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AN INTERVIEW WITH PRODUCER MICHAEL KIRK

Award-winning producer and documentary filmmaker Michael Kirk has produced more than one hundred national television programs. His 1998 film "The Child Terror" re-examined the Florida prosecutions of accused child molesters Grant Snowden and Bobby Fijnje by the office of then-chief prosecutor Janet Reno, who pioneered a national effort to bring child molesters to justice.

Kirk's other FRONTLINE credits include two post-Sept. 11th reports, "Target America" and "Gunning for Saddam;" the 2002 report "American Porn;" the 2000 film "The Killer at Thurston High" which won Outstanding Social and Political Documentary at the Banff Television Festival; the Peabody Award-winning "Waco -- The Inside Story," (1995); and two Emmy Award-winning reports--"The Kevorkian File" (1994) and "The Navy Blues," (1996) an investigation into the clash between the warrior culture and political correctness in the post-Tailhook Navy.

How did this story come to your attention?

Several years ago we began researching a program about the panic that surrounded allegations of what is known as "multiple victim child abuse." Many of these cases were alleged to have happened in day care centers. We came to the conclusion that Miami was a kind of "ground zero" for these cases so we began investigating stories there. We discovered the Frank Fuster case, known as "Country Walk" and the role played by State Attorney Janet Reno, Joseph and Laurie Braga, and the local media. The more we looked at the details of this story, the more we became convinced that it and two others (Snowden and Fijnje) provided the story trajectory we're always after.

How does Frank Fuster's case compare to the cases of Grant Snowden and Bobby Finje?

The Fuster case was the first that employed what we call the "Miami Method." The prosecutors had learned that they would need multiple witnesses, speaking in unison about the details of an allegation of abuse. They devised, with the help of Joseph and Laurie Braga, a method of extracting information from the children and videotaping that testimony. A state law was changed to allow the children to testify from the judge's chambers. The method also required physical evidence, and in the Fuster case that was the allegation that Fuster's son Noel had gonorrhea of the throat. Finally, the method called for an adult eyewitness. In this case that was the testimony of Fuster's wife Ileana.

On the heels of the Fuster case, the method was applied to the successful retrial of police officer Grant Snowden. Snowden had been charged once before with child molestation but acquitted when a jury seemed not to believe the young girl who made the allegation. The so-called "Miami Method" actually grew, in large measure, out of the lessons prosecutors learned from the first Snowden case.

The Fijnje case grew out of allegations by members of a church that believed 14-year-old Bobby, one of the church babysitters, was molesting their children while they worshipped in an upstairs sanctuary. The "Miami Method" was again employed -- and by now the media in Miami were having a field day with the stories of ritual sexual abuse. (There were charges of satanic rituals and other outrageous reports.) The prosecutors charged 14-year-old Bobby as an adult and he was held in a juvenile detention center for two years before his trial began. Fijnje's lawyers attacked the experts who elicited the testimony from the children at the church. When the jury found Bobby Fijnje not guilty, the child abuse fever in Miami seemed to break.

So these three cases represent the trajectory of the "multiple victim child abuse" story. The fact that Grant Snowden was released by an appeals court and that Bobby Fijnje was acquitted means that of the three stories Frank Fuster's has yet to be revisited -- which is why we have chosen to emphasize his story in our broadcast.

At this point, since the children's testimony and the gonorrhea evidence has been largely discredited, Frank Fuster's case hinges on Ileana's testimony -- but she has changed her story several times now. What do you think are her motivations and how credible did you find her to be?

Ileana's recantation to FRONTLINE of the recantation of her recantation should certainly be enough to make any of us skeptical of her testimony, and we are. On the other hand, much of what Ileana was telling people at the time of her incarceration was the story she has told FRONTLINE. It was only after months in jail, the activities of the group known as the "Behavior Changers," and the actions of the prosecutors and her own attorney that Ileana admitted guilt and testified against Frank Fuster. Obviously, there are enough elements of her story that might provide an explanation for her testimony that we felt justified in reporting her latest version so that viewers could have the necessary information to form a fuller opinion about this case.

As to Ileana's motivation -- she clearly says that she's talking to us with the hope of clearing her name by getting the guilty verdict in this case overturned.

You spoke to the Fusters, their lawyers, and the judge in Fuster's trial. Aside from the parents of the victims, no one from the other side would speak to you. The lead prosecutor on the case, Ileana's original defense attorney, the "behavior changers," the Bragas, Janet Reno -- all declined your requests for interviews. Why do you think this is?

This case is 17 years old. The actions of the people you mentioned resulted in a guilty plea by Ileana and a guilty verdict of Frank Fuster. FRONTLINE feels obligated to examine the methods of gathering evidence in this case, and publicly examine the actions of all of these individuals. The participants you mentioned obviously don't feel the same obligation.

During the 1980s there was a rash of prosecutions for child sexual abuse in day care centers. In the 1990s, the pendulum seems to have swung in the opposite direction, with many convictions overturned. Was it all a case of massive panic or hysteria, as the conventional wisdom now has it? Many parents continue to maintain that their children were victimized. What is the legacy of these trials?

Whether the children in these cases were actually abused may never be known. What is certain is that the process has certainly harmed everyone involved and continues to be a point of angry contention by participants on all sides.

What do you think the final outcome of this case will be?

Frank Fuster's attorneys tell FRONTLINE that appeals in his case have faced serious uphill obstacles all along the way. Whether the broadcast of "Did Daddy Do It?" will change that is very much an open question.

What's Ileana's next move? Is she willing to testify for Frank? What are the consequences if she does or does not?

Ileana faces serious charges from the Immigration and Naturalization Service. She is also subject to perjury charges if she changes her testimony in court. She believes her best hope for the future is for Frank to be exonerated, the conviction overturned, the record of the conviction erased.

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