Ileana has come forward recently, has given us an interview. Why?
Ileana told me when she called me a few months ago that she couldn't continue
to live her life with this story of the Country Walk day care case hanging over
her head, that her criminal conviction was interfering with her ability to
work, to move on with her life, to have relationships, to progress as a person.
She could not live with this anymore. She wanted to try to find out if there
was a way to reverse her conviction, to withdraw her guilty plea, and move on
with her life from there.
Why she came to be interviewed by you is because she wanted be as public as she
can with her story, because for the last 15 years or more, others have told her
story for her. She finally feels free of influences on her that were paying her
tuition and frightening her from telling the story. And so now she's here to
Let's look at the evidence. There were a lot of children that testified in
this case. What do we know now about that testimony that brings it into
We know that the methods used to elicit accusations from the children in that
case have been proven to cause children to make false reports. We know that
these children came into the interviews having little or nothing to say about
sexual abuse or Frank Fuster or Ileana, and left the interviews saying that
they'd been molested.
We also know what happened in the interviews. We know that every method known
to science to cause children to provide false reports, and even to come to
believe their false reports, were used on those children in interviews that
lasted hours and hours. So what we know now is that the process by which the
accusations were produced is a poisonous process. And it's not surprising that
there were 21 children who made the accusations, or whatever the number was.
... Whoever you put through this process, at least a high percentage of them
will come out the other end making the accusations that you were telling them
to make in various ways.
How thoroughly has this kind of tactic been discussed in the scientific
community? And how thoroughly has it been decided that indeed it does not
Pretty thoroughly. The scientific community began in the late 1980s, early
1990s, designing studies where they would subject children to the very methods
that were used by interviewers like those in Country Walk. They cannot suggest
to children that they'd been molested the way the Country Walk interviewers
did. But they use other paradigms involving children, their bodies, physical
examinations, events that they've been through, using the very methods that the
Bragas used in this case and that other people used in other cases.
Scientists were able to show that a good percentage of children come out the
other end of these interviews making claims that are not true. They're
reporting, as truth, events that they've never experienced. These experiments
also use very mild levels of suggestion; nothing near what was used on the
children in Country Walk.
So if what we're seeing are preschoolers subjected to mild amounts of
suggestion, usually a single form of suggestion, coming out making false claims
in substantial numbers, if you ratchet up the amount of force that you're using
on the children and multiply the type of suggestion that you're using on the
child, you're going to get much more powerful results at the other end, and a
higher percentage. ...
His own son supposedly admitted that something had happened, and agreed to
the fact that the gonorrhea of the throat was probably caused by his dad,
perhaps when he was asleep. Did that play on the jury's sympathies, the fact
that he was the son of the man on trial?
Noel was really a tremendous aspect if you take into account, not just his
testimony, but also the physical evidence that they tried to present with it.
The jury would think, "Yes, he was in the house more than any of the other
children. So if there was abuse, he was probably getting more of it than anyone
If it took influence to make a child accuse Frank Fuster, it would have taken
so much more influence to make Noel an accuser. The jury at that time would
have thought, "How could any child be subjected to so much influence that they
would accuse their own parent?"
In retrospect, we look at that the other way. If they made Noel testify against
his father, and they used the same amount of force on him as everyone else, it
seems very obvious that we get all these other kids, who were essentially
strangers, to testify against Frank.
What do we know about the medical evidence of the gonorrhea in the throat
now? What's the latest evidence about the test that was used? When did we know
that it was suspect?
I think at the time of trial they certainly should have known that there were
problems with that evidence. They tested for a family of bacteria. Gonorrhea is
one strain in that family. ... What the state's doctor should have known, and
was known at the time, I believe, is that the Neisseria bacteria comes
in many forms. Gonorrhea is one, but there are many others that live in
children all the time. Some are asymptomatic; some show symptoms. The
Neisseria is also very similar to other bacteria that grow in the same
medium and look exactly like it. So a false positive is not only possible, but
very likely. ...
How important was Ileana's testimony at the time of the trial?
I wasn't at the trial. ... I think it was recognized by the time of the Fuster
case that you need more than just the kids' [testimony]. And so that brings
Ileana; that's why she's so important. Here is an adult in the house who is now
going to come to court, testifying against her own penal interest: "Yes, I was
there. I didn't report this. I didn't do it, but he did it." It's a tremendous
nail in this case. It really holds everything up. If you disbelieve the kids,
if you disbelieve the gonorrhea, here's this woman; she was there. She pled
guilty. She's going to go to jail for this, but she's admitting it. ...
