Found your web page today, you guys are doing a fine job. I know first hand what a wrongful conviction can do to you. I served twenty years for a crime I did not commit and was exonerated, on my 61st birthday, so I can tell you there are still more like me out there. If there is anything I can do please feel free to contact me.
Keep up the good work.
Congratulations to the NBC team in San Jose on their Emmy nomination
A man who spent 20 years in prison on a wrongful child molestation conviction filed a claim against Kern County, county attorneys said.
John Stoll had been convicted of multiple child molestation counts - charges that were overturned by a judge on April 30. He said the years in prison cost him everything he had - his family, his home and his job.
"You can't give me back 20 years and you can't give me back my son. So what can you give me?" he said. "How do you put a price tag on someone's life?"
County lawyers have expected the suit ever since Stoll's release from prison in May. The 61-year-old man is seeking more than $50 million, as well as payment of medical bills, punitive damages from individual Kern County employees involved, and attorneys' fees.
In 1985, Stoll was sentenced to 40 years in prison after he was convicted on 17 counts of child molestation involving six boys. He was one of 46 defendants charged with participating in alleged child molestation cases in Kern County in the 1980s.
Most of those molestation cases have been thrown out for several reasons, like improper questioning techniques. Most of the boys who testified against Stoll recanted their testimony as they grew older.
8 November 2004
Interview: The Bakersfield Witch Hunt:
Guests talk about how they were, as children, forced to lie about being sexually abused
HOST: Montel Williams
EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: Montel Williams, Diane Rappoport
THE BAKERSFIELD WITCH HUNT
MONTEL WILLIAMS: How could it happen in America?
ALAN (Margie's Oldest Son And Donald's Brother): I testified against my mother.
WILLIAMS: Two little boys say they were pressured to lie that their molested them.
And that judge says 48 years.
Twenty years later, the truth is revealed, but their lives may never be repaired.
ALAN: I don't know how, after 20 years, still to look at my mother in the face.
WILLIAMS: They've never talked about it until today.
Hold your mom's hand.
DONALD (Margie's Youngest Son And Alan's Brother): I don't like doing that.
WILLIAMS: Right now I'm going to figure out how to change that.
The truth about THE BAKERSFIELD WITCH HUNT. That's what's coming up right now on MONTEL.
Welcome, welcome, welcome, and thank you so much for joining us today. You know, in a small town in Bakersfield, California, authorities got caught up with putting child molesters behind bars. It's even been called the "Bakersfield witch hunt." Now, 20 years later, people are questioning if all these people were really guilty. Take a look at this.
(Excerpts from videotape)
WILLIAMS: Donald and Allen were brothers being raised by their mother, Margie, in Bakersfield, California. Eddie and Victor also lived in the neighborhood and were best friends. All four boys spent time playing at John Stoll's house. But in June of 1984, the boys would forever be linked, and their stories stunned their families and the community around them.
Authorities believed the boys were molested in a neighborhood sex ring out of John's house, which included Margie. John and Margie were tried for child molestation. Four boys testified against John and Margie, including their own children, offering accounts of sexual abuse. Although John and Margie insisted they were innocent, they were found guilty--Margie sentenced to 48 years in prison, John sentenced to 40. Twenty years later, the boys would be reunited in a courtroom once again to reveal new shocking details about the case.
(End of excerpts)
WILLIAMS: Please welcome Ed, Victor, and brothers Donald and Allen to the show. Welcome them all.
ALAN: Thank you.
WILLIAMS: Thanks for being here, guys.
DONALD: Thank you.
WILLIAMS: Thank you to you.
ED: Thank you.
WILLIAMS: Thanks for being here.
VICTOR (Says Investigators convinced Him To Lie And Say He Was Molested): Hello.
WILLIAMS: Thank you.
Twenty years ago, the four of you--about 20 years ago--were all brought in to testify. At age seven, eight, six and seven...
WILLIAMS: ...seven and seven, the police were able to take you into separate rooms away from your parents, correct?
DONALD: Yes. Yes, they always did.
WILLIAMS: Question you extensively, and at the end of that time, you testified that what happened?
DONALD: That my mother, John Stoll, my to-be stepfather, and another guy, Grant Self, had molested me and these guys, also.
