By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
On September 11, 12, and 18, Frank Fuster's attorney interviewed Ileana under oath so he could anticipate what she would say when she testified against her husband. By judge's orders, Frank was not allowed to watch these depositions; he was forced to listen from a separate room. News organizations were barred altogether. Surviving transcripts make it clear that as she testified, Ileana broke down in tears several times, just as someone reliving real trauma might do. But Richard Ofshe, the expert in false confessions, explains that people who have had their memories contaminated through irresponsible hypnosis also can act highly emotional, even if what they are "remembering" never happened. When Ileana's depositions are read chronologically, they suggest that many of her statements were fantasies or lies cued by her jailhouse visitors.
On September 11, for instance, she talked mostly about violence Frank committed against her. She described him assaulting her in the shower and urinating on her, giving her drugs, sodomizing her with a cross, threatening to hurt her with a drill and other tools, burning and cutting her on the groin and legs. Some of Ileana's claims also involved children: she said Frank once ripped her shirt off in front of them; that he put suppositories up children's rectums; fondled and kissed a small boy and made Ileana fellate the child's penis; put his hands into a little girl's shorts; and made his own son orally copulate him.
But by September 18, Ileana was talking about more stereotypically "ritual abuse" acts against the children as well as herself. Now she said Frank hung her in the garage by both hands and hung his son by the ankles. She also said Frank rubbed feces on her legs and put snakes in both her and children's genitals.
During all these depositions, Ileana was flanked by two people: psychologist Michael Rappaport and State Attorney Janet Reno. According to Hollingsworth's Unspeakable Acts, while Ileana testified, Reno often held her hand. In a recent interview, Hollingsworth said that her source for this information was Ileana's attorney, Michael Von Zamft. Interviewed after the announcement of Reno's nomination as U.S. Attorney General, Von Zamft said he was sitting on the other side of Reno and Ileana, so he "didn't see Reno offer her hand," but Ileana "may have grabbed" it.
If Reno did hold Ileana's hand, her behavior was highly unusual, according to Raymond Parnas, a law professor at the University of California-Davis and coauthor of a series of texts on criminal justice procedures that are widely used in U.S. law schools. "I have never heard of anything like this. It sounds like something strange was going on. It indicates an unusual relationship" between Reno and Ileana "that gives at least an appearance of a conflict of interest."
Whatever else was going on during the depositions, there is little doubt that Reno witnessed signs that Ileana was being coerced. For instance, when she said she could not answer a question because she did not remember, Rappaport would often intervene. In one exchange, when asked to describe an incident of abuse, Ileana answered, "...I couldn't do it. I don't recall." Rappaport then interrupted: "...It's not that you can't recall; it's that you don't want to recall."
"Oh," Ileana answered.
"They don't understand. I understand you better than they do," Rappaport continued.
In another exchange, Ileana was asked, "What did Frank do to you that night?"
"I can't remember now," she answered, "just remember he did afterwards [sic], but I was hurt...."
"You can't remember," pressed Rappaport, "or you don't want to?"
"I don't want to remember," agreed Ileana.
"If you can remember, you have to tell them," said Rappaport.
"I don't want to. It's not there," insisted Ileana.
"You don't remember?" said Rappaport.
"Uh-uh," said Ileana.
Often, when she answered this way, Rappaport would ask for and receive "breaks" in which he and Ileana would retire for several minutes, in private. Then they would return to the proceedings and Ileana would supply an answer.
For example, Ileana was once asked to describe Frank assaulting her. She could not give any details. Rappaport requested a break so she could "put her thoughts together." On returning, Ileana remembered a "tool thing" or "crowbar" that Frank put around her vagina.
When she returned from other breaks, she claimed to have just recovered memories of Frank wanting to be diapered, forcing his son to perform fellatio, his kissing a five-year-old boy and making Ileana kiss the child's penis.
Ileana also continuously generated new testimony alleging extraordinary events. For instance: "He took me from my hands and my feet and he threw me in the shower in our bedroom and he turned the water on. I just remember today." There is also evidence suggesting that at least some of her memories were based on fantasy. One of her charges against Frank was that he had put snakes in her and the children's genitals. The testimony was developed as she was asked to elaborate about Frank's abuse. "Well, I remember a snake," she answered.
"What about a snake?" asked an attorney.
"Having bad dreams about it," she replied.
Even after her guilty plea and her testimony at Frank's trial in late September 1985, Ileana still came forth with new stories. Interestingly, Dr. Charles Mutter, the psychiatrist who examined her before psychologists Rappaport and Haber, had once concluded that she had no memory impairment or amnesia. But after reinterviewing Ileana during her pre-sentencing evaluation, he wrote, "Ileana claims that, at this point, her memory has been refreshed by repeated sessions with Drs. Rappaport and Haber." He also wrote that Ileana suffered from a "posttraumatic stress disorder" which had made her "suppress" how she "touched and put her mouth on three boys' penises (but only because Frank pushed her shoulder). Frank took a gun and placed it on Ileana's vagina and fired it. Frank poured acid on her blouse in the shower -- it made smoke."