Five young Native American men, Jesse Rouse, Desmond Rouse, Garfield Feather,
Russell Hubbeling and Duane Rouse, from the Sioux reservation in Marty SD,
were accused of gang raping 5 of their nieces, aged 4 and 5 in sadistic orgies
which included some ritual elements. The ritual component in this case
is much smaller than in others described at this site, and were undoubtedly the product of
defective interview techniques; they did not actually happen, but were likely implanted memories. The result appears to be an obvious miscarriage of justice.
"R.R.", age 5 year old girl was staying with her grandmother, but wanted
to return home to be with her mother. She told a teacher that her grandmother was
mean to her and was not feeding her. The tribe's Department of Social
Services investigated, and transferred R.R. to a foster home. Several
months later, the girl told her foster mother, Ms. Jordan, that she was having
nightmares, and that she had been sexually abused. She was interviewed by
a counselor, Ellen Kelson, who reported to the Department that many
children at the Rouse residence had been sexually abused. Unfortunately,
that interview was not recorded in audio or video format. On the basis of that
interview, about 13 children were removed from the Rouse home and another nearby
home; they were taken to the Jordan foster home in 1994-JAN.
A social worker for the Department, Jean Brock, allegedly told the children that
they were being placed in a foster home because their uncles were doing "bad things" to them. Both Brock and Jordon allegedly told the children that
they could not go home until they told the "truth" about their
abuse. Brock interviewed the children extensively over a six month period. About 9
children positively and repeatedly denied being abused; they were allowed
to return to their parents. "R.R." and the remaining 4 children eventually
claimed that they had been sexually abused. In spite of a tribal court order,
only "T.R." was permitted to visit with her parents, and then only once over
the next 6 months. Ms. Jordon allegedly told the children that the uncles were at fault,
that the situation was not the children's fault. She was very specific about
what their uncles had done to them. The children were also interviewed by FBI
agent William Van Roe and Bureau of Indian Affairs Criminal Investigator
Dan Hudspeth on two separate days. The prosecuting attorney also interviewed the
children several times.
As has occurred in previous cases, the number of allegations grew in number and
became more bizarre. They accused a number of additional family members, including
their grandmother, of sexual abuse. Several of the children claimed that
their uncles tied them up with ropes during the abuse; one child claimed
that the uncles locked him in the closet while his sister was abused.
"L.R." and "J.R." said that they had told the counselor that their uncles
tied up their aunts and grandmother and sexually abused them as well.
"T.R." described how the uncles locked five children in the pantry while
they tied her up and abused her.
A total of 23 counts of aggravated sexual abuse were laid. Because the accused are
Native and the alleged crimes took place on a reservation, the trial was held in
federal district court.
After the jury trial in Sioux Falls SD, Duane Rouse was found not guilty.
The remaining four defendants were found guilty of a total of 14 charges and each given
sentences of 30 to 33 years.
The 8th Circuit Court overturned the decision
because the judge:
refused to allow expert opinion by a court appointed psychologist. He would probably have
testified that the children's evidence and testimony was tainted by suggestive questioning
denied a request by the defense for an "independent psychological
examination of the allegedly abused children."
The prosecution requested a reconsideration of the Court of Appeal's decision by the
entire court. The convicted four are being held in separate Federal prisons across the US. As of 2011-JAN, they remain in prison.
Disquieting factors in the original trial:
Quotations in italics and some additional text are taken from the Circuit Court decision.
The main expert witnesses for the defense were severely limited by the
trial judge. They were not allowed to interview the children; their
testimony was severely curtailed.
The defendants were Native. The judge, attorneys, prosecutors,
experts and jury were all white. There were "allegations of one
juror's racism and that juror's contention that racial jokes regarding
Native Americans were told in the jury room".
Some parents reported that they had been told their children would be taken
away again if they talked to or cooperated with defense counsel.
Deena LaPoint, a Department's social worker assigned to this case
1994-MAY-23 testified that the Rouse children's files were not turned
over to the defense counsel as requested.
The appeals court found that "medical evidence was inconclusive as to
abuse" either by the defendants or by anyone else.
The only other evidence of guilt was "the children's reports of abuse
[which] may have been tainted by the influence of social workers and law enforcement
officials...the children may have had induced memories that sexual abuse occurred." Commenting on the Salem witch trials of 3 centuries ago, the Circuit Court commented
that "memory, particularly children's memory, may be falsely induced. Where that
occurs, the testimony may be true in the child's mind, but false in fact."
