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The Wenatchee "sex rings"

Part 2: Growing opposition to the charges

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Voices opposed to the witch hunt:

By late 1995, Washington State Governor Lowry (D) and Speaker of the House of Representatives Clyde Ballard Ballard (R-East Wenatchee) had both called for a federal review of apparent abuses in Wenatchee. Despite critical reviews by CBS, CNN, NBC Dateline, Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post, prosecutions continued.

The Justice Committee of San Diego had been organized by people who were concerned about the Wenatchee problem. They called for a national boycott of Washington State's principle product: apples. They approached the Wenatchee Chamber of Commerce to join others in calling for a federal review of  the situation. The Chamber President, Gil Sparks, was quoted in the Wenatchee World as responding,

"It's a farce and economic blackmail. It's obvious to me the people who put this letter together did it without having any of the real facts involved with this case."

The Justice Committee issued a press release on 1995-NOV-27 which reads, in part:

"According to Carol Hopkins, Justice Committee spokesperson, the purpose of the boycott is to bring to the attention of citizens, civic groups and officials in Wenatchee and state officials in the State of Washington, the national outrage over the false prosecutions and the civil rights abuses suffered by both children and adults as a result of the child abuse investigations and prosecutions which began last year and continue unabated...Despite a call by Washington Governor Mike Lowry and House Speaker Clyde Ballard for a U.S. Justice Department investigation of the Wenatchee prosecutions, local police and prosecutors have persisted in pressing these outrageous cases." 1

Local media outlets supported the police and child protective services. However, Tom Grant, a TV news reporter for KREM in Spokane, WA repeatedly exposed the fiasco. Two investigative reporters from the Post-Intelligencer in Seattle, WA later wrote a series: "The Power to Harm."

Finally, the University of Washington Law School formed the Innocence Project Northwest, "which has succeeded in obtaining the release of every adult victim of the false prosecutions." 5

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ACLU Report:

The American Civil Liberties Association of Washington studied the Wenatchee situation and issued a press release on 1997-OCT-30. They said in part:

"The Wenatchee child sexual abuse cases are unprecedented in our state's history in the number of children who were removed from their homes and had their families disrupted. The ACLU's 23-page report examines eight areas of concern in the government's handling of investigations in the Wenatchee cases and recommends minimum safeguards to remedy problems that arose in the investigations. The recommendations address:
bullet involuntary confinement of children in out-of-state mental hospitals;
bullet the practice of allowing law enforcement officers responsible for child abuse investigations to serve as foster parents for children involved in the investigations;
bullet law enforcement intervention in state Department of Social and Health Services decisions on foster care placement and therapy for foster children;
bullet destruction of records in child abuse investigations;
bullet lack of minimum standards for documenting child witness interviews in child sexual abuse cases;
bullet lack of minimum standards for conducting child witness interviews in child sexual abuse investigations;
bullet lack of clarity of roles of police and Child Protective Service caseworkers in child sexual abuse cases; and
bullet the need for additional mechanisms to ensure quality control and accountability in child abuse investigations."

The report was presented to Vickie Wallen, Director of the state Office of the Family and Children's Ombudsman.

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Requests for Federal Investigations

On 1995-OCT-3, Governor Mike Lowry asked Attorney General Janet Reno to undertake a federal investigation of the Wenatchee problem. His request was refused.

IN 1998, John H. Hill, Director, Pierce County Department of Assigned Counsel and Kathryn Lyon, author of the Wenatchee Report1 prepared a "Complaint and Request for Federal Investigation" to the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It was presented along with a "Request for U.S. Congressional Hearings" into the Wenatchee situation. 2 Attorney General Janet Reno promised to examine the evidence on 1998-MAR-5.

Kathryn Lyon said:

"I'm excited because this is in the national public eye again, where it should be because it's not just a Wenatchee problem...But I'm also aware of the fact that Janet Reno was been a zealous prosecutor in some of the most outrageous criminal prosecutions."

Several of Reno's more sensational child sex-abuse cases, which destroyed families and careers, have been overturned by the courts. 3

Additional calls for an investigation were made in mid-1998 by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), The Justice Committee, and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Calls have also been made by individuals: Arthur Miller, author of "The Crucible;" Glenn Stevens, a prosecutor in the notorious McMartin Preschool case; William Styron, author of "Sophie's Choice;" Mike Wallace of CBS Television, and the late Sonny Bono (R-CA).

On 1998-JUL-18, Attorney General Janet Reno announced that she would stonewall the requests for an investigation.

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Summary of Cases as of 2000-AUG:

According to Hill and Lyon, between 1994 and 1996:
bullet 43 people, (23 women; 20 men) were charged with 29, 726 counts of child sexual abuse.
bullet The number of alleged victims is 60 children; 17 have been put up for adoption.
bullet 6 adults were convicted after a trial.
bullet 4 were acquitted after a trial.
bullet 16 pled guilty, mostly under "Alford pleas."
bullet 6 pled guilty to misdemeanors after their charges were greatly reduced.
bullet 10 cases were dismissed. 2

In 1998-MAY, 16 adults remained in prison. As of 2000-AUG-13:

 "... almost all of those convicted have...been released." According to the Wenatchee World newspaper: "The scope of the Wenatchee wrongful convictions is unprecedented in Washington and perhaps in the country." 4

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  1. Carol L. Hopkins, "Justice Committee calls for Apple Boycott," Justice Committee of San Diego, 1995-NOV-27, at:
  2. Information about the requests for Federal investigations is at:
  3. "The Aftermath" (Updates to Ref. 8), Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 1998-FEB at:
  4. Stephen Maher, "Tipping the Wenatchee scales," Wenatchee World, 2000-AUG-13.
  5. Paul Craig Roberts, "Prosecutorial Abuse: The Wenatchee Witch Hunt Unravels Further," at:

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Copyright 1996 to 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Last update: 2007-DEC-27
Author: B.A. Robinson

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