[Do you believe] a Frank Fuster/Ileana Fuster case could happen
With some variations. I don't know that you could bring 20 children. I don't
know that a prosecutor is going to even try to bring the big daycare case like
the McMartin case, or the Kelly Michaels case in New Jersey, or the Frank
Fuster case. What you see now are fewer complainants of alleged victims. It's
lower key. It brings the cases under the radar.
Frankly, I think, the media is so accustomed now to these big cases that a
prosecutor couldn't get away with it. But the media is not picking up the case
where there's two children who were making their complaint. So those are still
under the radar, and yes, these cases are still happening. ...
Can you look at the [demeanor] of a child and sort of say that indeed is
someone who has been abused?
No, there's never been any scientific justification or validation for the
notion that some list of behaviors that a child might be exhibiting, or some
affect of a child indicates abuse. But for a long time, we were getting
You're describing that, piece by piece, this evidence that was considered to
be very important in the Fuster case has, over the years, been shown to not
work by experts in the field. The medical evidence, the son's testimony, the
tactics used to elicit the responses from the children -- they've all fallen
Now Ileana has come forward and stated, "Listen, you've got to understand
what was going on, what I was put under, what I started to believe, and what
happened." That has fallen apart. There doesn't seem to be any glue to this
case anymore. You tell me: What's holding this thing up? Why, 17 years after he
was put in prison, is Frank Fuster still in prison? Why the delay to sort of
gain any attention to this case?
... Prosecutors who used to cry, "Believe the children," will now say, "Believe
the jury. We must stay with the jury verdict. You can't undo it." In fact, we
should undo it. The jury wasn't wrong, given what they saw and what they knew
at the time. The jury was presented with evidence that wasn't sufficiently
challenged by the defense. The judge let things in; science hadn't caught up;
state experts were willing to say things that could or could not be verified
scientifically. And the jury made their call. ...
Florida seemed to have been a hotbed for this type of case for the period of
time that Janet Reno was there. But few are still in prison. You've got
Snowden, who was released, the case against Fijnje, who was not put in jail.
Why Frank Fuster? Why does he remain in jail?
... Frank's case was just bigger. There was more evidence. It's a tremendous
trial record. I think that there was less organization to his post-conviction
proceedings than Snowden. Snowden's actually had a very clean trial; it was
very manageable. You could sort of move it along easily. ...
What about all these cases being brought in Florida? Janet Reno is the state
attorney. What does it say about Janet Reno?
I think Janet Reno did things that were good down in Florida. I think that
there was pursuit of fathers who weren't paying child support and things like
that that were very admirable. I think that Janet Reno has shown somewhat of a
soft spot when it comes to children.
I think that what she did in these cases here -- that there was an accusation
that a child may have been abused, several children may have been abused --
without subjecting that accusation to the critical eye that a prosecutor should
always use in pursuing justice rather than convictions, she said, "I will do
what it takes to make sure that these children are not being abused."
She let the Bragas run free in the office. She set them up in her office; she
gave them access to the children. She accepted testimony from Ileana in her
case after Ileana had been subjected to remarkable amounts of persuasion and
influence. She used bad medical evidence. And she got her conviction.
In the end, her goal was accomplished. These children could not be molested by
Frank Fuster, because Frank Fuster was in prison. Whether they ever were
molested by Frank Fuster is the question for the trial. But that was sort of
just thrown out the window by the way the evidence was produced, rather than
collected. So from deciding on her goal to achieving her goal, she goes in a
straight line, but she misses the means. She misses the means that she got
there. And I think that's borne out in all these cases. ...
Ileana was put in prison. What happened?
[She was] separated from everyone, isolated. She was left to think about these
accusations that were being made about her and about Frank Fuster. And as
nothing was being produced from her thinking about this on her own, her defense
attorney decided that she must be blocking the memories of the abuse that was
happening. He employed therapists to come to the prison to interview Ileana and
help her release these blocked memories of abuse. They used all sorts of
methods of guided imagery -- I think the psychologist, Rappaport, described it
as reverse hypnosis -- to bring Ileana to accept that these acts had occurred.
What are the conditions that she's living under?
She was, at some point during this year that she was held, in solitary
confinement for periods of time. She was not given any clothes for periods of
time. She just remained naked in her cell. The light was on all the time. He
sleep cycles were disrupted. She was medicated with all sorts of medications
during that period. ...
