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The Wenatchee "sex rings"

Part 1: Background

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Quotation:

bullet"43 adults were falsely arrested on 29,726 fabricated charges of child sex abuse involving 60 children. Parents, Sunday school teachers and a local pastor were indicted and many were convicted of raping their own children and the children of other members of a sex-ring. Innocent people were railroaded into prison, and their children were sold into foster care." Paul Craig Roberts 8

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Background of the Wenatchee "Sex Rings:"

Almost all sexually abusing predators who target children are either a parent / step parent of the child, another close relative, or a babysitter. Other predators are lone, abusive pedophiles who recruit children off of the street, in shopping malls, etc. Organized sex rings, involving multiple adults and multiple children are extremely rare. However, for a few years in the Wenatchee, WA, area, many locals believed that an interlocking group of at least 2 sex-rings had been active in the area for many years. One was believed to be centered at a Pentecostal church in East Wenatchee. The other was suspected to involve three families and two unrelated men in Wenatchee. Some sources claim that there were 4 sex-rings in the area. The underground organization(s) were referred to "The Circle" by the media. Rumors spread that the adults would gather many times a week. They would abuse children in private homes, a foster home and at a Pentecostal Church.

Wenatchee is a small city located in Chelan County, in north-central Washington. Across the Columbia River is East Wenatchee in Douglas County. They have a combined population on the order of 90,000. The alleged sex rings first came to public knowledge in early 1994. Three unspectacular events appear to have been prerequisites to the community panic:
bullet"...a Child Protective Services supervisor told the local Wenatchee office to find some cases to justify its budget. " 8
bulletDetective Robert Perez of the local police force in Wenatchee assigned to head up investigations of crimes against children.
bulletDetective Perez also became a foster parent of a young girl.

Perez allegedly "began aggressively questioning children and adults from families of Wenatchee's disadvantaged: the poor, the emotionally impaired, racial minorities, people with mental disabilities....According to interview records, police reports and testimony, adults limited by poverty and mental disabilities are interrogated for hours, confronted with what Detective Perez "knows" to be true, called liars and derogatory names, threatened with life imprisonment, ugly death in confinement, the certainty of never seeing their loved ones again." 1

There are alleged to have been serious flaws in the interview process:
bullet"According to numerous accounts, Detective Perez asks leading and suggestive questions, confronts his child subjects with information that he says he already 'knows' is true, and calls them 'liars' when they deny these things. Many of these interviews are lengthy. He has allegedly engaged in highly coercive practices such as threatening children with detention or with the immediate arrest of a parent if they didn't tell." 1
bulletPolice field and interview notes were routinely destroyed.
bulletAlmost all accused adults have recanted their confessions - some immediately after being freed from the interrogation..
bulletSome of the children who originally claimed to have been abused have now recanted their accusations.
bulletMany children were transferred out of state into locked mental wards, some without a proper commitment process.
bulletSome of the children were given therapy aimed at recovering memories of abuse.
bulletMost of the adults charged are women. This is atypical; in other cases in North America, essentially all defendants are male.

One source wrote: "Children who failed to cooperate or who recanted their statements were isolated from all extended family, schools, churches, friends, and neighborhoods; placed in recovered memory therapy; subjected to courses of powerful psychotropic medication; and placed in mental health facilities where the apparent focus of treatment was extracting information of child abuse." 2

Kathryn Lyon, lawyer and author of the Wenatchee Report, interviewed many of the defendants. 1 This report became the basis of a book. 3 She found that most of the accused adults described Detective Perez' interview methods similarly. They described long interrogations involving "deprivation of sleep, food or breaks; repeated, leading questions; use of threats and intimidation; use of promises or incentives...use of profanity; derision and name-calling; officer's unyielding expectation of guilt and refusal to accept contradictory information." She noted that some of the defendant's "confessions" were written with a "vocabulary or language patterns far beyond the mental capacity of the defendant."

43 adults, mostly women, were arrested on a total of 29,726 charges involving 60 children. "All of the adults accused of being part of 'The Circle' were poor; many are illiterate, and some have been tested as significantly below average intelligence." Many were unable to afford to hire a competent lawyer. Some were named in thousands of counts of rape of a child in the first degree. It would appear that many gave an Alford plea in order to avoid a certain guilty verdict at trial and many decades of imprisonment. In an Alford plea, the defendant maintains his/her innocence, but acknowledge that he/she would probably be found guilty if a trial was conducted. It is the only practical option in many cases where the defendant is unable to finance an effective defense. Most of the defendants who were able to afford a private lawyer were found not-guilty at their trials. All of the defendants who were too poor to hire a lawyer were found guilty, and sentenced to long prison terms.