WILLIAMS: And you testified what? That this happened to you? Your mother? Tell us.
ALAN: I tes--I testified against my mother.
WILLIAMS: Against your mother.
You testified against who?
ED: Against John Stoll and one other...
WILLIAMS: And you testified?
VICTOR: Against John Stoll.
WILLIAMS: Did you believe what you were saying?
WILLIAMS: Did you believe what you were saying?
ALAN: I don't even remember what I said, whether I believed it or not.
WILLIAMS: Did you believe what you were saying?
ED: Absolutely not.
WILLIAMS: Did you think at that time you believed what you were saying?
VICTOR: No, not at all.
WILLIAMS: And--and I will say this, that the prosecutors and all the city officials in this case stand by these original convictions, even though everybody involved has recanted with the exception of maybe one.
ALAN: Well, I didn't necessary recant.
ALAN: I had no memory...
WILLIAMS: No memory.
ALAN: ...but which is similar to a recantation. I mean, I--I definitely can't say they did something if I have no memory of anything happening.
WILLIAMS: And--and in each one of--OK, so in the two in your cases. Let's talk about this for a second. They came in and started saying things to you. You're a seven-year-old little boy, and--and the police come in, and they say, 'Didn't this happen to you? And I know it happened because these other three guys said that it happened to you, and they told me everything that happened.' You were sitting there a couple of times, right, saying, 'Dude, I don't know what you're talking about.'
VICTOR: I just kept saying nothing happened.
WILLIAMS: Nothing happened.
VICTOR: They just kept asking the same questions over and over.
WILLIAMS: Same thing with you?
ED: Yeah, they--they kept on pressuring us and pressuring us and told us that, you know, 'This is a terrible man. You need to help to get him off the streets. And we'll just leave you alone. It'll all go away if you tell us you've seen something.' You know, and they kept on.
WILLIAMS: Same thing with you?
ALAN: Oh, you betcha.
WILLIAMS: Same with you. But in--in this--their cases, they're talking about somebody who's not living in their home. They're talking about somebody who's across the street, somebody they can ignore. Somebody, 'Eh, don't matter. If I make up a lie about that guy, who'll know? It won't matter.' But the two of you, this was about...
DONALD: Our mom.
WILLIAMS: ...your mom. Now, talk to me about this for a second. Here's a man coming to you and telling you, 'I know that your mom did this because your brother told me that she did.'
DONALD: Yes, exactly. During the preliminary hearing, they--they asked us, you know, all the questions that they were going to ask us in the--in the regular hearing, and I answered, 'No, nothing ever happened. They never touched me. They never molested me. No sexual contact whatsoever.'
WILLIAMS: 'these guys are asking me to make my--take my mother away from me.' Did that cross your mind then? When did it start to sink in?
ALAN: Well, that's was what--what they told Donald.
Tell him what..
DONALD: Yeah, they--they explained to me that it would be over sooner. I'd get to see my mother sooner. I'd--it would all go a lot--a lot more smoothly for my mother if I went along with their story. Now, I was told my--by my dad to tell the truth. I told the truth in the preliminary hearing. As then dur--as soon as the preliminary hearing, I was took back with the--the--the prosecutors, and they said, 'We're going to have to keep putting you on that stand until you get it right.'
WILLIAMS: So you just decided, 'Heck with this.'
WILLIAMS: 'Whatever they want to hear.'
DONALD: Yeah, I--I mean, I didn't know any difference between the preliminary hearing and the next one. I thought they were exactly the same. They were set up, went to the same stupid chair. So as far as I knew, I was doing it over and over until we get it...
WILLIAMS: Hindsight is--is, again, 20/20. But now, guys, look back at this. This has haunted the four of you your whole life, has it not?
WILLIAMS: Because your mother went to jail for seven years...
WILLIAMS: ...let out on a technicality...
WILLIAMS: ...but out.
John, who was her boyfriend, right?
WILLIAMS: No? Sorry.
DONALD: Just a friend.
WILLIAMS: A friend.
WILLIAMS: ...went to jail for 15 years.
DONALD: Almost 20.
WILLIAMS: Almost 20.
