posts!  You can always unsubscribe at anytime! ~ IWFA Blog

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Background

Please Note: Posts in the ‘My Story’ page always have the newest post on the top. If you would like to read the story from the beginning – start with “An Introduction”. Thanks for reading! ~IWFA

So, I think I will start this off with some background information.  A little about me – and my history.  How I met, and knew my accuser, who we shall call ‘Michael’ in this Blog.  This will be some basic stuff so you will understand the story as it begins.  I will provide more background information as it seems more relevant as the story progresses.  I anticipate that this post will get pretty long.  There is so much to tell, and I’m sure as I get more used to this process I will find the best ways to break the information up for the readers.

When this story begins I am 29 years old.  I have worked in the healthcare field since the day I got out of high school, and I was a top-level administrator at my job.  Since I was very young, though, I wanted to work with kids in some way.  My father was a school teacher when I was younger – and I had planned to follow that same path, and hoped to specialize in child psychology.  In fact, while still in high-school I worked at a before/after school program, and was quickly made a supervisor of the program.  When I ended up in a different career, I never lost that passion to help kids – particularly those less fortunate than I was growing up.  Through the years I seemed to continually be in the right place at the right time to make a difference.  When I was fairly young someone who knew my career goals shared this saying by Forest E. Witcraft with me…and I still believe it is true…

“One hundred years from now, it will not matter what my bank account was, how big my house was, or what kind of car I drove.  But the world may be a better place because I was important in the life of a child.”

I will share more specifics about some of those I was fortunate enough to be able to help as the story continues – because it is largely due to their overwhelming support throughout the past few years that my situation did end with such a positive resolution – they had an opportunity to help me for a change, and they stepped up and, I believe, truly made a difference.  I am going to focus this post on two kids, though, that play a very early part in this story – Michael (the accuser), and John, who used to be Michael’s best friend.

MICHAEL:

At the time of the accusations, Michael is 16 years old.  I first met him as a patient of mine when he was just 6 years old.  Our interaction at that time was typical for a patient, and following his treatment I didn’t see or hear of him again until our paths crossed years later.  One of my responsibilities at work was leading a group of high school aged youth who were learning about careers in my field.  Michael’s older brother was one of the kids in my group – and I learned that they actually lived only a few doors down from me.  The high school group was planning a trip that required parental permission, and Michael’s brother was the only group member who did not return his permission slip on time.  Since they were only a few doors down, I stopped at his house on my way home from work one day to see if I could get his parents to sign the paperwork.  When I arrived there, I learned that Michael’s brother (who was only 14 at the time) was watching Michael (now 8), his sister (11) and brother (12).  It turns out their parents had left the country for vacation the night before, and had made arrangements with a family friend to stay at the house with the kids while they were away for the next 7 days.  That friend, however, did not show up, so the kids were left alone.  They were without food for that time, had obligations such as school, sports and clubs that they were unable to get to, etc.  So – I decided that I would step up and look after them until the parents (who I had not yet met at this point) returned.  We went grocery shopping, I took the kids to school, to their sports practices and games, took Michael to his Cub Scout meeting.  I did homework with them, prepared meals, washed clothes, read stories at bed time.  We became very close.  When Michael’s parents returned, they were so happy for my unsolicited assistance that they had brought ME gifts.  We all quickly became the best of friends.  Our families felt as if they were combined into one.  Michael and I were probably the closest of all though – the others were all at the age where they were pretty independent…doing their own things with their friends.  Michael wasn’t yet ‘too cool’ to hang around the house, go to sporting events with the ‘family’, etc.  We spent a lot of time together over the next several years.

As time went by, I guess Michael was about 10 at this point, his parents separated.  The day his mom took him out of the house, she called me.  He only wanted to be with me at that time – he was hysterically upset.  Together, his mother and I were able to calm him down, and we spent a lot of time in the coming weeks talking about his feelings – the future, etc.  At the same time, his mom had a pretty big issue.  She had moved into a rented house, now as a single mother – and she worked at night.  Michael was too young to be home alone after school, until she got home around midnight, so I ended up being the crutch to get them through this time period.  I had a flexible enough schedule that I was able to be there for Michael as often as needed, which quickly became an everyday thing.  As time went on with this arrangement, I ended up moving into the house next to theirs.  Our houses quickly melded into one.  It seemed that everyone was never in just one house – we were all free to come and go at each other’s house as we pleased – and it worked great for each of us.  I didn’t have to actually “watch” Michael anymore – I was always right next door if he needed anything…and he ended up being at my house the majority of the time…I probably saw him even more than I had before.  All of the kids usually came to my house after school to get homework done – and I often ended up at their house after work for dinner their mom made us before she left for the evening.  The situation just worked and seemed so natural for all of us.

