Buckey Denies All 53 Charges Against Him
Ray Buckey, the key defendant in the McMartin Pre-School trial, denied Thursday each of 53 separate allegations of molestation and conspiracy against him, completing in two days of testimony his rebuttal of accusations that have hung over him for six years.
Briskly led by his attorney through the lengthy and often graphic charges, involving 11 children who attended his family’s Manhattan Beach nursery school, the 31-year-old Buckey remained composed, confident, and terse, often giving one-word answers to long questions.
“Nothing improper ever happened at the preschool,” he said adamantly at one point, raising his voice, as defense lawyer Danny Davis recited each count of rape, sodomy, oral copulation, and other criminal acts described by nine of 11 of Buckey’s alleged victims, asking each time, “Did you do that?”
The prosecution said it wants to hear more.
“Mr. Buckey was very carefully led by his lawyer to answer simple questions with ‘yes’ and ‘no,’ ” said Deputy Dist. Atty. Lael Rubin, after court recessed for the day. “It’s going to take a long time to explain the real bases for his answers.”
Buckey insisted that he was never even present at the nursery school when many of his accusers attended and that he never touched youngsters in his care in any manner that could be misconstrued as sexual.
He admitted that he wore shorts without underwear, as prosecution testimony has indicated, but said he never intentionally exposed himself to children. He said that after a mother of a girl on a soccer team he helped coach complained about his genitals being visible in short shorts, he began wearing sweats during warm-up exercises.
“I hadn’t worn underwear for years,” he explained. “It was a habit I picked up living at the beach playing volleyball.” Denying any sexual penchant for children or “kiddie porn,” Buckey acknowledged that he used adult pornography for sexual gratification. The pornography issue surfaced when Davis showed Buckey a collection of sexually explicit photographs seized during a search of his parents’ home five years ago. Buckey admitted trying to flush the pictures down the toilet, and said he threw some out a window.
He said he had secretly stored them under his dresser and the mattress of his bed. Buckey said he had tried to dispose of them, both on the advice of his attorney and because he believed the Manhattan Beach police detective investigating the case would “make a big issue of my having adult pornography.”
“She’d (already) made a big thing about my having a Playboy magazine,” he said. “I didn’t think she needed any help in fabricating a case against me.”
Buckey testified that during a two-day period in 1984 he shared a cell at Men’s Central Jail with convicted felon and informant George Freeman. The pair talked for several hours after lights out, Buckey testified, but answered “no” when his lawyer asked whether he had discussed with Freeman “anything about your own sexual activities.”
Freeman, a self-admitted perjurer, testified earlier that Buckey admitted that he had sodomized a 2 1/2-year-old boy whose allegations sparked the investigation that led to his arrest, and described other perverted sexual behavior.
Buckey’s co-defendant in the case is his 62-year-old mother, Peggy McMartin Buckey, who ran the school. She already has testified, denying all counts against her. Five others associated with the school initially had been implicated, but the district attorney, citing weak evidence, declined to prosecute. But the bulk of the children’s allegations centered on Ray Buckey.
The lanky, tanned defendant said he began working regularly at his mother’s school in January, 1981, after several months of observing on Fridays and Mondays while still enrolled at San Diego State University.
“It seemed like a time I thought I’d like to be a preschool teacher,” he said.
“Didn’t you see something wrong with being a male working a preschool?” Davis asked.
“A male? No, not at all,” Buckey replied.
“Couldn’t you have gotten a better job?” Davis pressed.
“Better how?” Buckey countered.
“More appropriate for a male,” Davis suggested.
“I don’t see anything inappropriate for a male to be working with children.”
Buckey’s mother, in her testimony, described her son as a misfit who was always uncomfortable with his peers and adults, preferring the company of children. She said he was inexperienced and unable to control the class she eventually assigned him to, but that she felt he had potential.
The tenor of most of Buckey’s testimony under direct examination was straightforward and subdued.