Why We’re Here
In the name of child protection justice, community safety—and children themselves—are being gravely harmed.
In the name of child protection justice, community safety—and children themselves—are being gravely harmed.
Innocent Americans are wrongfully accused and imprisoned for sex crimes against children. Parents and guardians of children who die in accidents or fires are charged with homicide. In these cases, coerced testimony and junk forensic science sway judges, juries, and reporters, whose common sense is eclipsed by the mere suggestion of “harm to minors.”
Laws criminalizing consensual teen sex, minor sexual infractions, and a growing body of images labeled pornographic impose serious punishment on adults and minors who have done little or no harm.
Harsh post-incarceration restrictions prevent former sex offenders from reclaiming productive, law-abiding lives through work, family, education, worship, or civic engagement.
To address these problems, the National Center for Reason and Justice was incorporated in April, 2002.
Here are our Boards of Directors and Advisors.
President: Michael Snedeker, Esq., is an attorney who has successfully overturned numerous wrongful sex abuse convictions, and obtained money damages for several of his clients. He is co-author of the California State Prisoners Handbook, a novel, Down in the Valley, and is co-author, with Debbie Nathan, of Satan’s Silence: Ritual Abuse and the Making of a Modern American Witch Hunt. He now works primarily on postconviction challenges to death sentences in California and Oregon, and provides assistance to Mexican nationals facing the death penalty in the United States via the Mexican Capital Legal Assistance Program.
Clerk-Treasurer: Francis X. Kane is a retired accountant who spent over 30 years doing financial management and internal auditing for GTE Sylvania. He became involved in false accusation issues in 1991, when an adult daughter was pressured by a therapist into “recovering” memories of being sexually abused as a baby. The daughter left therapy and got better, retracting her accusation, and making media appearances with her father. Mr. Kane did volunteer work for the False Memory Syndrome Foundation , and is currently their Massachusetts contact person. For years he has provided personal support for the falsely accused and their families — both in Massachusetts (the Amiraults, the Souzas, Bernard Baran, Robert Halsey, Bruce Clairmont) and elsewhere (Rocco Ellis, Bruce Perkins, the Kellers, Frank Fuster, Paul Ingram, the Wenatchee defendants, etc.).
Business Agent: Hugo S. Cunningham, formerly a military intelligence analyst and software developer, currently maintains web sites on Soviet history http://www.cyberussr.com/rus/ and false accusations at http://www.cyberussr.com/hcunn/witch/. Mr. Cunningham is a long time supporter of the Amirault family and of Bernard Baran.
Dr. Emily Horowitz received her Ph.D. in Sociology from Yale University in 2002. She has published articles and presented academic papers on the subjects of domestic violence, sex offender hysteria, false confessions and wrongful convictions. She teaches a course on wrongful convictions at St. Francis College (Brooklyn, NY, USA), where she is a faculty member in the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice. She received the 2007 Alfred R. Lindesmith Award from the Society for the Study of Social Problems for her paper, “Civil Confinement and Lifetime Registration for Sex Offenders: Why No Debate?”, and her research paper, “Growing Media and Legislative Attention to Sex Offenders: More Safety or More Injustice?” appears in The Journal of the Institute of Justice and International Studies 7 (2007).
Judith Levine is an author and journalist whose work explores the ways in which history, politics, culture, and the economy are felt and enacted in everyday life. She has written hundreds of articles and four books, including, most recently, Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping and Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children from Sex, which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and was named one of history’s 100 most important books about sexuality. Levine’s column, “Poli Psy,” about emotions in politics, appears in the Vermont weekly Seven Days. Besides her work with NCRJ, she is a longtime activist for sexual freedom, women’s rights, and peace. Judith lives in Brooklyn, NY, and Hardwick, Vermont.
Debbie Nathan is a journalist who received the Free Press Association’s H.L. Mencken award for her reporting of the daycare hysteria in The Village Voice and elsewhere. Nathan was the first journalist of national stature to write critically about the daycare cases. She is co-author, with Mike Snedeker, of Satan’s Silence: Ritual Abuse and the Making of a Modern American Witch Hunt, and author of Sybil Exposed: The Extraordinary Story Behind the Famous Multiple-Personality Case. .
Mary Sue Molnar is currently the Executive Director of Texas Voices for Reason and Justice. Texas Voices is a statewide, non-profit organization devoted to promoting a more balanced, effective, and rational criminal justice system. TVRJ advocates for common sense, research based laws and policies through education, legislation, litigation, and support for people required to register for sex related offenses as well as for members of their families.
