Because I had time to do my schoolwork while I was babysitting. I was there at
church anyways for other activities, and my dad sang in the church choir. And
there were a lot of activities that I did before his choir. And we only had
one car, so my parents would drop me off early, and then my dad would come to
chorus to rehearsal, and I stayed afterwards to help out with the babysitting
of the choir people's kids.|
Did they pay you?
How much? Do you remember?
I think it was like $2 an hour. It wasn't anything, but it gave me time to do
the things I needed to do. Plus earn a bit of money on top of that....
And you had a sense that the people of the church, the grownups trusted
Yeah. I felt that strongly. A lot of people liked me. I didn't have any
problems with anybody....
You began in that spring and the summer those years ago to discern that
something was wrong, though. When did you first get a sense that there might
be something upsetting, something troubling going on at the church?
Well, my mom talked to Reverend Rose, who was a senior pastor, I think, at the
time, and after they had their talk, she called me at my best friend's house at
that time, and she told me to come home. She needed to talk to me, and she sat
me down, and she told me basically what they were saying is that I was playing
too rough with them. That I should stop that. I didn't think anything of it.
About two months later, that's when she told me that there were "more things
When your mother said these things to you, did she seem upset, concerned,
I think it was a mixed bag of emotions. Because when--after the two month
period--when she told me everything that was going on, my reaction--I couldn't
believe it. Still to this day, I remember I was sitting on the love chair, and
she told me, and I just started crying, and I was--I didn't know why would they
blame me for something like that.
What did she say? Something like what?
I can't remember exactly.
But in essence what she said was that some children were saying you were
hurting them or doing some harmful thing to them?
Right. Yeah. It was basically something like that.
Do you recollect your mom telling you that she had received a letter from
the church, saying that "Bobby is not welcome back here on this
That was in August sometime. And it still really bothers me to this day.
Because it was basically my second home.
You must have thought "What could they be thinking? Why would they suppose
I could do these things?"
For the first four or five months that I was incarcerated, I really didn't know
the seriousness of the charges that were against me. I didn't know what
exactly they were charging me with. I didn't really find out until the last
eight months of my incarceration.
...From your just then 14-year-old eyes, your family gets this letter that
says, "Bobby is not welcome at the church." Your family decides "Well if he's
not welcome, we're not welcome." So you all stop going to the church?
Yeah. We stopped going to that particular church. And we started visiting
And meanwhile that had also been your job, so what did you do for
Nothing. I was just staying home.
Did you ever look for another job of any sort?
That summer I did, and I found a job at Burger King....
So one August morning, you have a job. You get up, as I suppose as was your
routine, you're getting ready to go to work. You're getting your Burger King
uniform out, tell me what happens?
All of a sudden, the door knocks. My parents go open it. I was in the
bathroom, brushing my teeth. My mom comes into the room, she says, "There's
people that want to talk to you." And at that time I had no knowledge that
they were police or anything. I don't recall specifically if my mom told me
that they were or not. I walked into the living room, and there were two or
three police officers sitting on the couch. And I can't remember exactly what
happened, but they put me in the car. I was alone with two of the detectives.
And that's when you could say everything started....
[Policemen] were here, knocking on your door, wanting to see you. One of
them was named Mark Martinez. Detective Martinez asked to see you, "Bobby,
come with me."
And you said what?
I didn't really say anything. I mean for me he was a cop. He was someone that
I had to respect and someone that I had to trust. And I just went with him
into the car....
You get in the car, and he opens the door, and you get in, and he gets in
Turns around and talks to you then?
Yeah. He started talking, and I'm not too sure exactly what he said. But the
one thing that I do remember that he said, and it's pretty much in quotes is
that he said, "Before I knew you, I knew that you were guilty, but now that I
see you, I definitely know you're guilty." And I had no idea what was going on,
the scope of what was going on. What that meant. I just started hysterically
crying. I didn't know what was going on....
Did they question you on the way to the police station?
Did you expect you'd be back home that day?
I thought I was going to go to work actually. I thought they were just going
to question me for an hour or so, and then I was going to go off and go to
And be back in your bed at night? When did you next see that home?
May 5th, 1991.
Very nearly two years later?
A year, eight months and three weeks and a day....
Oh, terrified. I was brought up to respect police, that they were a figure
above me, that I wasn't above them. That they are basically always in the
right, like seeing movies on TV, you always see that the cops are always right.
They always get the right person. And I just told them, "No. You got the
wrong one." And he just kept on asking me. He kept on asking me....
You are a diabetic.... At the time you were in the process of
self-medication. In that period you were giving yourself insulin shots.... Had
you had a shot that morning?
How long did this interrogation process go on?