WILLIAMS: You weren't involved in the other case. So, during that period--when your mother came home, and you started a relationship with her...
WILLIAMS: ...again. But I understand this has never been discussed in your home. Really--not really discussed.
DONALD: In--in the last 15 years before this was brought up again, I spoke with my mother about it once for about two minutes, and maybe once with my brother for less than that.
WILLIAMS: How about the two of you?
VICTOR: I always blocked it out after that.
ED: Yeah, I always told everybody about it, trying to get some help, but I didn't know who to go to to talk to, you know, to help them out.
WILLIAMS: See, because I don't think people here in this--here or people at home are going to understand this when we say it. But I should go to a break, but I got to get this out clear. When I say tormented you, you guys understood that you had done something that basically falsely put some people in jail.
WILLIAMS: And you thought about this as kids.
WILLIAMS: You were seven when this happened. When you were 10 years old, were you thinking about it?
WILLIAMS: What's your life been like? Talk to me.
VICTOR: Well, it just--ever since then, I was distant just with my dad. (Becomes emotional)
WILLIAMS: I mean, I want to see--here's--here's one of these things, I'm going to tell--I'm going to help you with this, man. Because, well, people don't understand. There's a period of time in this country, and still even today, we have to protect our children. There is no question. If an allegation comes up, there's no question. But we also have some people in this country who just get hell-bent on the topic. And then they allow their emotions and everything else to get involved in this, and then the truth almost be damned. And at the end of the day, I don't think anybody stopped for a second and gone back and asked people like you this question. What's it been like for you, man, knowing you put somebody away? You took away a person's life for 15 years.
ED: I felt a lot of guilt for a long time, yeah. I--I tried to talk to people about it all the time, and no one could give me any help.
WILLIAMS: You have kids?
ED: Yeah, I have a three-year-old daughter.
WILLIAMS: Talk about what this has done to you and your relationship with your child.
ED: Actually now at this point, I'm having an OK time with her. You know, but I didn't bathe her for, like, a year.
WILLIAMS: You didn't touch her like that for a year.
WILLIAMS: Afraid that someone would turn around and do the same thing. Who else here? You have kids, right?
DONALD: I do.
WILLIAMS: You do.
WILLIAMS: What's your relationship like with your kids?
DONALD: I have two children. I--I really love them, and it--it--it's terrible as a father. I feel like a complete jerk to my kids. I have to apologize to my kids daily for the way I act.
WILLIAMS: And--and how do you act?
DONALD: I push them away. Lift them up and hug me, and I'll push them away.
WILLIAMS: And--and why?
DONALD: Totally uncomfortable. Can't do it.
WILLIAMS: And afraid that maybe if somebody sees you hug them...
DONALD: I--I don't know. I just can't--can't get close to them.
WILLIAMS: We'll take a little break. We'll come back. We'll meet these people, and we'll talk about how this has affected 13 lives. Take a break. We'll be back right after this.
(Excerpts from upcoming segment)
MARGIE (Spent 7 Years In Prison For A Crime She Didn't Commit): They took me to the R&R release and handed me $200 and said, 'We're sorry.'
WILLIAMS: After destroying her family, taking her children away from her, leaving her locked up for seven years. 'Here's $200, see you.'
(End of excerpts)
WILLIAMS: In Bakersfield, California, overzealous investigators may have manipulated children to lie in court saying they were molested. Please welcome Donald and Alan's mother, Margery to the show--Margie.
Margie, look back at it now and just tell me what you think, looking back.
MARGIE: Oh, it's incredible, isn't it?
WILLIAMS: It's absolutely ridiculous.
WILLIAMS: You were sitting at home.
MARGIE: I was at work, actually.
WILLIAMS: At work.
WILLIAMS: No clue whatsoever.
MARGIE: None. None.
WILLIAMS: Because you came home....
MARGIE: Actually, I came home, and they were gone. Nobody was there except my boyfriend, and he was crying.
WILLIAMS: And what did he say?
MARGIE: He said, 'Somebody came and took the kids.'
WILLIAMS: Did he say why?
MARGIE: He said he didn't know.
WILLIAMS: And at that point in time, he didn't know.
MARGIE: No. He had no idea.
WILLIAMS: They didn't tell him anything.
