Speaking clearly and with little hesitation, a 7-year-old boy testified Tuesday that McMartin Pre-School teachers molested and photographed him while he and other pupils played "naked games" at the school.
The boy, identified only by his first name and a reference number, was the first alleged molestation victim to take the witness stand in the preliminary hearing for seven former teachers at the Manhattan Beach nursery school.
The defendants, who sat with their attorneys only a few feet away as the boy testified, are charged with 208 counts of molestation and conspiracy involving 41 children since 1978. Seven of those counts involve Tuesday's witness.
During his 90 minutes of testimony, the boy pointed to "Ray" (key defendant Raymond Buckey) and said the 26-year-old former teacher had "touched" him with his hand and his penis "in the mouth and in the butt and on my penis."
"Did that hurt?" Deputy Dist. Atty. Glenn Stevens asked, referring to the alleged sodomy.
"Yes," the youngster said.
The boy also testified that he had been touched on his genitals by "Babs" (Babette Spitler), "Peggy" (Peggy McMartin Buckey) and "Betty" (Betty Raidor), all former teachers at McMartin, while the school's 77-year-old founder, Virginia McMartin, Raymond Buckey's grandmother, watched.
Two others defendants, Peggy Ann Buckey and Mary Ann Jackson, were not mentioned by the child during his testimony.
He said the teachers touched him with their hands "on the penis" and "in the butt" during games such as "cowboys and Indians," "alligator," "tickle" and "naked movie star," in which naked children played while their teachers watched, participated or photographed them.
The hearing, to determine whether the defendants must stand trial, reached a crucial stage Tuesday with the first child witness, after nearly six months of testimony by parents, investigators, physicians and other experts about behavioral changes and physical injuries in the children.
The gangly, crew-cut blond, wearing a blue sweat shirt emblazoned with the name of the school where he is now a first-grader, was led from a play area behind the courtroom to the stand by a uniformed female deputy, who sat nearby with his mother.
"I'm Judge Bobb," Municipal Judge Aviva K. Bobb said in opening the proceedings.
She then introduced the boy to the court personnel and attorneys and explained their jobs.
As prosecutor Stevens began his questioning, the boy admitted to being "a little bit" nervous.
Describing the games played at McMartin, the boy said he and his classmates would be told to disrobe. In "cowboys and Indians," he said, "they (the teachers) were the Indians . . . they would put us in a jail . . . with our clothes off . . . and touch us."
In "the alligator game," he said, "we'd take off our clothes, crawl around and when we were on the floor, they would touch us."
"Naked movie star," he said, consisted of naked children doing "tricks" and turning somersaults, while being photographed as they sang a song that went, "What you see is what you are, you're a naked movie star."
In "tickle," he testified, "the kids take off their clothes, and the teachers tickle them in the butt and on the penis."
At one point, he was asked if he had ever seen any teachers without their clothes.
"Miss Peggy," he replied.
"Would you tell me how Miss Peggy looked naked?" Stevens asked.
"Funny," the boy answered.
The boy testified that during the year he attended McMartin, Ray Buckey had threatened him "that they'd (his parents) get hurt if you told your parents" and had cut off the ears of the school's rabbits, struck horses with a stick and on at least one occasion, impersonated the devil by wearing a costume.
He said some of these activities occurred at "a farm" to which the children were taken in a van, a house where there was a sort of "circus" in progress and a store.
Nearly every question by the prosecution and answer by the child was interrupted by objections from defense attorneys, and the boy often appeared confused as he looked from Stevens to the judge to the raised hands waiting to object.
He frequently replied, "Don't remember," when Stevens pressed him for details.
On cross-examination, the boy was asked by Dean Gits, who represents Peggy McMartin Buckey, whether he had had fun at the McMartin Pre-School.
"No," was the boy's emphatic answer.
Cross-examination by Gits will resume today, and the boy is expected to remain on the stand through Friday, as the six other defense attorneys question him.
The preliminary hearing, which is expected to last a year, is being held in Los Angeles Traffic Court at 19th and Hill streets.
About 10 reporters and 40 members of the public watched Tuesday's proceedings from an adjacent courtroom on two 25-inch television monitors. Judge Bobb had ordered the closed-court arrangement after ruling that the children themselves could not testify by closed-circuit television.
The scene in the hallway outside the courtroom was described by one defense attorney as "a circus," as photographers fought for pictures and reporters for comments.
A television crewman allegedly struck attorney Bradley Brunon, who represents Virginia McMartin, when the lawyer blocked a clear camera shot. Another technician denounced Buckey's attorney, Daniel Davis, for "defending the devil."
When the court recessed for the day, Stevens said he was "satisfied" with the child's testimony, because "the evidence is quite clear and he has supported all the counts."
He said the 7-year-old's numerous "don't remember" replies were understandable "when you're talking about acts of molestation that occurred to him half his life ago."
Defense attorney Forrest Latiner, who represents Peggy Ann Buckey, said it appeared the prosecutors had put words in the boy's mouth.
"This child has had a great deal of coaching," Latiner told reporters outside the courtroom.
Stevens denied the charge, saying, "It's obvious the child was told to tell the truth and nothing else."