RITUAL ABUSE CASES IN WESTCHESTER, NEW YORK STATE
In 1984-AUG-1, a woman from the Bronx complained to the District
Attorney's office that her four year old daughter and other children
had been sexually abused at the PRACE Day care Center. The police
arrested three workers at the center: Albert Algarin, Jesus Torres,
and Franklin Beauchamp on charges of rape, sodomy and sexual abuse.
Eventually, the investigation spread to two other city-financed day care
centers: the Concourse Day Care Center and Westchester-Tremont Day
Care Center. Alberto Ramos and Rev. Nathaniel Grady were
arrested and charged as well. Rev. Grady, an African American, Methodist
minister, was the pastor at the Westchester United Methodist Church.
Charges involved the abuse of five boys and one girl, aged 3 to 5,
The same techniques which produced false testimony and implanted memories
in other children were used in this investigation. Children who gave the
"right" answers were rewarded with candy, badges and trips to the park.
A 3 year old child told his parents about "a robber" who abused him
during nap time. During the subsequent investigation, the FBI secretly
recorded 640 hours of video tape at the day care. No abuse was observed.
The children, told of being locked in a closet, beaten with a baseball bat
All of the children had problems picking out Rev. Grady in court during
his trial; one child pointed to the Judge as the abuser. In common
with most MVMO cases, an effective defense is impossible; no alibi can be
presented, because the dates and times of the alleged abuse are unknown.
No physical evidence was introduced at his trial. Even though the
children's testimony did not mesh with that of the center's teachers or 26
character witnesses, Rev. Grady was convicted in 1986 of 19 counts of rape,
sodomy and sexual abuse. He received a sentence of 15 to 45 years. Since
he was 47 years at his trial, this could have been a life sentence.
Some irregularities occurred during the trials of the remaining four
defendants. No teachers or parents could
corroborate the children's ever-changing allegations. One juror in the
Beauchamp case was allowed to remain even after it was found that her son
was awaiting sentencing on a crack cocaine charge. The District Attorney
allegedly told the New York Times that Algarin was tested for STD because
one of the students had gonorrhea; it wasn't true. In Ramos' case, prosecutors
either lost or intentionally suppressed evidence that could have cleared
him. The 5 year old girl had a vaginal irritation and described sexual
activity that was well beyond what would be expected from a person of her
age. But the jury never heard that the irritation might well have been
caused by her masturbation which she openly engaged in at the center.
Her unexpected knowledge of sexual activities might well have come from
adult movies that she often watched on cable TV. The investigators never
revealed that she had told them that Ramos had done nothing to her. And
they never turned over the center's sign-in book that allegedly contradicted the
girl's grandmother who claimed to be in the school after the alleged
incident. The book showed that she was never in the building on that
The five were all convicted and met each other in 1986 in a special "pederasty
unit" of Clinton state prison. The five had shared the same District
Attorney, Mario Merola. They talked bout documents that disappeared,
uncorroborated testimony, of biased judges, tainted jurors and an
overzealous district attorney.
Franklin Beauchamp's family persuaded attorney Joel B. Rudin to study
Beauchamp's trial transcript. He eventually took on all five cases as
a personal crusade. He said "It was appalling, frightening...It
was the product of a very ambitious prosecutor who saw a good story
and jumped on a national bandwagon. The true victims were the
defendants." Beauchamp's conviction was the first to be overturned.
The New York Supreme Court unanimously agreed that the original indictment
was so vague that it was (in Rudin's words) "virtually impossible for a
defendant to answer the charges and to prepare a defense.". Commenting
on the Grady case, he said that prosecutors had gone too far in coaxing
wild stories out of children too young to appreciate what they were saying.
During the next seven years later, the remaining four innocent men had
their convictions overturned. Rev. Grady was the last to be freed. A
federal district judge ruled in late June that the pastor had been denied
his constitutional right to effective counsel when his previous attorney
failed to question the manner in which the original indictment had been prepared.
The judge also ruled that Rev. Grady did not receive effective legal advice
during his appeal process. He was released on bail on 1996-JUL-11. On
AUG-7 the Bronx district attorney announced that they would not pursue the
case further. None of the five has been retried; none has received an apology
from the state. Alberto Ramos is suing for $35 million in damages.
The same factors were present during this trial as in other MVMO cases: a lack of physical
evidence and suggestive child interview techniques.
|Larry McShane, "Only the strong survive: Pastor, 4 others wrongly
convicted of child sexual abuse seek redemption", Associated Press
|David Stout, "Minister is Released in Child-Abuse Case",
New York Times, 1996-JUL-12. |
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