March 1, 1954 |
|Criminal status||Released on April 30, 2004|
|Conviction(s)||child sexual abuse|
Gerald A. "Tooky" Amirault (born March 1, 1954) is an American falsely convicted in 1986 of child sexual abuse of eight children at the Fells Acres Day Care Center in Malden, Massachusetts, run by his family. He and his family deny the charges, which supporters regard as a conspicuous example of day care sex abuse hysteria. Dorothy Rabinowitz, a member of the Editorial Board of The Wall Street Journal, asserts that Amirault was railroaded. Rabinowitz was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 2001, partly for her coverage of the case. The case was also the major topic of her book about miscarriages of justice, No Crueler Tyrannies. He was released on April 30, 2004
The prosecution relied heavily on testimony from young children extracted through long sessions with therapists. Dorothy Rabinowitz, of the Wall Street Journal, wrote that "[o]ther than such testimony, the prosecutors had no shred of physical or other proof that could remotely pass as evidence of abuse". Among the accusations were, as summarized by Rabinowitz from court records, Amirault
had plunged a wide-blade butcher knife into the rectum of a 4-year-old boy, which he then had trouble removing. When a teacher in the school saw him in action with the knife, she asked him what he was doing, and then told him not to do it again, a child said. On this testimony, Gerald was convicted of a rape which had, miraculously, left no mark or other injury.
In 1995, Judge Robert Barton ordered a new trial for Violet, then 72, and Cheryl, who had been imprisoned eight years. He ordered the women released at once. Barton — known as "Black Bart" for the long sentences he gave criminals — revealed his contempt for the prosecutors.
Superior Court Judge Isaac Borenstein presided over a widely publicized hearing into the case resulting in findings that all the children's testimony was tainted. He said that "Every trick in the book had been used to get the children to say what the investigators wanted."  Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly — which had until then had never in its 27 year history taken an editorial position on a case — published a scathing column directed at the prosecutors "who seemed unwilling to admit they might have sent innocent people to jail for crimes that had never occurred."
In 2000, the Massachusetts Governor's Board of Pardons and Paroles met to consider a commutation of Amirault's sentence. After nine months of investigation, the board voted 5-0, with one abstention, to commute his sentence, although no exculpatory evidence was presented. Still more newsworthy was an added statement, signed by a majority of the board, which pointed to the lack of evidence against the Amiraults, and the "extraordinary if not bizarre allegations" on which they had been convicted.
In 2002, then-Acting Governor of Massachusetts Jane Swift refused to commute Amirault's sentence, despite a unanimous vote in favor of his release by the state's parole board. Amirault's case had previously been upheld by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. Martha Coakley, then Middlesex district attorney and subsequently State Attorney General, lobbied Swift to keep him in prison and Swift denied Amirault's clemency.
His sister and mother, Cheryl Amirault LeFave and Violet Amirault, were convicted of related charges in a separate trial, and both released from prison after their charges were overturned in 1995.
Amirault and his wife Patricia, a schoolteacher whom he married in 1977, have three children: Gerrilyn, Katie, and P.J.
- "The Pulitzer Prizes | Citation". Pulitzer.org. Retrieved 2009-08-05.
- "The Pulitzer Prizes | A Hearing in Boston". Pulitzer.org. 2000-10-31. Retrieved 2009-08-05.
- Rabinowitz, Dorothy (January 14, 2010). "Martha Coakley's Convictions". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved January 18, 2010.
- Leung, Rebbeca (April 27, 2004). "A Family Accused: Employees At Day Care Center Accused Of Abusing Children". CBS. Retrieved January 18, 2010.
- "Gerald Amirault's Freedom: Today he leaves prison, after serving 18 years on phony charges". Wall Street Journal date=April 30, 2004. Retrieved September 16, 2008.
- Mei Ling Rein (2005). Child abuse: betraying a trust. Detroit: Thomson/Gale. p. 104. ISBN 0-7876-9068-6.
- "Martha Coakley: Too immoral for Teddy Kennedy's seat". Wnd.com. 2009-12-09. Retrieved 2010-01-19.
- Pollitt, Katha (February 28, 2002). "Justice, Not So Swift: Subject to Debate". The Nation. Retrieved January 18, 2010.
- Rabinowitz, Dorothy (May 28, 2004). "Homecoming: Gerald Amirault enjoys his first days of freedom in 18 years". Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on February 17, 2005. Retrieved January 17, 2010.
- Lawrence, J.M. (May 1, 2005). "`Tooky' Amirault walks free after 18 years". Boston Herald. Retrieved 2009-12-28.
- Gerald Amirault's entry at Massachusetts Sex Offender Registry
- Boston Herald articles on his case.
- Wall Street Journal articles on this case at the Wayback Machine (archived December 8, 2004)
- Booknotes interview with Dorothy Rabinowitz on No Crueler Tyrannies: Accusation, False Witness, and Other Terrors of Our Times, May 4, 2003.