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The Stories of "D.E.," "M.E.,"and "A.R."

D.E. was 8 years old in 1992-FEB when she allegedly disclosed to a school counselor that some first-grade boys from her school had sexually abused her on the way home from school in the presence of her sister. She later repeated these accusations, with slight inconsistencies, to a CPS worker, emergency room doctor, and police officer. Her sister confirmed some elements of D.E.'s story. The CPS worker and officer were unconvinced; they felt that D.E. was falsely accusing the boys in order to hid the identity of the real perpetrator. D.E. was placed in a foster home, where she allegedly changed her story to implicate an adult male by the name of "Abel"; he used to live with her sister. D.E. said that her friend Veronica saw the molestation; Veronica had no memory of it. When interviewed by the police, Abel said at first that Veronica had grabbed his hand and touched it to her vagina. He said that he withdrew his hand and left. He later reversed his statement and said that none of it happened.

D.E. was returned home for a while. In 1993-OCT, she was removed and placed in the foster home of Robert Devereaux. Finally, in 1994-MAR she was transferred to Detective Perez' home.  She is reported to have disclosed to Det. Perez that she had been molested by at least 12 adults, including her parents and Robert Devereaux. The number of perpetrators and victims gradually increased. Eventually she had named over 90 adults. At one point,  CPS workers and Det. Perez drove her around Wenatchee and East Wenatchee. She pointed out 21 locations where she said that she had been molested. Some investigations have expressed concern at the possibility of a conflict of interest on the part of Perez. He both led the investigation and parented a key witness. D.E. had behavioral problems and often acted out at home. There is speculation that she might have revealed information that she new to be false in order to increase her chances of staying with Det. Perez.

M.E. is a sister of D.E. She was also living at Detective Perez's home. She gave "harrowing testimonies of ritualistic sex abuse" in court and "helped convict at least eight people." 4 In 1996-JUN-2, D.E. ran away from home. She was 13 at that time. From her grandmother's house, she recanted her testimony. She called one of the men that she had accused and apologized for making false accusations. She was then interviewed by a local TV station and officially recanted her earlier numerous stories of abuse. She claimed to have been pressured by her foster parent, Detective Perez. She denied ever having been sexually abused herself or of having witnessed any abuse of anyone else. 5 "I had to make it all up. Bob Perez was there, and he pressured me to say it.". M.E. was removed by state officials; those who questioned or sheltered her were investigated for a variety of criminal charges.

A.R. was a child in the Devereaux foster home. After Devereaux was charged with multiple counts of child molestation, A.R. made a confession to her social worker, Paul Glassen. She said that Det. Perez had pressured her into lying about Devereaux. Mr. Glassen passed this information to a juvenile detention officer. The next day, Glassen was arrested in charged with witness tampering. That charge was dropped. He was then charged with obstructing justice. That charge was dismissed by the court in 1995-FEB. The judge gave a lecture to the police and prosecutors, saying that charging people just because they spoke to each other about injustice violates the Constitution and moves the nation "down the path to a police state.'' Glassen later fled to Canada out of fear of being further targeted.

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The Roberson Family

Robert Roberson is the pastor of the East Wenatchee Pentecostal Church of God House of Prayer. He had observed what he felt were improper police investigations involving some people in his congregation. He felt that the charges of child molestation against some of his acquaintances were unfounded. When Harold Everett, D.E.'s father, was arrested, he went to the prosecutor' office. He raised questions about the legitimacy of Everett's written statement, because he knew that Everett could neither read nor write.

J.T. was a 15 year old male when he was interviewed by Det. Perez and some social workers. He said that he would attend church on Friday Saturday and Sunday. There were many parents and about 50 children in a room downstairs. He said said he would go to the church on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. He described how they ate big meals downstairs. He said "Usually what happened is that everyone fell into a trance." He described how Pastor Roberson divided the people into groups and forced them to have sex with each other.

Pastor Roberson attended a community forum on 1995-MAR-23. He spoke publicly about his personal investigations and concerns about the police investigations. The meeting was televised. He and Connie, his wife, were arrested 4 days later, and charged with 22 counts of raping and molesting children. The state Crime Lab tested the carpet and other materials from the places where the orgies were alleged to have occurred many times a week. The results were negative. Gary Filbeck, a member of the Pentecostal church, described how Pastor Roberson would engage in ritual sex with children in front of the congregation as an act of exorcism. Scharlann Filbeck described similar acts during church services. One charged involved a teen-age girl which Roberson allegedly called to the altar for ritual sex in front of the congregation. Mr. Filbeck also described group sex acts at the Roberson home.  Ms. Filbeck later recanted her statement. Other members of the congregation had never seen any sexual activities in the church.

