Franklin child prostitution ring allegations
The Franklin child prostitution ring allegations were a series of high-profile accusations and legal actions between 1988 and 1991 surrounding an alleged child sex ring serving prominent citizens of Omaha, Nebraska, as well as high-level U.S. politicians.
The allegations centered on the actions of Lawrence E. King Jr., who ran the now defunct Franklin Community Federal Credit Union (FCFCU) in Omaha. After investigation, a Douglas County grand jury determined the abuse allegations were baseless, describing them as a "carefully crafted hoax." Later, a federal grand jury also declined to indict the alleged abusers, instead indicting two of their accusers for perjury. One of them, Alisha Owen, was convicted and served 4-1/2 years in prison.
The two grand juries
Allegations of sexual abuse first emerged in November 1988 during a National Credit Union Administration investigation of unrelated financial irregularities at the FCFCU, at which King had worked for 18 years. In December, the State Foster Care Review Board submitted the results of a two-year investigation into the physical and sexual abuse of foster children to the Executive Board of the Nebraska Legislature, who were investigating reports of child sexual abuse linked to the credit union. Authorities launched a probe, interviewing a number of claimed abuse victims who said that children in foster care were flown to the U.S. East Coast and were abused at "bad parties."
Two grand juries investigated the allegations. The first, a county grand jury, determined that the abuse allegations were a "carefully crafted hoax"; the grand jury also suggested that the abuse stories originated from a vindictive employee terminated by Boys Town, the famed refuge for troubled youths. A special Nebraska legislative committee assigned to investigate the allegations criticized the grand jury findings, with Nebraska Senator Loran Schmit labeling the grand jury's report "a strange document."
The second, organized through the federal judicial system, later concluded that the abuse allegations were unfounded and indicted 21 year old Alisha Owen, an alleged victim, on eight counts of perjury. The same grand jury also indicted multiple officers of the credit union, including King, for fraud and other crimes.
King was eventually convicted of embezzling over $38 million from FCFCU, and served 10 years of a 15-year prison sentence. John DeCamp filed a lawsuit on behalf of Bonacci and other alleged victims against King in civil court; when King failed to respond to the charges, Judge Warren Keith Urbom entered a default judgment for $1 million against King. Owen was convicted and sentenced to 9–15 years in prison.
Numerous conspiracy theories have persisted afterward, claiming that the Franklin allegations were true, and part of much more widespread series of crimes. Journalist Nick Bryant published a book about the Franklin allegations alleging a coverup of child abuse.[notes 1]
Historian Philip Jenkins, in his book Moral Panic: Changing Concepts of the Child Molester in Modern America, has explored how hot topics such as the Franklin allegations, whether or not they are worthy of attention or credible on their own merits, are seized by political opportunists for their own purposes. He also described how cases such as the Franklin allegations can acquire credibility, even if they lack any credibility inherently, when reported in various media in a credulous voice.
- Bryant's book, after being rejected by several larger and more reputable publishing houses, was published by Trine Day, which describes itself as "a small publishing house that arose as a response to the consistent refusal of the corporate press to publish many interesting, well-researched and well-written books with but one key 'defect': a challenge to official history that would tend to rock the boat of America's corporate 'culture.' "
- Jenkins, Philip (2004). Moral Panic: Changing Concepts of the Child Molester in Modern America. Yale University Press. pp. 174–5. ISBN 978-0-300-10963-4.
- Robbins, William (December 18, 1988). "A Lurid, Mysterious Scandal Begins Taking Shape in Omaha". The New York Times. Retrieved April 30, 2013.
- Robbins, Williams (July 29, 1990). "Omaha Grand Jury Sees Hoax in Lurid Tales". The New York Times. Retrieved May 13, 2011.
- "Omaha Tales of Sexual Abuse Ruled False". The New York Times. Associated Press. September 27, 1990. Retrieved May 13, 2011.
- USA Today. August 9, 1991. p. 6A. "Alisha Owen, convicted of lying to grand jury probing charges of sex and drug abuse in failure of Omaha credit union, was sentenced to 9 to 15 years in prison."
- Robbins, William (December 25, 1988). "Nebraska Inquiry Is Given File on Sex Abuse of Foster Children". The New York Times. Retrieved May 18, 2012.
- Santiago, Frank (February 24, 1999). "Judge makes $1 million award". The Des Moines Register.
- Bryant, Nick. The Franklin Scandal: A Story of Powerbrokers, Child Abuse & Betrayal. Trine Day.