A week before Christmas in 1992, Buffalo police rounded up three suspects. They handcuffed a machine operator at Rich Products on Niagara Street, a chemist working his second job at a downtown hotel, and later a federal employee living near City Hall. ¶ The three were named in an appalling crime. Two 8-year-old girls, twin daughters of the machine operator, said their father raped them on three occasions during the previous year – when they were 6 and 7 – and the other defendants joined in the assaults. ¶ The girls said they had been tied to mattresses or chairs, then violated as their mouths were sealed with duct tape. Afterward, life would go on as normal. ¶ Prosecutors could offer no scientific proof and only dubious physical evidence of rape and molestation. But they had the girls’ statements. As the suspects fought the charges and rejected plea deals, prosecutors placed the sympathetic victims in front of the jury. The verdict: guilty on all counts. ¶ The years passed, and the three convicted sex offenders refused to back down. From prison cells they filed appeal after appeal. All were long shots. But the three insisted they were innocent. ¶ As it turns out, they were.Why would anyone believe a story like this in the first place?
That’s not simply because appellate judges eventually agreed that the three had been poorly represented and deserved new trials. Nor is it because prosecutors never tried them again, nor because their indictments were sealed forever as the former inmates started new lives.
It’s because, as the twins now say, no crime occurred.
They are now 30 years old and working in Buffalo’s health care field. In legal papers, both say the allegations were never true.
The women state that when they were compliant children, the officials leaped to the wrong conclusions, and county prosecutors coached them through false testimony. Through numerous pretrial rehearsals, they were rewarded when they did well and admonished when they didn’t.
“The prosecutors would tell us what to say,” the women say in one of their affidavits. When they tried to retract the claims, either no one would listen or they were told bad things would happen, they said.
As children in an adult world, they could not stop the train rumbling toward convictions.
I have never heard of a father teaming up with two others to rape his own 7-year-old daughters. As far as I know, this never happens. Even invoking all of my worst prejudices against Nigerian immigrants, this goes against human nature, and it is bizarre that anyone would believe a story like this without physical evidence.
And yet cops, prosecutors, judge, jury, and appeals court all accepted the story. 19 years in prison. Our society really wants to believe these awful things, I guess. I think that this is the modern equivalent of Salem witch trials.