It went from 11:00 til about 8:00 o'clock at night.
And, as a diabetic, do you have any special dietary requirements?
I'm supposed to eat five times a day; breakfast, a snack, lunch, snack, dinner,
and sometimes before I go to bed another snack.... I did that every day
Had you eaten that day?
Yeah. I ate breakfast.
Did you eat lunch?
I had two bites of a peanut butter sandwich.
Did you have your snacks?
So you're in there with Martinez. How long did that go on?
For me, it seemed like it lasted three years for me.... Still to this day I
can't remember being some place seeming so long, as that one day did.
What did he want from you?
He basically wanted me to say something [in compliance with] what he said.
It was in that session, Bobby, that you gave a statement that Detective
Martinez wanted to hear that you in his term confessed. What did you tell
At that time I told him--he asked me, "What could I do for you?" I'm like, "I
want to get out of here. I want to get out of this room. I don't want to be
in here." And he's like, "Just tell me something, and you could leave." And I
basically told him--I gave him a statement, and right after I gave him the
statement, I said, "I want to get out of here. I want to leave. I want to see
my mom. I want to see my dad."
What did your statement say?
That my finger accidentally slipped in, when I was wiping a girl on the
Why did you say that?
I want to get out of that room. My whole goal was just to get out of the room.
My emotions were all mixed up. Martinez was a scary figure to me at that
time. And I just didn't want to be around him. I didn't want to talk to him.
I wanted to be out. I just wanted to leave.
Did you ever say to him "Yes. I did. I did it. I did everything. I did
everything you say I did."
Why did you say that?
Because I wanted to leave the room. I told him right afterwards "I want to go.
I want to leave...."
After you gave him the statement, after you said, "Yes. I did everything.
Can I leave?" What did he say?
He was like, "No." I believe he said, "No. You're going to jail...."
Do you feel in any of this, Bobby, at all guilty?... Do you feel that maybe
I did something that I shouldn't have, and now I've been caught out at
Not at that time. Afterwards I was more in myself; I was thinking, "Did I
accidentally really do something like that?" And... really my self-esteem
really got shot down. Because I was always thinking to myself, "Did I do
something--could I do something like that? Could I have accidentally done
something like that?" And, to this day, I know for sure I haven't....
Detective Martinez was asking you these things because the authorities had
been told that these things happened.... These little girls had in fact made
these and other complaints, where do you think that came from?
To this day I still have no idea.
You know that one, two, more of these little girls perhaps were frightened
of you? Why do you think?
I was--well, you could say, a roughhouse babysitter.... Kids jumped on me,
wrestled with me. I'd wrestle back with them, spin them around with holding
their arms. I was basically to their eyes, I imagine, a rough individual.
When you first heard that there might be some unease with your babysitting
style is that what you thought?... Bobby is a little too rough?
Yeah. That was the first "allegation" that was made.
You give Martinez what he wants, thinking that maybe now you can go home.
You're told you're not going home. What happened next? Where did you go, if
not to work, if not home?
[Eventually] I went to Dade Juvenile Detention Center.... I think I was held
[at the police station] for a while. I was taken into a car, and then I was
taken to another police station to get fingerprinted, photos taken....
Did you yet at this point know that you were under arrest?
No. Not really. I was a 14-year-old kid. I don't know what the arrest really
meant. I mean I understand if I went out and threw a stone or a rock through a
car windshield, I could get arrested. But I had no knowledge of what I was
being charged with....
So what happened that night?
That night I was taken up to the first unit you could say of the detention
center, which is the processing unit, where they determine where you go into
your resident unit. That night [I] spent there. I had to go to the nurse's
station to take care of my insulin requirements and all that. And that's
basically what I remember....
What was the place like? Was it quiet? Silent? Noisy?
It was pretty quiet.
Did you see any of the other guys that were there...? What kind of people
Kids to me. They were basic kids. I didn't think anything different about any
other person. To me, it seemed like somewhat of a day camp or, you know, like
Do you remember going to sleep that night at the detention center?
I didn't go to sleep.
Did you get in bed?
Yeah.... It was basically a cement slab with a plastic mattress with a sheet
over it. You had to put all of your clothes outside, shoes outside....
Was it a wooden door?
A metal door.
Locked? So you were incarcerated? You were in jail. The next morning
comes, is it at that point that your situation begins to become clear to you or
is it more confusion?
Still more confusion....
How long did it take before you realized that this was not a short term
hour-to-hour, minute-to-minute, day-to-day thing? That you were in jail, and
were going to stay there until a jury decided you were guilty or not
I would say two months into it.
How did it dawn on you?
Basically, because of my attorney. He really sat me down and explained to me
the severity of the charges. What they meant....
