A prosecutor in an ongoing case in Italy requested the precautionary arrest of an American teacher on charges of child sex abuse, citing recorded “interviews” of some children as supposed evidence. The preliminary judge approved the arrest without any acknowledgment that repeated threats of the witnesses were recorded, some videos of the interrogations are missing, the interrogators used blatantly suggestive questioning, and then the prosecutor even made false assertions of what the children supposedly said. Such witch hunt tactics were not unknown in the U.S. and other modern countries decades ago, but they are still being used in Italian courts today – despite the claims of Italian psychologists and other victim advocates that they are well-informed and up-to-date on the recent research on appropriate methods of treating children who are believed to be victims or potential witnesses.
Most modern nations have an adversarial system of judicial procedure, but Italy still clings to the ancient inquisitorial model. Italian judges and prosecutors are not elected by the people or appointed by elected representatives, but are colleagues who are hired by the state bureaucracy. There is no jury trial here. Despite the international consensus that a judge is supposed to be impartial between the prosecution and defense, a judge here may be virtually in bed with the prosecutor. You’ve heard of dirty politics. What about a criminal justice system in which prosecutors make unfounded accusations that contradict the concrete evidence, but preliminary judges and even appeal court judges completely ignore the concrete evidence and instead literally copy and paste the prosecutor’s unfounded accusations word-for-word into their pronouncements?
Welcome to the mass hysteria over child porn and child sex abuse. Everybody wants to be a hero, especially if being a hero has come to mean being on the safe side of the lynch mob. Where is the heroism in being on the same side as the lynch mob? The hysteria began long ago as a reasonable and courageous criticism of real child abuse, but due to the personal agenda of political opportunists and financial profiteers, children’s health and safety are now being sacrificed and the rights of the accused to due process are ignored for the convenience of the real psychopaths in government and business who are willing and eager to exploit a child for their own benefit.
The presumption of the innocence of the accused exists because it is very easy to make false accusations. Some evidence beyond the mere verbal accusation is necessary to substantiate any charge – except when the charge is sex crimes against minors? Quite the contrary, children are the witnesses most vulnerable to suggestive interrogations (1,2). When there is reason to believe there may be ulterior motives for making false accusations, corroborating evidence becomes even more important. How dare a prosecutor or judge ignore these plain facts?
In some states fabricating evidence is a felony punishable by over ten years imprisonment, but in this ongoing Italian case the evidence against the accused was clearly fabricated by the prosecutor, and the judge is an accomplice in failing to acknowledge the evidence of prosecutorial misconduct. In theory the state needs to protect children at all costs, but in reality no child or parent came to the police voluntarily. Rather than investigating a specific report of any crime, the prosecutor ordered the police to go out and round up potential victims for coercive interrogations. (It isn’t the first time such fascist “investigation” tactics have been used in Italy.) Then after threatening several children and suggesting accusations, the prosecutor made no effort to verify any accusations. The prosecutor and judge have merely provoked as many accusations as possible and then accepted those coerced verbal accusations at face value.
An interrogator in a modern, civilized democracy is not even supposed to mention the name of the suspect unless the child makes an accusation spontaneously or there is already strong evidence of abuse (e.g. a reliable witness to the abuse, a video of the abuse taking place, or an unequivocal medical report). In that case the interrogators should ask “Who/What/Where…?” If there is a known time when the abuse occurred, or the child herself alleges a time-frame, the interrogators should establish that the child’s accusation is credible by asking details of other events during that same period. In this case the supposed victims were prodded and terrorized by the arrogant authorities, so the children made elaborate accusations of abuse that supposedly occurred years ago, but they are unable to remember the accusations they claimed two weeks ago. As far as the prosecutor and judge in this case are concerned, that’s not a problem.
When an interrogator suggests specific accusations, and interrogators claim other children have disclosed abuse by a particular suspect who they label “a dangerous person,” then any claims the child subsequently makes are contaminated. In this case despite no concrete evidence to justify the interrogations in the first place, the interrogators refused to believe the children when they said nothing happened to them. The children were then called liars, the prosecutor threatened to arrest their parents, the videos were interrupted so someone could coach the child’s testimony while the video was turned off. But the preliminary judge whose duty it is to at least check the supposed evidence, himself denied the clear evidence that the children had been threatened, and he even refused to accept a retraction. The supposed victims have changed their stories multiple times to please the scary interrogators, inventing impossible scenarios that may easily be verified to be false, but the judge doesn’t see anything wrong with that.
This same prosecutor and judge previously accused my innocent video Buddy Massage of being “child pornography,” citing the title of one of my blog posts on Emotional Incest as if the text were evidence of sexual intent. But that post actually attacks sexual abuse as “damaging and reprehensible.” Even after the investigation ended and the trial began, the prosecutor prejudiced the judge by reopening the original investigation during the trial without any justification whatsoever. The prosecutor and judge are guilty of gross misconduct by not bothering to examine the supposed evidence carefully, e.g. by ordering a translation of the English text into their own language. Rather than presuming innocence, their approach to justice is to shoot first and ask questions later.
Section 351 of Title 28 of the United States Code allows any person to complain about a federal judge or magistrate who “has engaged in conduct prejudicial to the effective and expeditious administration of the business of the courts” or “is unable to discharge all the duties of office by reason of mental or physical disability” (e.g. the judge is overcome by the mass hysteria over child sex abuse). This law also provides for the judicial councils of the circuits to adopt rules for the consideration of such complaints. Title 28 USC §§ 351 – 364 allows any persons to complain about a federal judge who they believe has committed judicial misconduct in the U.S. Evidently, there is no such provision in Italian law.
- Lamb, Michael E. et al. (eds). Children’s Testimony: A Handbook of Psychological Research and Forensic Practice 2nd ed. Wiley-Blackwell, 2011.
- Heaton-Armstrong, Anthony et al. Witness Testimony: Psychological, Investigative and Evidential Persectives. Oxford Univ. Press, 2006.