All of the 22 counts were later withdrawn, and replaced by a set of new charges involving different child accusers. One of the children who testified at the trial didn't initially originally remember any abuse; the memories only developed later during therapy. "Robbie" and Connie Roberson were acquitted on 1995-DEC-11 of all 14 counts of abuse. One of the alleged victims was seen to have a bruise on her arm that was inflicted when Det. Perez was "encouraging" her to testify. He was never charged with child abuse. The Robersons had been in jail for nine months, having been unable to raise the million dollar bail. Some of the jurors were angry at the prosecution for bringing a case to court without any real supporting evidence.

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The Doggett Family

In 1994-DEC, Carol and Mark Doggett reported that their son had molested one of their daughters. Detective Perez and CPS investigated and decided that the sexual activity was consensual. The Doggetts arranged to have their son stay with relatives in order to protect their daughters. Daughter E.D. was enrolled in counseling. Later, the parents were arrested and charged with sexually molesting all of their children, including both daughters: E.D. and S.D. E.D. was exposed to recovered memory therapy and recalled "memories" of having been abused by her parents and sister. Another child supported the story but later recanted. The remaining children denied that any abuse had occurred. Although they were promised to be placed together in a foster home, the two sisters were sent to separate locations. S.D. was not permitted to contact any of her sisters.  S.D. was shipped out of state to a locked psychiatric facility. She has always maintained that no abuse happened to herself or her siblings.

The Doggetts were convicted and were given sentences of approximately 12 years. Their conviction was overturned on appeal in 1997-DEC, by a vote of 2 to 1. 6 The majority opinion lists many errors during trial, including improperly admitted statements and improper interview techniques. One child admitted to his foster mother that many of the allegations that he had made were not true. Another said that she was pressured by the police to make statements. E.D. said that she had been molested by her brother, but by nobody else. M.D.'s statements were hopelessly contradictory, some claimed that no abuse occurred.

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Concerned Citizens for Legal Accountability (CCLA)

The CCLA's home page states that their group:

"was formed in Wenatchee to call for an independent outside investigation of our local governmental agencies. Wenatchee's Police Department, CPS (Child Protection Service), Prosecuting Attorneys and Judges have, it would seem to us, aligned themselves in the prosecution of innocent people in the so called Wenatchee 'Sex Ring'."

The CCLA, with support from others, successfully persuaded Mike Lowry, Governor of Washington State, to ask the Federal Justice Department to investigate the Wenatchee child abuse cases. Twenty state prosecutors met to demand that Governor Lowry and House Speaker Clyde Ballard not interfere with the cases in Wenatchee. Lowry commented:

"There was an amazingly angry reaction from the prosecutors to my calling for an outside investigation. They kept saying that anything that was done could damage their cases, could cause reversals." 7

The federal study involved only the reading of the "Wenatchee Report 1 and study of a few police and court documents. The FBI agents did not interview "the children, the accused, the prosecutors, defense lawyers, nor even Perez." Jon Eyer, former FBI senior supervisory agent, headed the review. He said: "Our orders were to gather copies of court documents and ship them back to Washington. That's what we did.''  Janet Reno responded on 1996-FEB-2, stating that: "Based on a thorough review of the available material...these complaints do not present evidence of prosecutable violations of federal civil rights law.''

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References:

  1. Kathryn Lyon, "The Wenatchee Report" at: http://user.aol.com/
  2. Information about the requests for Federal investigations is at: http://www.ags.uci.edu/~dehill/
  3. Kathryn Lyon, "Witch Hunt : A True Story of Social Hysteria and Abused Justice" Avon, (1998). You can read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
  4. Alex Tizon, "Wenatchee braces for sex-ring lawsuits ," The Seattle Times, 1996-JUN-28
  5. WGBH's documentary program "Frontline" discusses the Wenatchee cases at the PBS site: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/
  6. The majority opinion in the Doggett appeal is at: http://www.wa.gov/~COURTS/opinions/150143_O01.txt The dissenting opinion is at:
    http://www.wa.gov/~COURTS/opinions/150143_D07.txt
  7. Andrew Schnieder & Mike Barber, "Justice's Watchdogs Looked the Other Way," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 1998-FEB.
  8. Paul Craig Roberts, "Prosecutorial Abuse: The Wenatchee Witch Hunt Unravels Further," at: http://www.vdare.com/roberts/

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Copyright 1996 to 2002 incl. by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Last update: 2002-NOV-6
Author: B.A. Robinson

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