Telegram & Gazette
Worcester, Mass.
Saturday, August 26, 2000

Amirault appeal
Absent further evidence, commutation is only fair

In an important and appropriate move, the state Advisory Board of Pardons has agreed to hold a public hearing Sept. 20 on Gerald Amirault's request that his 20- to 30-year sentence be commuted to time served.

In what appears to be a miscarriage of justice, the former Malden man has served 14 years in prison in the controversial Fells Acres Day School molestation case. The children's testimony that convicted him likely was tainted in the course of prejudicial questioning by parents and/or investigators. There was no corroborating testimony or physical evidence that abuse even took place.

In the name of proportionality alone, consideration of commutation to time served is warranted. Appeals by Mr. Amirault were turned down three times, while those of his mother, Violet Amirault, who died in 1997, and his sister, Cheryl Amirault LeFave -- convicted in a separate trial on the basis of the same evidence -- were upheld. The women were released on appeal in 1995 and, last year, Mrs. LeFavre's sentence was commuted to time served.

Mr. Amirault's sentence far exceeded the 8- to 20-year terms the women received.

The parole panel chose precisely the correct words in saying that the hearing had been scheduled "in the interest of fairness and in light of the treatment of the petitioner's co-defendants within the judicial system."

Since the case became public in 1984 -- in the midst of nationwide hysteria over alleged child abuse in day care settings -- much has been learned about "recovered memory." Acres children, ages 2 to 4, told incredible tales of evil clowns, animal sacrifices and other imagined happenings.

A model prisoner with no prior record, Mr. Amirault remains in prison largely because he continues to profess his innocence. Absent the belated appearance of new, compelling evidence against him, the parole panel should advise Gov. Paul Cellucci to commute the sentence to time served.

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