The False Memory Syndrome Foundation claims to condemn the sexual abuse of children. In their words, “Child sexual abuse is a reprehensible crime….Every effort should be made to help victims of sexual abuse and to create a social climate in which such mistreatment does not continue to take place.” So why did they sympathize with Billy Banks, a serial child molester?
This is the first in a series of occasional posts that will highlight and document cases in which the FMSF has taken the side of someone charged with child sexual abuse without apparent regard for the evidence of guilt.
The Case against Billy Banks
Billy Banks was convicted in 2005 on 10 counts of sexual battery on a child under 12 years of age. (Three counts were overturned on appeal—two on double jeopardy, and one was outside the statute.) The charges included acts of rape, forced oral sex, and fondling of his daughter and his adoptive niece from 1965 to 1970. Banks was also facing two charges of lewd, lascivious or indecent acts on a child under 16 for sexually abusing his two granddaughters 20 years later, in 1990-1. After being convicted on the first counts, Banks pled no contest to one of these later counts. He was sentenced to life on the sexual battery charges and three and a half years for the charge to which he pled no contest.
A federal appellate court recently upheld Jesse Friedman’s conviction in connection with a sexual-abuse case that was popularized in the 2003 movie Capturing the Friedmans. The court concluded that it was bound by law to uphold Friedman’s conviction—which was based on his guilty plea—but two of the three judges nevertheless urged the district attorney to review the case based entirely on claims made in the movie.
This may be the first time that a federal court paid more attention to the movie version of a case than it did to the case itself. But a careful examination of court records reveals that Capturing the Friedmans leaves out important evidence of guilt and distorts many facts in the case.
Most pertinent to this blog is the assertion that the case may have been built on hypnosis. There is no credible evidence for this claim. Indeed, in an October 2007 hearing, Friedman’s own lawyer described the single excerpt in the movie about hypnosis as “reliable evidence of nothing” (p. 12). It is fair to characterize the movie, he went on, as “containing interviews, cut and spliced, and taken out of context.” Those problems and other inaccuracies are addressed in the video critique below.
One might wonder why someone who failed two lie detector tests, pleaded guilty, told the judge he was “sorry for [his] actions,” asked for “assistance with [his] problem,” and then reaffirmed his guilty plea from prison would ever be embraced as innocent. The reasons apparently have nothing to do with the facts of the case.