Social Issues / Child Abuse: Frank And Ileana Fuster
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Autor: anton 19 September 2010
Words: 2314 | Pages: 10
The term child abuse was once as rarely heard as that of pink elephants. However rare the term has once been, it is now a term used consistently throughout the news and various other publications today. Along with the progressing decline in society's morals, has come the rapid increase of crime. One such crime is child abuse. Although child abuse is common, the act is defiling. As a result of the abuse, children who fall victim to this often need psychological treatment and counseling. Often, the child is never the same as he or she once was before. The dictionary defines child abuse as: "the physical, or emotional, or sexual mistreatment of children" (Dictionary.com). Everyday thousands of children are the victims of this abuse. The abusers range from parents, friends, total strangers, to even day-care workers.
One case involving the abuse of children in their care is that of Frank and Ileana Fuster. The two were accused in 1984 of molesting children in their home. Frank was a 36-year-old Cuban immigrant and was married to 17-year-old Ileana who was Honduran. Frank and Ileana Fuster were residents of Country Walk, Florida where they held a home-based babysitting service (Pendergrast). The case was then known as "Country Walk" because of the city in which the two, Frank and Ileana resided. "The case began when a 3-year-old boy asked his mother to "kiss my body" when she was giving him a bath. He said, "Ileana kisses all the babies' bodies." The mother became concerned and reported the comments to the Dade County child protection authorities ("A Summary of the Frank Fuster..." NP).
Fuster seemed to be living the American dream before the accusations were presented against him. Frank and Ileana were newly weds, owned a new home in the suburbs and a landscaping business that was doing well. However, Frank was not living the American dream. He was still on probation for a 1982 child molestation conviction for fondling a nine-year-old girl and manglaughter, for shooting a man after a traffic accident ("Debunking Frontline's Did Daddy Do It?" NP). Frank had been "arrested on September 21, 1982 for lewd and lascivious assault on a minor - a nine-year-old girl whose breasts and genitals Fuster fondled while driving her home. The jury heard from the girl, who was cross-examined at length. They found her credible and convicted Fuster" ("Fuster's Manslaughter Conviction" NP).
On August 9, 1984, Frank was arrested on charges of violating his probation. Ileana was then arrested on August 23, 1984 and was charged with multiple counts of sexual assault of a minor ("Statement of Facts And..." NP). Both Frank and Ileana denied the charges against them. Frank had already been convicted for the manslaughter in 1969 and for the 1982 condling of a child ("A Summary of the Frank Fuster..." NP). His case was not looking hopeful. Over 20 children came forward concerning the charges and told police that they had been raped and molested by Frank and Ileana. The state attorney, Janet Reno's office built its case against Frank and Ileana based on testimonies from children, a medical test, and a confession from Ileana ("A Summary of the Frank Fuster..." NP).
The children that came forward and were interviewed went through tremendous questioning. The "Miami Method" was a method invented because the methods of interviewing children were hurting the cases because of being interviewed so may times by different individuals. Parents of the children would begin to tell authorities that they were not going to allow their children to be a part of the cases anymore because of the psychological effects the various interviewing was having on their children. The courts also treated the children that were testifying as if they had no competence at all. Therefore, the "Miami Method" was introduced and children were videotaped in their interview and the interview played during the trial. The interivew were the first and only interview conducted with the child and were expected to be believable. This method was first introduced in the Frank Fuster case. Shortly after the method was first introduced, a "state law was changed to allow children to testify from the judge's chambers. The method was also required physical evidence and the testimony of an adult eyewitness" ("The 'Miami Method' of Prosecuting..." NP).
The medical test in which Janet Reno and her team used as evidence against the Fusters' was that of Frank and Ileana's own son, Noel. Noel was the only child that physically showed signs of abuse. The other children than had come forth showed no signs of sexual abuse. Noel, however, when tested, tested positiv for gonorrhea of the throat. The test has been questioned, because the evidence was destroyed three days after the test and the ability to retest the evidence was now unable to occur ("A Summary of the Frank Fuster..." NP). Noel told Dr. Joseph Braga, the interviewer, that his father had not molested him. However, after repeated questioning and coercing, Noel told Dr. Braga that he had fellated Frank Fuster, his father. But when questioned a few months later, Noel swore that his father had not molested him and that the reason he told Dr. Braga he had, is because Dr. Braga refused to end the interview until he told him that his father had (Nathan).
The Bragas, Drs. Joseph and Laurie Braga, were hired to inverview the children ("Techniques in Interviewing..." NP). Often, the media has referred to them as psychologists or psychiatrists, but neither are true. According to Boston University, Laurie Braga has a doctorate in child development. Her husband, Joseph, has a doctorate in education. The two "have experience around designing early childhood education programs for publicly funded, inner-city-style day cares and preschools" (Nathan).