In a way you grew up in jail.... You went in a boy, and came out a man.
What did you miss out on during that time?
I really wouldn't know....
...Along the way you had an out, on more than one occasion
you were offered a chance to bargain. Did you?
I didn't until my parents pretty much sat me down, and told me the consequences
of me going to jail.
There came a moment when you all basically offered the state
prosecutors a compromise.... What that compromise deal essentially was, as I
understand it, is that you were I guess nearing 16, that you would go to some
therapy center, psychiatric center, until you turned 18, at which point you
would be released, but no time in hard jail?
Your mother encouraged you to make that deal. Why?
Because she was basically told if I was to go to jail, that I would be raped.
I would be pretty much killed....
Do you remember Dr. Stephen Ceci? He came into your case eventually, but
before there was a jury verdict, he got involved as an intermediary in the plea
bargaining session. And Stephen Ceci suggested to you, "Bobby, take this
deal." Why did he say that?
Because he also knew the dangers [to] me if I did get convicted of even one
charge of the consequences that could happen to me.
Your lawyer, Mel Black, he made it clear that even he thought that you
should accept that deal. Same reason?
What did you decide?
Basically, I told them I want to be out. I want to go to university when I'm
18-years-old. I want to be free. I want to continue with my education,
because for a year and a half, I didn't get any schooling....
So you were willing to do some things, but what were you not willing to have
For me to stay after my 18th birthday.
Is that what the state wanted?
They wanted to have their own time, where they could decide when I leave.
Which basically could have meant that I could have been 99, and they would have
been like, "Okay. You can leave now."
Your father recalls that moment when the state presents its deal to you,
with a possibility, although certainly no hard promise, of being freed when you
were 18, and he says it was the first time he recollects you were just breaking
down in tears, and saying, "No."
That was one of the hardest decisions I had to make. Because basically it
meant life or death to me. And when they were telling me, "No. We don't know
what time you would get out. We don't know what will happen to you
afterwards." I told them "No. I don't want it." Because during this whole
time I was praying a lot. I was doing a lot of self-evaluation, and my answer
came in that form.... I basically prayed to God, and said, "If you want me to
take this plea, let them accept it the way I presented it." And the moment
they came back, and said, "No. We can't do this. We have to do it in our
way." I knew right away then that I'm not going to take it.
So when you made that decision now, "I'm not going to accept this. I'm
going to take my chances," that put your fate in the hands of a jury. A jury
that was going to be told in the most convincing way that was within their
powers by the prosecutors that you had done these things. Looking back, what
was your sense during the trial?
During the trial, I had the sense of there's nothing really working for me. It
seemed like everything was working against me. The judge, the prosecutor, I
mean we had something like 440 motions for a mistrial, and they were all
[During the trial] you're hearing this testimony. What kind of testimony
was it? What were they saying about you?
Basically, that I was a Superman. That I flew in and out of the windows,
touched them and flew out.... And I was thinking people that work for the State
of Florida, prosecutors are believing that this could actually happen, that I
could fly, that I could do something like this?
Well, their answer would be of course not, but these were children. And
that's part of the way they communicate.
Did you feel angry at all at the children for saying these things?
I wouldn't really say the children. I was angry, but I don't think I knew who
to be angry at. You can't blame a little kid for saying something that they
heard before, or that someone keeps on feeding to them. I really didn't know
who to be angry at....
Was [it] a fair trial, Bobby?
No. Still to this day, I don't understand why or how this trial could have
gone all the way. And like I said there was 440 mistrials asked for by my
attorney. And not one of them was taken seriously. Every one of them was
like, "No. Declined." I just didn't understand, because there were times when
the prosecution would say something that we were not allowed to say, and they
would get away with it. And it seemed like everything that the prosecution did
was all right, but anything that we would do they would reprimand us for. Mr.
Black once got a $10,000 contempt of court fine, because he said something that
"shouldn't have been said."
...You took the stand in your own defense, which is always a difficult call
for a defense attorney. Why did you all decide that?
Basically I wanted to tell my story. I wanted to make it clear to the jury
what really happened.... I basically told them what I told you... that
[Martinez] was pretty much against me from the beginning. And that I
wouldn't--I couldn't even think about doing something like that.
You felt better after you left the stand.
Yeah. I felt like 3,000 tons of pressure were taken off my shoulders.
And the trial proceeds and reaches its conclusion, and the state stands up,
and makes its case against you before the jury. And Mel Black, your attorney,
stands up, and makes his case, and you're taken away, and the jury is sent off.
What was your feeling then?
I felt good, but I always had a small amount of doubt, because of everything
that was working against me....
How long was the jury out?
A little under five hours I believe.
