The Sun
(Lowell, Mass.)
Sunday, July 15. 2001

Swift must free Amirault

Faced with the call to either pardon or keep in jail a convicted criminal, governors quake. Usually, the matter is tangled up with politics and public opinion, making it risky to offer a decision that comes from the best instincts for justice.

That's because the matter (shades of Willie Horton) could become a career buster. Political enemies stand ready to unleash an assault on whatever decision is made. In short, it's a no-win situation for the person who must act as judge.

Acting Gov. Jane Swift is facing such a choice, called upon to approve or deny the recommended commutation of Gerald Amirault's sentence some 15 years after the Fells Acre Day School sex abuse trials. Amirault has served all of those years in prison, while his mother and sister -- charged similarly and found guilty as well -- were released in 1995 after their convictions were overturned by Superior Court Judge Robert Barton.

Supporting Amirault's release is the state Parole Board, which last Friday publicly called for the release, citing "fundamental fairness."

We agree, and urge acting Gov. Swift respond quickly to commute Amirault's sentence and bring to an end a sorry chapter in the commonwealth's otherwise glorious judicial past.

There is a strong indication, upheld by several Superior Court judges, that the Fells Acre trials were a miscarriage of justice. Serious holes remain in the prosecution's case against the Amiraults -- including a lack of substantial physical evidence that anything occurred -- faults that were ignored amid the hysteria of the trial setting. And, in the years since, one of the jurors admitted to feeling the wrong decision was made and Amirault was railroaded into prison on inadequate findings.

The facts don't hold up. And, despite the insistence of some now-grown victims that the Amiraults did, in fact, commit sexual crimes against them, their 1980s convictions came from an atmosphere charged by adult-influenced tales from four- and five-year-old children. The children had been questioned in depth by counselors, and what they had to say would be considered "fantastic" and unsubstantiated in today's courtrooms. The children's descriptions of events at the day care center included robots that ate children, dismembered squirrels, clowns that raped them. Remember, they were small children. They were easily influenced. There were other, nonfamily members working at the center. No one saw anything happen, despite the many and very noticeable activities the family was charged with. Children who had been at the center before the alleged incidents did not come forward with any complaints even after the charges were made public.

We can't say what the Amiraults did or did not do, and some of the children involved in the allegations have suffered considerably from the trauma of what they remember and what they went through as the charges were being investigated. But it's open to speculation whether the damage done was actually caused by the Amiraults or the psychological science and clinical investigatory techniques employed at the time. Most, like repressed memory syndrome, have been debunked.

The entire situation remains very troubling.

All three Amiraults steadfastly refused to confess to any guilt, no matter how reduced in scope, even to seek a prosecution "deal" for their own release. They have denied it all and stuck by each other. The subsequent trials lacked credibility, an opinion judges upheld in releasing Gerald Amirault's mother, Violet (since deceased) and sister, Cheryl Amirault LeFave. Gerald Amirault has regrettably remained in jail longer fo the same crimes. The state Parole Board, in a unanimous 5-0 vote, said the time has come to release Gerald Amirault, not on innocence or guilt, but on what is considered equitable sentencing and punishment.

Fair is fair. There just isn't a basis to continue to hold Gerald Amirault in jail.

NOTE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only. For more information go to:

Return to Free Gerald Amirault page