Who's Abusing Who?

Convicted eight years ago in the infamous Country Walk molestation case, Frank Fuster still maintains his innocence. Maybe now a judge will listen.

"When I read the statements Ileana gave I said, 'That's not Ileana,'" maintains Dinerstein, who was forbidden to visit the girl after Rappaport's sessions began. "She was such a detailed person. And those statements are so confused. It's obvious she was just saying things to save herself." Ileana Fuster's relatives say Dinerstein is right -- that Ileana has since told them she gave her testimony only to avoid further punishment.

4)The child interviews conducted by the Bragas should be ruled inadmissable. The majority of Fuster's motion is, in fact, a detailed analysis of the Braga interviews compiled by Robert Rosenthal, the same New York lawyer who helped overturn A on similar grounds A the conviction of Margaret Kelly Michaels, who was convicted in 1988 on 115 counts of child sex abuse at a New Jersey day-care center.

Rosenthal insists the Bragas' videotaped sessions "encompassed all the tactics which have been found to corrupt children's memories and recall abilities." He cites a spate of recent academic studies that condemn the use of leading questions, anatomical dolls, reward bribes, and other methods routinely employed by the Bragas. (Joseph and Laurie Braga did not return phone calls from New Times requesting comment.)

While the motion includes numerous excerpts of the Bragas in action, it does not cite the single most extreme instance, in which Joseph Braga explains to Fuster's six-year-old son that he must have been abused by his father, because he has gonorrhea. When the child denies having any memory of abuse, Joseph Braga tells him he is lying. Last November that same child, now sixteen, gave a deposition in which he again denied that his father had abused him, or any other children.

Trial judge Robert Newman, who will review the motion, has several options. He can summarily deny the motion. He can ask the Dade State Attorney's Office to respond with its own brief. And should he deem it necessary, he can order an evidentiary hearing to review Fuster's claims. If Newman finds the evidence convincing, he could vacate Fuster's previous judgment and sentence, and order a new trial.

Should Newman deny the motion, Rosenthal and Cohen insist they will keep appealing to a higher court, until they are allowed to present their new evidence before a judge. "My client got railroaded on these charges," says Cohen, a former public defender now practicing in Fort Lauderdale. "If this case had been tried today, he would have been acquitted. But eight years ago it just turned into a feeding frenzy. Frank was convicted before he ever walked into the courtroom."

Fuster himself, who won't be eligible for parole during his lifetime, remains hopeful this latest motion will allow him another chance to prove his innocence. He says he is in good health, except for the steel pen tip lodged in his neck, which doctors have given up trying to remove.

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