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Fells Acres Sexual Abuse Trials: 1986-87

Gerald's Trial

The trial was held at the Middlesex County Superior Court in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Because of the pretrial publicity, the jury was actually drawn from people in the Springfield area, 100 miles west of Boston. The trial proper began on April 29, by which time Amirault was charged with 10 counts of rape and 12 counts of indecent assault on a total of 13 children. Prosecutors said that six other children originally part of the case against Amirault had been withdrawn because they could not stand the prospect of testifying against him. Those who did come to the courtroom were protected by their parents from seeing him, and one child was allowed to testify via a videotape. When the children did testify, the courtroom was usually cleared of the public and the press.

The testimony that was then offered by the prosecution was indeed horrific. Several children—now some two years older than when the alleged events occurred—took the stand to recount stories of how "Tooky," as Gerald was known by the children, had taken them to a "secret room" or "magic room." There—usually made-up and costumed as a clown—he did everything from simply touching their genitalia to actually placing his penis in their genitalia, anus, or mouth. One child testified that Gerald and a never-identified "Mr. Gatt" had each inserted a butcher knife in her rectum on separate occasions.

In addition to the children who took the stand, several parents testified about their own conversations in which their children told them of these events. The prosecution also called several specialists on child psychology, pediatric medicine, and sexual abuse. Much of the prosecution's case, however, rested on the intensive interrogations of the children by Susan Kelley, the Fells Acres Day School's own pediatric nurse. In these interviews, she employed a controversial technique: using anatomically correct dolls, she persisted in trying to get the children either to point to parts of the doll or to actually demonstrate with the doll where the alleged sexual acts had occurred. But the potential fallacy of this technique was demonstrated by the prosecutor who used just such a doll to question a child on the witness stand:

Q. I'm going to take the dress off this doll and show it to you … [Prosecutor has the child name the body parts.] If I show you this doll, can you tell us or show us on the doll whether or not Tooky did anything to you?

A. [No response]

Q. Can you show us on the doll, yes or no?

A. I don't know.

Q. Was there any time that anyone in the magic room touched you? Yes or no?

A. Yes.

Q. Who touched you?

A. Tooky.

Q. And can you tell us where he touched you?

A. [No response.]

Q. And did he touch you here on the vagina?

A. Yes.

Q. And did he touch you on the legs?

A. Yes.

Q. And did he touch you on the bum?

A. Yes.

In such questioning lay what the defense would attack as the fundamental fallacy of the whole case against Gerald Amirault. From the very first time M.C. and all the subsequent children had been questioned, Amirault's lawyers contended, adults had put ideas and words in their mouths and then coaxed and pressured them until they got the answers they were seeking. It was also pointed out that experiments had shown that young children often claimed to have been touched in their private parts during doctor's visits when videos showed nothing of the sort.

The cumulative detail and consistency of the children's accounts, however, proved to be more than Amirault and his lawyers could overcome, and after 64 and one-half hours of deliberation, the jury returned with its verdict: they found Gerald Amirault guilty on 15 counts of rape and aggravated assault. On August 21, he was sentenced to 30 to 40 years in prison.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1981 to 1988Fells Acres Sexual Abuse Trials: 1986-87 - What Went On At Day Care?, Gerald's Trial, Mother And Daughter On Trial