Mark Pendergrast is an independent scholar and writer. He is the author of Victims of Memory: Sex Abuse Accusations and Shattered Lives; For God, Country and Coca-Cola: The Definitive History of the Great American Soft Drink and the Company That Makes It; Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed the World ; Mirror Mirror: A History of the Human Love Affair With Reflection; Inside the Outbreaks: The Elite Medical Detectives of the Epidemic Intelligence Service; and Japan’s Tipping Point: Crucial Choices in the Post-Fukushima World. Victims of Memory is an in-depth account of the devastation caused by false memories of sexual abuse and recovered-memory therapy. It also covers the day care hysteria cases. Scientific American called Victims of Memory “an impressive display of scholarship [which] demonstrates a laudable ability to lay out all sides of the argument.”
Donald S. Connery is a Harvard-educated author and independent journalist who worked around the world for such leading news organizations as Armed Forces Radio Service, United Press and, principally, Time & Life magazines. After years of foreign correspondence from New Delhi, Tokyo, Moscow and London, he returned with his family to the U.S. in 1968. Connecticut’s landmark Peter Reilly wrong-man case in 1973-77 shifted his focus from international affairs to miscarriages of justice. He has since investigated and reported a series of false-confession cases from Alabama and Virginia to Connecticut and and Illinois, where he has served on the advisory board of the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern Law School. He is the author of The Scandinavians, The Irish, One American Town, Guilty Until Proven Innocent, The Inner Source, Convicting the Innocent, and Escape from Oblivion. A work in progress tells of Michael Pardue, Alabama’s longest-serving exonerated man, imprisoned 28 years on false confessions to three murders.
The late Dr. Robyn Dawes was the Charles J. Queenan, Jr. University Professor of Psychology in the Department of Social and Decision Sciences at Carnegie Mellon University and a widely recognized researcher on psychological evaluation and decision making. He is the author of Rational Choice in an Uncertain World, House of Cards: Psychology and Psychotherapy Based on Myth, and Everyday Irrationality: How Pseudo-Scientists, Lunatics, and the Rest of Us Systematically Fail to Think Rationally. In 1990, Dr. Dawes won the William James book award for Rational Choice from the American Psychological Association. Dr. Dawes died on December 14, 2010.
Dr. Evan Harrington is a social psychologist specializing in the area of psychology and the law. He has taught at New York University and John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City and is currently an associate professor at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. Dr. Harrington is the chair of the Institutional Review Board (IRB) at his college, and is a member of the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority IRB committee. While a graduate student at Temple University Dr. Harrington became interested in the debate over recovered and false memories of child abuse. He conducted extensive research at the False Memory Syndrome Foundation in Philadelphia, which he presented at the 1995 NATO Advanced Studies Institute international conference on traumatic memories. Dr. Harrington supervises doctoral student research, teaches mental health law and statistics, and his own research explores issues related to the ideology of Supreme Court justices, research ethics, and accusations of child abuse.
Richard A. Leo, PhD, JD, is a visiting professor at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law (2013-2014), professor and Dean’s Circle Research Scholar at the University San Francisco School of Law, and a Fellow in the Institute for Legal Research at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law. He was previously a tenured professor of psychology and criminology at U.C. Irvine (1997-2006), and a professor of sociology and adjunct professor of law at the University of Colorado, Boulder (1994-1997).
Professor Leo is internationally recognized for his pioneering empirical research on police interrogation practices, the impact of Miranda, psychological coercion, false confessions, and wrongful convictions. He has authored more 80 articles in leading legal and social science journals as well as several books, including the multiple award-winning Police Interrogation and American Justice (Harvard University Press, 2008); The Wrong Guys: Murder, False Confessions and the Norfolk Four (The New Press, 2008) with Tom Wells; and, most recently, Confessions of Guilt: From Torture to Miranda and Beyond (Oxford University Press, 2012) with George C. Thomas III. He is currently working on a book that is tentatively entitled, The Innocence Revolution: A Popular History of the American Discovery of the Wrongly Convicted.
Professor Leo has won numerous individual and career achievement awards for research excellence and distinction. These include the William J. Chambliss Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society for the Study of Social Problems, the Saleem Shah Career Achievement Award from the American Psychological Association, the Paul Tappan Award from the Western Society of Criminology and the Ruth Shonle Cavan Young Scholar Award from the American Society of Criminology. Among his many book awards is the Herbert Jacob Book Prize from the Law and Society Association. Professor Leo has also received awards from the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, the American Psychology-Law Society, the American Academy of Forensic Psychology, the American Sociological Association, and the Pacific Sociological Association. Professor Leo has been the recipient of Soros and Guggenheim fellowships, as well as a Fellowship from the Center for the Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. In 2011 he was elected to the American Law Institute. According to the University of Chicago Leiter rankings, Professor Leo is one of the most cited criminal law and procedure professors in the United States. His publications have been translated into Chinese, Japanese and Korean.
