The Salem Evening News
Wednesday, July 18, 2001

Amirault should be freed

Governor Swift should accept the recommendations of the state's parole board and release Gerald Amirault from prison.

Amirault was convicted of child molestation in a case manufactured by prosecutors and supported by testimony of children who were so manipulated by the prosecution that the result had all of the authority of the Salem witch trials.

Other than for the prosecution and the families of the children who honestly believed their children had been molested, the general, post-trial appreciation is that Amirault, his sister and his mother were railroaded by hysteria for crimes they did not commit.

Both the sister, Cheryl, and the mother, Violet, who has since died, had been released in 1985.

Amirault, identified by the children, some as young as 2 years old, as "Tookey" who entertained them in a clown costume, was denied release at that time, but last week won the parole board's approval for release.

It is understandable that some of the alleged victims, parents and children, oppose his release. It is equally understandable that they will press Swift not to sign that recommendation for clemency.

There is no doubt that they believe a crime was committed and that all three of the Amiraults are guilty.

Neither, however, is there any doubt that a very large number of those who have studied this event, including all the evidence and the means by which it was obtained, consider this trial to have been a gross miscarriage of justice, hugely tainted by those employed by the prosecution to coach the very young children in their testimony.

From the very beginning to the present moment, all of the Amiraults have protested their innocence.

Gerald Amirault, in particular, has steadfastly refused to admit to the allegations, despite proposals that might have mitigated the length of his sentence.

The Massachusetts Parole Board is not noted for having a soft heart. Rare, indeed, is it likely to move for clemency, especially in a case of this sensitivity. But it has done so for the simple reason that it recognizes the miscarriage of justice that has occurred in this instance.

There is no crime so likely to arouse the passions of prosecutors or the public than child molestation. Neither is there a crime so likely to be represented by recidivism. Child molesters are among the most prevalent of those who repeat a crime.

And yet, prior to the instance of this case, none of the Amiraults had ever been suspects in an incident of child molestation. Nor have they manifested any of the characteristics common to child molesters.

Swift should end this now by accepting the recommendations of the parole board in the name of justice. That board exists specifically to determine whether justice has been served.

In this case, it has not, because hindsight indicates that the Amiraults were unjustly accused and convicted only by the peculiar circumstances of the time, and the nature of the evidence presented at their trial. The governor should not add to that injustice by refusing the recommendations before her

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