Tell me the tactics or the "therapy," quote, unquote, that the behavior
changers used with Ileana. Describe it. What were they doing?
They were coming to the prison and providing Ileana with statements made by the
children. Those statements, of course, were produced by the people interviewing
the children, suggestibly, and pulling accusations out of them. They were
growing and harvesting these accusations from the children, and providing them
to these therapists who were coming to see Ileana, who were then telling
Ileana, "These things must have happened. Why would these children lie?"
They were asking her to close her eyes and imagine that these acts were
happening. They would tell her to visualize: "You're walking in the front door.
This is in the living room, and these are the things that are happening in the
living room. You can see it." And over time, she began to see these things, and
they began to appear in her dreams, the stories that she was being told.
And as she was dreaming them, the therapist was saying, "If you're dreaming
them, these are your memories. They're unblocked, and they're coming to you in
your dreams. You need to acknowledge them." And so they were planting these
seeds in her -- these poisonous seeds taken from the children -- and they were
growing as her own memories.
At the same time, were there pressures that would make her believe that
possibly if she didn't come to this thinking, that these were repressed
memories, that she might end up in life in the conditions that she was now
... Ileana has talked about -- and long before Ileana came forward, it was
reported -- that Ileana had been taken out of her cell and out of the jail at
night and taken to restaurants in Miami, and then thrown back in her cell and
told, "If you ever want to see a restaurant like that again, you'll testify
against Frank Fuster. Because you'll grow to be an old woman here in this
prison." And you're telling that to a 17-year-old girl. I really think, at some
point, she just had no resistance; there was no possibility that she was not
going to go with the friendly forces of the therapists. ...
How close to hypnosis were the tactics used?
It was very close to hypnosis, because hypnosis isn't what a lot of people
think it is. It's not, you know, "Watch the watch," and "You're getting
sleepy." You can bring people into states of being very suggestible very
easily. And this guided imagery is actually a form of hypnosis. It will do what
the sort of traditional expectation of hypnosis will do.
[Is there] anything wrong with the tactics involved in this situation to
bring about her testimony?
Yes. Yes. One of the problems with hypnosis that is recognized by courts in
almost every jurisdiction, in one level or another, is that people under
hypnosis are very suggestible. They will adopt what is being offered by the
hypnotist or anyone else in the room that feels that they want to chime in.
So there's a tremendous amount wrong with sending someone to prison, or in
Ileana's case, of taking a guilty verdict, a plea that "I am guilty," based on
testimony that you produced from them through hypnosis. I mean, there's no
reliability to this. It's more likely the suggestion applied during the
hypnotic session than it is the reality.
Would this be allowed in a court of law today as an acceptable tactic to
It is probably not. Different jurisdictions have different rules about the use
of hypnotically induced testimony, but most would exclude this. ...
Bring us up to 1994. Frank Fuster's lawyer, Mr. Cohen, goes down to Honduras
to interview or take a deposition from Ileana. How did that come to be?
Ileana's mother contacted Arthur Cohen and asked us if we would be interested
in talking to her. She was ready at that time to talk to us about what had been
done to her in the prison by the therapists, the behavior changers.
Did she say why? Why, all of a sudden, in 1994 or some years afterwards, is
she all of a sudden wanting to talk about it?
I think at that point she was just beginning to realize that all of these
things hadn't happened to her. I think it was dawning on Ileana at that point
that the things that she had said happened, hadn't happened. And I think that's
when her mother sort of seized on this opportunity. ...
So what happened?
Arthur Cohen went to Honduras and met with Ileana. She told him her story about
what happened to her in the prison, the conditions in which she was kept --
that the therapists would come and provide all these tales of abuse and insist
that she knew of them, and that over a period of time, she just started to
dream them, and this was the release of her memories.
She also said, though, that this church was paying her school bills and paying
for her to live down there while she was in school, and that if she were to go
public with this statement, they would cut her off. And she was very afraid of
Why would they?
Because they didn't want her involved in this case; they did not want her doing
anything that would assist Frank Fuster in his pursuit of a new trial.
Why are they involved on that level?
I don't know why they're involved on that level. But whatever their influence
on Ileana was, it was strong enough that she spoke to Mr. Cohen and told him
that she could not give him a statement on the record, although he had brought
a court reporter with him, or a stenographer with him. They met, they talked,
and he came back without a written statement.
