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Remembering the Case of Wayne B. Sargent, Jr.

December 31st, 2010

Pamela Freyd, FMSF Executive Director

One purpose of the new blog format of this site, launched four months ago, is to make sure that important people and events in the “memory wars” are not forgotten. The detailed post about Billy Banks, a serial child molester embraced by the False Memory Syndrome Foundation, is one example of a significant story that has largely been overlooked.

Wayne Sargent is another. Sargent earned an uncritical mention in the “Legal Corner” section of this FMSF newsletter, edited by Pamela Freyd, after he successfully appealed his criminal conviction for sexually assaulting his two minor step-children and one of their friends. See, State v. Sargent (1999). The court ruled that Sargent should have been allowed to present a “false memory” expert to the jury. But the FMSF never reported the rest of the story.

Sargent was convicted by a jury after a second trial that included a “false memory” expert for the defense. That conviction was upheld by the New Hampshire Supreme Court, a court that is often touted by the FMSF for the 1997 Hungerford decision. But the second appellate decision, State v. Sargent (2002), was never mentioned in the FMSF newsletter. Neither were the remarkable events that unfolded after his second trial. Before being sentenced, Sargent admitted that his “false memory” defense was a ruse. He confessed his guilt, apologized to the children, and, as reported by the Associated Press, told the judge: “I wasn’t in denial for what I had done, but I just didn’t want to pay the consequences.” Judge Smukler, mindful of the fact that Sargent put three children through two separate trials before admitting the truth, sentenced him to 21 to 54 years in prison.

As the calendar turns to 2011, we would all do well to remember Wayne Sargent, who hid behind the “false memory” defense for years. We should also remember that the FMSF, which claims to abhor child sexual abuse, never condemned Mr. Sargent and never informed its readers that the case once heralded in their newsletter as a victory was actually nothing more than a baseless defense offered by a craven child molester.

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