A confession was also used as evidence against Frank Fuster. The confession Reno's team presented as a main form of evidence was from Ileana Fuster, Frank's wife. Von Kamft began to devise a plan that would make Ileana appear to be an offender, only because she herself was a victim of her husband (Nathan). Janet Reno's office offered Ileana a reduced sentence in exchange for her confession that would convict her husband. Ileana did not want to confess at first, but after spending time in solitary confinement as well as multip interview with Behavior Changers, Inc., who "used relaxation techniques to help Ileana 'recover memories,' she confessed" (Rosenthal). Sometime later, Ileana recanted her confession stating:
Judge, I would like you to know that I am
pleading guity not because I feel guiltry, but
because I think - I think it's the best
interest ... for my own interest and for the
children and for the court and all the people
that are working on the case. But I am not
pleading guilty because I feel guilty ... I am
innocent of all those charges. I wouln't have
done anything to harm any children. I have
never done anything in my life ... I am
innocent. I am just doing it - I am pleading
guilty to get all of this over ... for my own
good ... (Nathan).
Because of Ileana's testimony, Frank was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parole. Ileana received a 10-year sentence, but only served three and was the deported to Honduras ("A Summary of the Frank Fuster..." NP).
The confession that Ileana had given had convicted her husband and set her free. However, while in Honduras, she recanted her confession at Frank's trial. She stated that the Behavior Changers that had met with her some 30 times while she was in prison had used "visualization" techniques to recover and change her memory ("A Summary of the Frank Fuster..." NP). Some time after Ileana made her public statement recanting her confession, she sent a letter through clergyman, Rev. Tommy Watson. In the letter, she states:
Frank Fuster is guilty, not only of hurting the
children but also of hurting me when I was only
16 years of age. I'm not a little girl anymore
and now as an adult I can protect myself from
him. I am sorry for the embarrassment that I
may have caused to anyone that try to help me in
time past. I do not wish to give any other
deposition that could be different than the one
given 10 years ago. Again, Frank Fuster did
horrible things to me I know he did the same to
the children, he deserves to be where he is
now. I don't want to be a victim anymore...
("Ileana Flores' Letter of Recantation" NP).
Ileana then changes her viewpoint back and forth several times. Upon repeated questioning, Ileana would, because scared of further conviction, give the interviewer varying stories.
"While incarcerated, she divorced Frank and became a self-professed born again Christian" (Nathan). After serving her three years and being deported to Honduras, she was befriended by members of a church in Florida. Because Ileana now refuses to speak publicly about the case, the members of the church both in Florida and in Honduras have refused to let anyone talk to Ileana directly (Nathan). As of today, Frank Fuster is still in prison in Florida. Frank still insists that he is innocent.
Whether Frank and Ileana Fuster actually committed the crimes of child abuse charged against them is still unknown. The two both hold tightly to their statements that they are innocent. The evidence that had been presented against them was mostly circumstantial. The prosecutors found little or no factual evidence against the two of them ("The Innocence Case of..." NP). There was no real reason to hold them other than the confession given by Ileana after being forced into a plea bargain. The interviews had even been tainted, for the fact that the questioners asked questions that would persuade the children's minds. Also, they threatened that they would not stop until given the answer for which they were searching. Any child would tell the adult what they wanted to hear in order to get something they did not want to do or say over with. Also, interviewing techniques have come a long way since 1985 when this trial began. New knowledge and technology has aided the assistance of law enforecement and criminologists in interviewing and collecting evidence. Mistakes that were made in the Country Walk case are not as likely to be made with the knowledge that is available in this decade. The mistakes that were made regarding the Frank and Ileana Fuster case could have been avoided had the interviewers and investigators thought things through before questioning children as they did. Mandy child abuse cases have ended in merely false accusations. One child says something and it become a domino effect and things spiral into a huge problem. Some, however, are not as likely to be false. The sick act of child abuse does occur all over the world today. Sadly enough, most of those incidents are never made known to the police or even prosecuted. Children go day in and day out carrying this huge secret of abuse because they have been threatened or feel ashamed. It makes one wonder why can we place behind bars the innocent and let the truly guilty go free.
â€œA Summary of the Frank Fuster â€˜County Walkâ€™ Case.â€ PBS Online. 2002. 24 March 2004.
â€œDebunking Frontlineâ€™s Did Daddy Do It?â€ Brown University. 2002. 24 March 2004.
â€œFusterâ€™s Manslaughter Conviction.â€ Brown University. 2002. 24 March 2004.
â€œIleana Floresâ€™ Letter of Recantation.â€ PBS Online. 2002 17 April 2004.
Nathan, Debbie. â€œRevisiting Country Walk.â€ IPT Forensics. Vol 5 (1993). 24 march 2004.
Online Dictionary. 24 March 2004. .
Pendergrast, Mark. Victime of Memory. Upper Access: 2nd edition, 1996.
Rosenthal, Robert. â€œJanet Renoâ€™s Child Abuse.â€ Ags.uci.edu. 1997. 24 March 2004.
â€œStatement of Facts and Chronology of Events.â€ Oranous. 24 March 2004.
â€œTechniques in Interviewing Children â€“ The Controversy.â€ PBS Online. 2002. 24 March 2004.
â€œThe Innocence Case of Frank Fuster.â€ Oranous. 24 March 2004.
â€œThe â€˜Miami Methodâ€™ of Prosecuting Child Abuse Cases.â€ PBS Online. 2002. 24 March 2004.
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