Professor Leo has been featured and/or quoted in hundreds of stories in the national print and electronic media, and his research has been cited by numerous appellate courts, including the United States Supreme Court on multiple occasions. He is regularly invited to lecture and present training sessions to lawyers, judges, police, forensic psychologists and other criminal justice professionals. Professor Leo is also often called to advise and assist practicing attorneys and has served as a litigation consultant and/or expert witness in numerous criminal and civil cases, including the cases of Michael Crowe, Earl Washington, Kerry Max Cook, Medell Banks, the Beatrice Six, Jessie Misskelley, Jr. of the West Memphis 3, and two of the Central Park jogger defendants. The extensive work Professor Leo did to help free four innocent prisoners in Virginia (known as the “Norfolk 4”) was the subject of a story in The New Yorker magazine in 2009 and a PBS Frontline documentary in 2010. Dr. Leo has also worked on behalf of numerous lesser-known victims of coercive interrogation and false confession in cases that never received any media attention.
Dr. Elizabeth Loftus is a Distinguished Professor at the University of California – Irvine. She holds appointments in the Departments of Criminology, Law & Society and in the Department of Psychology and Social Behavior. She is also Professor of Law. Dr. Loftus is an internationally acknowledged expert in memory and eyewitness testimony. She is the author or co-author of several books — including Eyewitness Testimony, Memory, Cognitive Processes, Witness for the Defense, and The Myth of Repressed Memory . She has published hundreds of articles and chapters. She has received honorary degrees from Miami University (Ohio); the John Jay College of Criminal Justice; and universities in the Netherlands, England, Israel, and Norway. In 2001, she received the William James Fellow Award from the American Psychological Society. Dr. Loftus was listed as one of the Review of General Psychology‘s 100 most eminent psychologists of the 20th century. Dr. Loftus was the highest ranked woman in the list. Dr. Loftus has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Science, and the American Philosophical Society.
Dr. Susan P. Robbins is an associate professor at the University of Houston Graduate School of Social Work. She holds licenses as a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) and licensed chemical dependency counselor (LCDC) in Texas and a Diplomate in Forensic Social Work from the American Board of Forensic Social Workers. From 1995-2009, working on a contract basis with the Texas Protective Services Training Institute, she provided training for protective service workers, supervisors, lawyers, and judges on False Allegations of Sexual Abuse and she also serves as a consultant and expert witness in this area. She has also given presentations on this topic to the National Association of Social Workers, Texas Chapter, the National Defender Investigator Association, the National Organization of Forensic Social Workers, the Deborah T. Creek Criminal Practice Institute, Texas Court Appointed Special Advocates, and the American College of Forensic Examiners.She is currently serving a three year term as the Editor in Chief of the Journal of Social Work Education (2013-2015) and is a well-published author whose articles about false allegations based on recovered memories appear in the Encyclopedia of Social Work, the Social Workers’ Desk Reference and in Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Human Service.
Harvey Silverglate is a criminal-defense lawyer and civil-liberties litigator. He is of counsel to the Boston firm Zalkind Duncan & Bernstein LLP. Mr. Silverglate writes regular columns for Forbes.com (in the “Injustice Department” segment of the website), as well as occasional columns for the Wall Street Journal, the Boston Globe, Reason Magazine, the National Law Journal, and Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, among others. He has also taught at Harvard Law School. In 1971 he was admitted to the Bar of the United States Supreme Court and has been admitted to the Bars of six U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal, the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, the US Court of Military Appeals, and others. Mr. Silverglate is a past President of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts and a current adjunct scholar at the CATO Institute. He is author of Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent and co-author of The Shadow University: The Betrayal of Liberty on America’s Campuses. He is also a co-founder and chair of the Board of Directors of The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (www.thefire.org ), a civil liberties organization devoted to academic freedom and fair process issues in higher education.
Dr. Carol Tavris is a writer, lecturer, and social psychologist. She is coauthor, with Elliot Aronson, of Mistakes Were Made (But Not by ME): Why we justify foolish beliefs, bad decisions, and hurtful acts, and author of Anger: The Misunderstood Emotion and The Mismeasure of Woman. She is also the co-author of two leading psychology textbooks. She has written hundreds of articles and book reviews for a wide variety of publications, and has given many addresses and workshops on topics related to psychological science versus pseudoscience for general audiences, attorneys, mediators, psychologists, and judges. Dr. Tavris is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association, a charter Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science, and a member of the editorial board of Psychological Science in the Public Interest.