The following year, she contacted us again, I believe through her mother, and
said now she was ready to give a statement on the record. Arthur Cohen brought
a court stenographer and took off again for Honduras. At that time, she had
called me. I was not going on these trips, but she had called me twice, and
pretty much told me her story -- the one she had told Arthur Cohen the year
before, and the one she was about to tell him again.
What she told me matched up with what Arthur had told me. It also matched up
with what I had read about the case in various newspapers and magazine
At that point, you're both now working for Frank Fuster?
Why did she contact you?
The Frank Fuster case she saw as the vehicle for telling her story. She needed
to attach it to something. As a story hanging in the air, it wouldn't land
anywhere. I think she was clear at the time that she wasn't interested in
helping Frank Fuster get out of prison. But she wanted to tell her story, and
she wanted to tell the truth.
So if telling the truth released him from prison, she was fine with that. She
had her own issues with Frank. She didn't like him. She wasn't doing this for
his benefit. She was doing it for her own benefit. Also, reversing his
conviction, a court determining that the abuse at Country Walk never happened,
would bear very favorably on Ileana and the plea that she took.
Cohen comes back with what?
Arthur Cohen came back after the second trip with a transcript of his interview
with Ileana. He came back with cassette tapes of his interview with Ileana.
Everything was notarized by a notary in Honduras, signed by Ileana. In fact,
Ileana helped find the notary. He had a powerful piece of evidence.
This was a piece of evidence that probably would have made the difference in
the Frank Fuster at that time. I believe the outcome of Frank's petition in
state court for a new trial hung on Ileana's statement.
Which would have meant he would be a free man, at this point?
Most likely. It would have meant that he would be entitled to a new trial.
Whether there would have been a new trial in this case is doubtful. The
children are all older; the methods used to produce the evidence are thoroughly
But what happened? Tell me from when you first heard.
Arthur Cohen came back with the statements from Ileana just about as we were
filing a petition in a trial court in Florida State Court. With the petition
was Ileana's description of all these things that were done to her in order to
produce accusations against Frank. The trial judge looked at this and was
impressed enough with it that he ordered that there be a hearing, at which
Ileana would testify.
Of course, Ileana was in Honduras and wasn't anxious to come back to Miami to
testify at the time. The judge first ruled that we couldn't go forward unless
Ileana was in a Miami courtroom, testifying in person. We then went back to the
judge and asked, "Can we do this by teleconferencing? Is there someway that we
can have Ileana in Honduras in a courtroom, swear her in, and let her testify
in this way in Florida?" And the judge thought about it and said, "Yes, you can
do that. I'm going to let you do that."
Within weeks, we got a letter from Ileana which I received through, I believe,
a reporter in The Miami Herald -- it wasn't even delivered to me or to Mr.
Cohen -- that had been secured by this Reverend Tommy Watson, in which Ileana
repudiated her recantation, I supposed. She didn't say in the letter that all
the things she said had happened to her in the prison didn't happen, but she
just said she wasn't going to participate with Frank.
Actually, I don't remember the full contents of the letter, but the letter was
withdrawing her cooperation. She was not going to testify from Honduras at all.
"Without her testimony," the judge said, "You have nothing worthy of my
considering," and denied our petition.
[What was] your thought at the time, when you first heard about the
Oh, it was clear that Ileana didn't write the letter. I had seen things that
Ileana had written before. I had spoken to Ileana twice. I had seen Ileana's
transcript of her interview with Mr. Cohen. And first, I just found her more
articulate than the letter. It just didn't seem conceivable to me that she
wrote this letter. Also, I had spoken to her. I knew that the things she was
telling me were true. They checked out by too many sources. ...
The frustrating part of this [was that] she was so willing, and she was so
ready to cooperate. We felt by the way the letter was delivered to us -- she
had been so trusting and forthright with us -- that she wouldn't even
communicate with us and say, "You know, I can't do this," meant that she had
been scared off, some way or other. And she literally dropped out of sight
until four or five months ago.
But for what reason?
Well, she now tells me what reason. She tells me that they frightened her, that
they told her she didn't want to get involved with us, that there were powerful
people in this country who could make her very unhappy if she cooperated in
anything having to do with the Country Walk day care case.
She tells me that in presenting her this letter to sign, Rev. Watson explained
to her that she would be free from anyone ever coming to her to try to get help
on Frank Fuster or anyone else's behalf, because by signing this letter she'd
be going back on her word in the interview with Mr. Cohen, and that would just
reduce her credibility to nothing, so nobody would even bother to look for her
But she would also lose the possibility of gaining citizenship in the United
States, of clearing her name of crimes that supposedly she had done. So why is
it an attractive thing to lose your credibility?