The court suppressed some important testimony "relating to inter-child
sexual activity among the alleged victims." If one were to assume
from the physical evidence and child testimony that some children did engage in
sexual activity, then it might have been with each other, and not with
None of the interviews by the counselor, FBI, BIA, or DA were videotaped or
audiotaped. The degree of direct, leading and repeated questioning during
the interviews will never be known.
T.R. allegedly admitted to another girl that she was "making stuff up" about
Jesse Rouse and the other uncles because she was mad at Jesse.
The closet that one of the children said they were locked in did not
have a lock.
The pantry that the 5 children were allegedly locked inside did not
have sufficient room for even one child.
Melanie Rouse testified that she had previously told T.R. that in an unrelated
incident, someone tied her up and sexually abused her while her brother
was locked in a closet.
A second interview of the children was conducted by law enforcement
agents in 1994-MAR. The children's charges had expanded fantastically by
that time. According to the defense, the interviews were "rife" with inconsistent statements. The court decided that the interviews were "unreliable" and refused to permit any discussion of the
interviews during trial.
An 11 old boy "M.R." testified that he and "T.R." had had sex for a long time.
Other children verified this. There was other evidence that he also had engaged
in sexual relations with another boy named "Tom." The jury was not permitted to
hear this critical information.
The prosecution promised the children "picnics, vacations, and
even a chance to return home as rewards for their 'truthful,' successful
testimony at trial....they were told they could not go home until their
uncles had been successfully removed."
"At trial, the children were asked almost exclusively leading
questions over closed circuit television. Rather than asking the
children if the abuse occurred, the government asked them whether they
had told various third persons that abuse had occurred. On redirect
examination, J.R. basically denied that any abuse occurred."
The trial judge "rejected any proposed testimony directly relating to
the credibility of the alleged abused victims as witnesses, but more
than that barred the expert witness from testifying on whether or not
the investigative practices constituted 'a practice of
suggestibility.'" By ruling in this way, the presiding judge appeared
to misunderstand the Daubert rules for the admission of expert
The expert witness, Dr. Underwager, testified that there had been "a practice of suggestibility employed in these [interview]
techniques." In the words of the circuit court, Dr. Underwager testified that:
the counselor had exerted a massive influence over the children.
she had a powerful prior assumption or conclusion that the children
had been abused.
she engaged in highly suggestive and contaminating practices.
children will provide an inaccurate response when other children have
"already told," in order to go along with a peer group or be part of the crowd.
the prosecutor had asked the children only if they remembered
reporting an incident to a particular social worker, agent etc. He should
have asked whether they remember the incident itself.
the prosecutor used exclusively leading questions when questioning the
The FBI's use of sexually explicit diagrams were very suggestive and
Dr. Underwager concluded that powerful and potentially coercive influences had been brought to bear on the small four and five-year-old children who were
taken without notice from their mothers, families and homes, without being told
the reasons and kept incommunicado in a strange place where all the people
around them urged them to talk about sex abuse. He said that the level of adult
influence is such as to make it highly likely any statements are so contaminated
by adult behaviors as to be unreliable. His opinion was there is such a low
probability of any sexual abuse by the defendants, that a reasonable person must
conclude it did not take place.
The appeal court concluded that "There is simply no way of telling what
occurred at these interviews, the nature and form of the questions, or
whether or not some children who are now complaining witnesses, at first
denied the abuse occurred, or whether there have been retractions or
What probably happened?
Nobody will ever know. It is probable that even the alleged victims are
unclear about which of their memories are of real events and which are
implanted by the lengthy and suggestive interviews.
Our best guess, based largely upon the Circuit Court documentation is that:
R.R. had nightmares, perhaps involving sexual activities. She told a
story based on those dreams to her foster mother.
An over eager social worker saw multiple victim, multiple offender
abuse everywhere in R.R.'s extended family.
The 5 children were extensively questioned in a suggestive, leading,
and repetitive manner by a variety of authority figures.
Any physical evidence that suggested sexual activity might well have been the result of inter-child sexual experimentation.
The four convicted uncles are probably innocent.
The crimes of which they were accused probably never happened.
Any social worker could probably:
Select at random thirteen 4 and 5 year old children anywhere in North
Place them in a foster home;
Tell them repeatedly that they are sexual assault victims of male relatives;
Interview them extensively over a 6 month interval, using suggestive,
manipulative techniques, and direct leading questions, repeated frequently;
Coax at least 5 children to make multiple accusations of sexual abuse.
Observe innocent adults be convicted and given multiple-decade jail sentences