Dr. Leonore Tiefer is a feminist and psychologist who has specialized in sexuality for 40 years. She is currently Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine and has a private psychotherapy practice in Manhattan. In recent years, Dr. Tiefer has written widely about the medicalization of men’s and women’s sexuality [http://newviewcampaign.org], e.g., Sex is Not a Natural Act (2nd edition, 2004) and A New View of Women’s Sexual Problems (with Ellyn Kaschak, 2001). Dr. Tiefer has received professional awards and held office in various groups.
Dr. James Wood teaches in the psychology department at the University of Texas at El Paso. He has done groundbreaking work on children’s suggestibility, including experiments based on the content of the McMartin children interviews. His work for the past few years has focused on exposing the Rorschach test as pseudoscience. He is on the editorial board of APSAC’s journal on child maltreatment. He has done research on the way children in incestuous family situations typically disclose their abuse to child protective services investigators (he has found that these children tend to be quite forthcoming, compared to, say, how Roland Summit used to describe them as trying to keep it a secret and needing prolonged prompting). He has also studied the behavior of child protection bureaucracies in citywide systems.
Bob Chatelle, Founder and Executive Director
Bob Chatelle is a semi-retired computer programmer, whose prior political experience had been as an anti-censorship activist for the National Writers Union (NWU) and the Boston Coalition for Freedom of Expression. He became concerned about the problem of false accusations from discussions with NWU colleagues Judith Levine, Debbie Nathan, and Mark Pendergrast. With his partner, Jim D’Entremont, he founded the Bernard Baran Justice Committee. Bob also operates the Friends of Justice blog.
Dan Finneran: Our First President
Dan Finneran got involved in legal work for people falsely convicted of child sex abuse after reading a 1988 Village Voice expose of the Margaret Kelly Michaels “Wee Care” case in northern New Jersey. Michaels had recently been convicted of bizarre acts of ritualized abuse against several preschoolers, and her case had scandalized the metropolitan New York City area, where Dan lived.
At the time, Dan was an appellate lawyer, more for pleasure and a thirst for justice than to make money. He was a retired New York City public school teacher who had gone to law school after ending his teaching career in the late 1960s. He confined his legal work to occasional appellate briefs, generally pro bono, on behalf of needy clients. Dan’s altruism reflected his long-standing concern for civil rights and social justice. And he knew intimately what it was like to be needy.
Dan’s family had similarities to that of Frank McCourt, author of the heart-rending memoir Angela’s Ashes. Dan’s parents were immigrants from Ireland, and when his mother was deported from the United States during the Depression for not having proper documents, his father was unable to care for the children. Dan and his siblings were put up for adoption and ended up living with a farmer in upstate New York.
As an adult, Dan returned to New York City and pursued teaching, and later, legal work. After reading about Kelly Michaels’s conviction during the “ritual abuse” panic of the 1980s, he wrote the Village Voice an impassioned letter, offering to help with her appeal. The letter was forwarded to article writer Debbie Nathan. She hooked Dan up with Mort Stavis, emeritus director of the Center for Constitutional Rights. Stavis recruited Dan into a team of volunteer lawyers he was assembling to work on Michaels’s appeal. Dan worked constantly and tirelessly on the team. His efforts helped ensure the success of the appeal, and the brief has been cited in many subsequent appeals of sex abuse convictions.
After reading Dorothy Rabinowitz’s first Wall Street Journal article about the Massachusetts Fells Acres case, Dan volunteered his services again and became part of the team that freed Violet Amirault and Cheryl Amirault LeFave. One of his fondest hopes was to live to see Gerald Amirault walk free.
In the mid-1990s, Dan was diagnosed with renal cancer. He did not expect to live many more years, but during his remaining time, he continued to pursue justice for defendants like Gerald Amirault. Dan read about another Massachusetts case, Bernard Baran, in a column by Katha Pollitt in The Nation. While Dan’s health did not permit him to get involved in the legal work, he nevertheless contacted Baran’s advocates, giving them much needed moral and financial support. He also befriended Baran directly, writing him frequently in prison. Baran was in the process of responding to Dan’s most recent letter when he received the news that Dan had died.
Near the end, Dan was physically frail. But his spirit was so strong that he seemed indestructible. Dan did his work with enthusiasm, humor and good cheer. He seemed eternally indignant at the constant injustices that people like Kelly Michaels, the Amiraults, and Bernard Baran suffer, yet eternally optimistic about helping to make the world a fairer place, even for falsely convicted sex abuse defendants. Dan left us on November 4, 2002. One of his final requests was to be buried with a copy of the U.S. Constitution. We hope that the work of National Center for Reason and Justice will long honor his memory.