All these things that you just named that she gives up by signing that letter
-- what that tells you is the power that Rev. Watson had over her, and the
fear that he was able to instill in her. Because she wants this guilty plea
removed. More than anything, she does not want a conviction on her record. I
believe she wanted that at that point.
And the fact that she would give that up to turn herself into this incredible
person that no one would ever listen to again, to do that to her reputation in
addition to the guilty plea and the County Walk that follows her -- just tells
you how frightened she was at that moment. ...
Has Ileana lost her credability? We had an interview where we asked a couple
of questions at the end of it to Janet Reno about the importance of the fact
that now Ileana had come back and was having a different story to tell. And she
basically said, "Well, she's done that before." So what is the situation with
this testimony now, and is it important in any way?
It's interesting that the prosecutor decides that because the witness changed
her testimony, she's not believable. Because Ileana went for a year saying
nothing happened in that house. And objectively, we don't know what happened in
that house, but we know that unprompted, left alone, and put in miserable
conditions, Ileana continued to say nothing happened in that house until they
brought really an unbearable force upon her to make her say that something
happened in that house. ...
If the prosecutor wants to pick and choose amongst the statements, you need to
take the statements that are free of influence. And her original statement,
after she got some distance from the prison, and her statement after she had
some distance from the letter and from Tom Watson and now that she [was] free
of dependence on the church for their money and their assistance, now that
she's a woman who is trying to get on with her life, she's back to the first
thing that she said. That first statement is the believable statement. ...
Now Rev. Watson to this day maintains that the letter was written by
Ileana, that the letter was typed by Ileana, that she was the one who wanted it
to take place. What's your opinion of that?
I'm not a linguist, but I do not believe that that is Ileana's writing. That's
not how she addresses herself. I just don't believe that that was Ileana's
letter, and she tells me that it wasn't. ...
We have a problem here in talking to people. It seems that no one on the
other side wants to come forward and do an interview on camera with us. Janet
Reno has told us she does not want to talk about it, the prosecutor, Mr. Hogan,
Dr. Rappaport, the Doctors Braga -- none of them have agreed to an interview.
Why is that?
I wouldn't agree to an interview if I were them either, because every method
that they used to manufacture and produce evidence in this case has been
thoroughly discredited in time since. And what are they going to do? What are
they going to stand up and tell you is the reason that Frank Fuster is in
prison? Because of accusations from children? It's not because of accusations
from children. We know how those accusations were produced.
Ileana's corroboration testimony? We know how that was produced. The gonorrhea?
We know how that was produced. There's nothing for them to stand on legally.
And one more time, why is that the case? Why do they not want to revisit
Oh, reputations were made on this case. I think there are probably many reasons
why people don't like to admit they're wrong. ...
Was justice done?
Justice was not done in this case, by any means. And every day that this case
continues is a day that justice is not done. This is not the pursuit of justice
in this case. This was the sacking of justice in this case. This was taking
every shortcut that you could to produce evidence where there wasn't any. No
one ever went out and found evidence in this case. They created it in every
What does Ileana have to gain by doing this? Are there motivations would
perhaps push her to do this, that people will bring up in a court of law or
Ileana has to gain not having a felony conviction on her record, which is a
hard thing for anyone to have on their record, especially when they didn't
commit a felony. She has this story of Country Walk that, when people learn of
it, people who know her learn of it, she then has to explain every time. And
there's no real satisfying explanation that she can offer, as long as she still
stands convicted of these acts that Frank Fuster's conviction gives credence
to. So ridding herself of that, she has a public explanation of that. If she
wants to be a United States citizen or remain a United States citizen, that
needs to come off; the conviction needs to come off her record. That's what she
has to gain.
What she has to lose is greater in many respects. And when she called me, my
first advice was to forget about it. Why does she want to relive this? Why does
she want to be subjected to the type of examination that she may be given at
some point in a courtroom or somewhere else? Why does she want to subject
herself to the ridicule of prosecutors who will say she's totally incredible --
that she'll say whatever she needs to say to promote herself in any given
Why does she need any of this, was my first advice. Forget it. Just enjoy your
life, put it behind you, and move on. But that's not what she wanted to do. To
her, she's not free until the conviction is off the record. ...
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