Some McMartin Data Withheld, Ex-D.A. Testifies
A former prosecutor in the McMartin Pre-School molestation case testified Tuesday that he withheld from defense attorneys irrational statements made by the mother whose accusations sparked the case.
Former prosecutor Glenn Stevens, who was granted immunity to testify, conceded that he believed defense attorneys were entitled to a July, 1984, claim by the now-deceased woman, Judy Johnson, that an AWOL Marine had broken into her residence and molested her young son.
But Stevens said he did not turn the material over because “I thought it was so preposterous, and her testimony (at the preliminary hearing) was over, that I didn’t want to be involved in her accusations any more.”
Under questioning by defense attorney Dean Gits, Stevens also testified that he told sheriff’s officials during their investigation not to officially submit possible evidence in the McMartin case to prosecutors because they would then be obligated to give it to the defense.
Under California law, prosecutors are ordered to turn over to the defense evidence they plan to use against criminal defendants.
“It was always the (prosecution’s) intent to turn over to the defense once the investigation was completed,” Stevens said.
Stevens, now a private defense attorney who maintains that the defendants are innocent, testified that he did not turn over other material detailing wild claims by Johnson because he believed that the defense had them already.
In fact, the material was not turned over to the defense until last year.
Among the claims made by Johnson were that her son had seen chief defendant Ray Buckey fly in the air and had seen Buckey’s mother, Peggy McMartin Buckey, drill holes in another child’s armpits.
Stevens testified at a pretrial hearing into defense allegations that he and fellow McMartin prosecutor Lael Rubin withheld from the defense evidence placing in doubt Johnson’s mental stability.
Early in the case, he testified, Rubin told him that she believed Johnson “was weird or crazy or words to that effect.”
The hearing before Superior Court Judge William Pounders could result in sanctions against the prosecution, including the dismissal of a charge accusing Ray Buckey of molesting Johnson’s son.
Ray Buckey, 28, and Peggy McMartin Buckey, 60, the remaining defendants in what was once the largest molestation case in U.S. history, are charged with molesting 14 of their pupils at the now-closed Virginia McMartin Pre-School in Manhattan Beach. Charges against the five other defendants were dropped because of insufficient evidence.
The allegations concerning the withholding of evidence were raised by Stevens himself in 30 hours of taped interviews he made with Hollywood screenwriter Abby Mann and his wife, Myra, who are writing a screenplay about the case.
Johnson, 42, who was found dead in her Manhattan Beach residence last month of a liver disease, triggered the McMartin investigation in late 1983 when she claimed that Ray Buckey had molested her son.
Johnson, who allegedly had a history of mental illness, also claimed that her child had been molested by her husband and by a Los Angeles school board member.
Gits and fellow defense attorney Danny Davis claim that Johnson’s alleged mental illness and bizarre claims should have caused authorities to doubt her accusations against Ray Buckey.
They claim that without Johnson’s initial accusations, there would be no McMartin case.
Stevens testified that sometime after he began talking with the Manns, he learned that Johnson had told other mothers of students at the McMartin school that her son had been molested there and had urged them to determine if their children had also been sexually molested.
“She (Johnson) told me she had an obligation to tell the other parents at the school,” Stevens testified.
He said that after initially interviewing Johnson in June, 1984, “I formed an opinion to the contrary” of what Rubin thought of the woman.
“I felt her pleasant and very lucid,” Stevens wrote in an entry in a diary he kept about the case.
Later, however, after Johnson began to make some of her more bizarre claims, Stevens said, “I began to come of the opinion that she may be a little off.”
During his conversations with the Manns, Stevens said, “it became apparent that her importance to the case (could not) be overemphasized.”
Therefore, he said, he contacted Johnson in an attempt to learn more about her role early in the case. Stevens testified that he asked Johnson if she would speak with him and the Manns but before an appointment could be set up, she died.