After Martha Coakley's win in the Massachusetts Democratic primary virtually assured she would fill the seat of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, Abby Goodnough's fawning profile in the New York Times lauded her for having “made a name for herself prosecuting child abuse cases -- most notably that of Louise Woodward, a British au pair convicted in 1997 of killing a baby boy in her care.”
But there was no mention of another notorious case. As Middlesex district attorney in the summer of 2001, The “perpetually articulate and composed” Coakley took part in keeping Gerard Amirault in jail on fabricated sex abuse charges.
Amirault was one of the victims of the witch-hunt known as the 1986 Fells Acres Day School ritual sex abuse case, now universally recognized as an abuse of power by Massachusetts prosecutors. Children who attended the day care center were prodded by prosecutors to make increasingly bizarre allegations of robots and evil clowns against the Amiraults, the family that ran the day care center. Amirault was convicted in 1986, his wife and sister in 1987. Amirault was finally released after 18 years; it could have been 15 if not for the work of Coakley.
As the Boston Globe reported about Coakley November 17:
She drew charges of overzealousness when she fought to keep former Malden day-care worker Gerard Amirault behind bars for sexually assaulting children. Coakley was not involved in the prosecution of Amirault, his sister, and mother in the 1980s. But she strenuously opposed the Parole Board’s 2001 recommendation that his sentence be commuted despite doubts about investigators’ tactics.
“Martha Coakley was a very, very good soldier who showed she would do anything to preserve this horrendous assault on justice,’’ said Dorothy Rabinowitz, a Wall Street Journal columnist who championed the Amiraults’ innocence.
Coakley conceded that some prosecutions of the era were mishandled because of suggestive questioning of children but said the evidence against the Amiraults was formidable.
“I am as convinced [as I am of] anything that those children were abused at that day-care center by the three defendants, and if I weren’t, I would be the first to acknowledge that,’’ she said.
None of that made Goodnough's report:
Perpetually articulate and composed, Ms. Coakley, who captured the Democratic nomination Tuesday in a race with three other candidates for the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy’s seat, has won respect in state political and legal circles for years.
As an assistant district attorney in Middlesex County, the state’s most populous, Ms. Coakley made a name for herself prosecuting child abuse cases -- most notably that of Louise Woodward, a British au pair convicted in 1997 of killing a baby boy in her care. Ms. Coakley’s polished appearances on national television during the trial brought her fans and broad name recognition, and in 1999 she became the first woman elected as the county’s district attorney.
Just as easily, she swept the state attorney general’s race in 2006, and as the first woman to hold that job, she has championed abortion rights, same-sex marriage and other socially liberal causes while presenting a law-and-order persona.