As Michael got older, he obviously needed less and less oversight.  As my responsibilities at work increased I was not available to him as much either, and he started hanging out with who turned out to be not the best group of friends.  We later learned that he turned to drugs very early – by 11 years old he was regularly smoking marijuana and drinking – by 12 years old he had moved on to even harder drugs like cocaine and heroin.   Once this began I saw less and less of him – except for times he needed something.  He knew that I would not approve of his choices – which is why I think he started staying away.  By the time he was 13 his mom and I started to suspect things we going on, and right around that time I bought a new house further away, which ended up removing me from the situation.  I only saw or talked to Michael a few times a year after I moved.

JOHN:

From the time I met Michael, his best friend was John.  I saw John almost as much as I saw Michael.  Since I was the one usually responsible for rides to and from activities for Michael, I quickly became good friends with John’s parents as well, and we spent a good amount of time together when I was picking John up or dropping him off.  John was almost always included when we had planned activities like sporting events, amusement parks, etc. and his parents were very appreciative, as John was the oldest of 6 kids.  An important factor in John’s life is that he was the only child out of the 6 who was not biologically his “father’s” child.  This often made John feel like he did not fit in with the rest of the family – so he tried as much as he could to stay away from the house.  When John was 12, he started having increasing behavioral issues when he was at home, and in school.  His mother would tell me that the only time he didn’t experience these issues was when he was with Michael and I.  Around the same time, John’s parents separated.  He became increasingly difficult for his mother to control, and she would start calling me when he had outbursts.  At those times I would pick him up for a few hours and he would calm down, talk through his issues with me…and I would bring him back home.  It got so bad, that even the school administrators would only call me when he had an issue at school.  He would not respond to them, or his mother or father.  The behavior progressed to the point that in 7th grade he was expelled from the local public school, and sent to a special services school better able to address his behavior.  Right around the time John was turning 13 I was buying my new house.  John’s mother was at a point where she had nowhere for her and him to stay.  John’s “father” (who has no legal responsibility to him) would not allow John to stay in his house because of the way his behavior was affecting the other 5 kids.  So, with literally nowhere else to go, at the end of his 7th grade year, John moved into my new house…where he still lives today – he is now 19 years old.

John, obviously, plays a huge role in the story to come.  After living here for 6 years, he has been so many things to me – a son, a little brother, a friend…and he was one of the biggest (and a very vocal) supporter through the past several years.  He gave numerous statements, helped get petitions signed, worked with his mother and my family to throw me a huge “support party” to lift my spirits when times got tough.

Well – I hope this is enough background to get the story started in my next posting.  If this leaves any questions in your mind, please send them my way in the comments section below.  I will try my best to address them all.  Until next time…

If you enjoy following my story please subscribe to this site by entering your email address at the very bottom of the page – then you will be notified immediately of new posts!  You can always unsubscribe at anytime! ~ IWFA Blog

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An introduction…

In 2006 I was falsely accused of child sexual abuse!

Welcome to the story of my personal nightmare that I could have only imagined as the plot to a John Grisham novel…before it actually happened to me!

In November, 2006 my life was immediately and permanently changed in countless ways. Because of the words of one person, I found myself facing multiple first degree felony charges – and the possibility of more than 35 years in prison!  After three years of hell – I was one of the few fortunate VICTIMS of false child sexual abuse accusations – and I was ultimately cleared of all charges against me.

The purpose of this website is to share my story – with the hope that I can encourage and inspire the countless others who find themselves in the same situation.  With hope, support, a knowledgeable attorney…and a good deal of luck…it IS possible to get some of your life back.

I was inspired to create this site to share my own story after spending quite a bit of time on another website about a false accusation.  That site, which has since been removed, had such amazing similarities to my own story that I found it frightening that the same injustice I experienced is not the exception.

I hope everyone gets something out of this website – even if in the future when you hear a story of an accusation like mine on the news you at least think that maybe the accused is actually innocent.  The frequency of false accusations – I have learned – is staggering.  Prior to being personally accused, I was like everyone else and always just assumed the guilt of those accused based only on the words of one person.  I quickly learned that a charge of abuse of a child is the most dangerous charge there is – it is better to be accused of murder.  There is no other criminal charge with a higher conviction rate.  There is no other criminal charge where you don’t have the right to face your accuser.  There is no other criminal charge where there is no need for any physical evidence to get a conviction – it is one person’s word against another – and juries almost always believe children over adults.  There is no other criminal charge where the assumption is ALWAYS guilt…even when there is no evidence.  You are absolutely guilty until you prove your innocence!

I will not be using any identifying information on this website – as (believe it or not) there could actually be legal actions against ME (the real victim in my case) for things I share here.  Because of that risk, some pieces of information that are not relevant to the content of the story (such as my actual job, employer, where I live, people’s names, etc.) will be changed to protect the identity of those involved.

Thank you for visiting my site.  Please leave comments where you feel inclined.  I will try my best to respond to questions as often as possible.

If you would like to follow my story please subscribe by entering your email address at the very bottom of the page – then you will be notified immediately of new posts!  You can always unsubscribe at anytime! ~ IWFA Blog

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Falsely Accused Teachers

A John Stossel report on the horrifying occurrence of false accusations towards teachers.  This is not, however, at all limited to teachers!

Falsely Accused Teachers – ABC News.

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