So five hours at the end of the day... the trial ends on a Friday, as I
recollect.... So [you] spend the night, and then the jury begins deliberations
again the next morning, Saturday morning. Where did you spend that
Dade Juvenile Detention Center.... that also caused a controversy that night...
because when I walked into the detention center, all of a sudden I was placed
on the suicidal unit... They thought that because it's coming close to the end
of the trial, that I would as an escape kill myself.
Were you in any way contemplating suicide?
Never thought about it. Well, I did, but not at that time....
[So in the morning] they come pick you up... to take you back to, I guess,
the waiting room to await a verdict.... When did you hear that the jury had a
reached a decision, after a couple of hours?
Yeah. They were a couple of hours. Mr. Black came in, and he looked at me,
and he's like, "The time has come." And I looked at him, and I'm like "What
are you talking about?" He's like, "The verdict is in...."
Your feeling then?
Yeah. I was nervous. I just wanted for them to read the verdict.
So Mr. Black tells you that the verdict is in. The time has come. He's
feeling pretty optimistic.
Yeah. He goes back outside. He comes back 10, 15 minutes later, and he tells
me, "Oh, we have to wait until Janet Reno comes."
Janet Reno, the State Attorney, wanted to be in the courtroom [for the
reading of the verdict]...? How long did you wait?
Two and a half hours.
So the verdict is in, the decision by the jury that will mean your life.
And you're told to wait. How did that make you feel?
Confused, angry. I was pretty bitter. I was young. I didn't know who Janet
Reno was. I didn't really care who she was. This was my life. I wanted to
know what's going on. I want to know what my life is going to be.
When you finally go into the courtroom and see Janet Reno, and you look over
at her, what did you think?
I looked at her. I didn't really have an opinion about her. She's not the
most attractive lady in the world. I really didn't know who she was. Who she
stood for. I knew she was for the state, but I didn't know what level she was
You would come to know, of course, a couple of years later, as you were
reaching adulthood, out of the country, she would become Attorney General of
the United States. She would be introduced to the country as a famous child
advocate prosecutor from Miami. How do you feel about her then?
I really don't understand how they could say that about her. Because I was a
child. She didn't come and ask me what--"How could we work this out? What
could we do?" She didn't care. She wanted to try me as an adult. I was
14-years-old; I still had my whole life ahead of me.
[So...] the jury is finally brought in, Janet Reno is in place, you're in
place. The judge gavels the court to attention. The foreman stands. What
My heart was trying to jump out of my chest. I really didn't know what the
verdict was going to be. All my muscles in my body were pretty much tense. I
saw on the video of the verdict, you see my cheekbones just completely tense up
when the first verdict was read. And after that, it was just alleviation. So
much was just taken off of me.
Not guilty. So you had your life back?
Not really.... There was still a big part of my life missing. My second
--was taken away from me. I mean we received a letter, saying that we were
welcomed back, but I can't see myself going back, just because of the people
that went there.
Why did this happen to you?
I try to answer that question every day. I have no idea. I wish I did.
Of course, you did not just return to a normal life, the life that you had
left that morning in your Burger King uniform, thinking you'd be back that
evening. You didn't return to school. You didn't return home for very long.
You and your family picked up and left and returned to your folks' native
country, Holland. Why that move? Why did you leave America?
Because we basically felt we weren't welcomed anymore. We were getting death
threats on the phone, on the answering machine. People weren't kind. They
were just really in like a destructive sort of attitude towards us....
...Your family left this place, you went on and finished school, just as you
said you would. You did well enough to enter college. Why did you come back
here? Why did you come back to America, to Florida?
Because I could not--I speak Dutch fluently, but my writing ability and my
speaking ability--I could speak it with someone but if it comes to proper I
can't do that. I can pretty much speak to you in Dutch.
But you wanted to get your education here in America?
You believe you can make it here?
In spite of everything?
But it's a lot harder than I thought.
That morning when the verdict comes in, did Janet Reno come over to you, and
give you any gesture.... She didn't.... say "I'm sorry?"
Never got an apology.
Would she look [at you]?
To this day have you--
Never received a word from her....
Have you ever heard from the families of the alleged victims?
Do you think that there was any purpose in all of this?
I seriously wonder about--I have a lot of things that run through my mind
constantly about why this has happened to me. Why has it happened to my family?
But I still don't have the concrete answer....
If the Attorney General of the United States, Janet Reno...
were to come into this room right now, what would you have to say to
her...? What would you ask her?
Why? That would be my one question. Why? Why did you spend so much money
trying to convict a 14-year-old kid? Why even try to place a kid that's 14 in
a maximum security prison? Why would you even think of doing something like
that? If you're a crusader for children?