MARGIE: Nope. They just came and took them.
WILLIAMS: And then when did--did they come back? Or you had to go down to them.
MARGIE: I went down to them.
WILLIAMS: Oh, that's right. They...
MARGIE: They said it was too late...
WILLIAMS: On the...
MARGIE: ...to find out where they were or anything.
WILLIAMS: And on the next day, did you--were you reading the newspaper or something?
WILLIAMS: Listen to this.
MARGIE: In bed, watching TV, watching the morning news, got the newspaper and read that I had been--that I was in jail.
WILLIAMS: And you're sitting in bed?
WILLIAMS: But you read that you had been re...
WILLIAMS: ...been arrested...
WILLIAMS: ...and were now in jail.
MARGIE: Both Tim and I, yeah.
WILLIAMS: Bot--and you're sitting in jail, and you're in jail for what was it, like, 30-something, 40-something charges--counts of child molestation?
WILLIAMS: But she's reading this from her bed.
WILLIAMS: They claim it already happened, she's already been arrested. So you went down to the police department and said, 'Whoa, what's up with this?'
MARGIE: Yes. Yeah.
WILLIAMS: And when you go there, they went, 'What's up with that?' (Puts hands behind his back as if in handcuffs)
MARGIE: Yeah. Yeah.
WILLIAMS: And then when's the next time you saw the outside of a jail or prison?
MARGIE: Eight years later.
WILLIAMS: So the minute she walked in, she didn't walk out again for eight years.
MARGIE: Right. They just put me in a tank, and a little while later--like, hours later, actually--they did my picture and my handprints, fingerprints. And then they said I would have a preliminary trial on Monday, and that's when I found out all the charges. And I thought I was going to go home because everybody said nothing happened. I thought I was walking home that day.
WILLIAMS: And the boys are--at this point in time, they are actually not recanting, they're saying it didn't happen.
WILLIAMS: But then they're--testifying and saying it didn't happen.
WILLIAMS: But then all of a sudden, they go to court, and you're sitting in a courtroom thinking your son's going to come and say, 'My mom didn't do this.'
WILLIAMS: And you're looking at him. He's not looking at you.
MARGIE: No. They wouldn't let him. They wouldn't let either one.
WILLIAMS: And he's sitting on a stand at age six...
WILLIAMS: ...saying some of the most vile things...
WILLIAMS: ...and accusing you of doing them.
WILLIAMS: I'm sure the defense attorneys brought up the fact that these boys had said something different a couple of times, right?
WILLIAMS: It goes before the jury. You--tell me the truth, honestly. When you were sitting there in that courtroom, and the foreman stood up, you knew he was going to say, 'We find these charges all stupid.'
MARGIE: Oh, yeah.
WILLIAMS: 'And innocent, she's innocent.'
WILLIAMS: What was going through your mind, especially the fact that these are your boys?
MARGIE: I know. Yeah, yeah. I--I was just in a daze. I--I was--I was incredulous. I was, like, 'That can't--it still can't be happening. It's still--that something's going to happen. Somebody's going to say something. I'm not going to have to go to prison.'
WILLIAMS: And that judge drops the gavel and says, '48 years.'
MARGIE: Eight years. Yeah. Forty-eight.
WILLIAMS: And they do it this way: '48 years,' out the back door of the court into the bus, straight to prison. Jail first, then prison.
WILLIAMS: And what do they think of child molesters in prison?
MARGIE: They like hurting them.
WILLIAMS: Even in a woman's prison?
MARGIE: Oh, yeah.
WILLIAMS: You were pushed into machinery, beaten, what?
MARGIE: I had a few fights.
WILLIAMS: Few fights?
WILLIAMS: And in all of this, Margie, I'll ask the question. Do you blame your boys?
MARGIE: Oh, no.
WILLIAMS: Did you even from the first second?
MARGIE: No, no, no.
WILLIAMS: Did you ever have a bad thought?
MARGIE: No. They were guilty of nothing.
WILLIAMS: I'm going to take a little break, because I--I--I got to take a break. When we come back, your friend, the person you were just live--just hanging with, just as a friend, gets caught up in this whole thing. You haven't even seen John since when?
MARGIE: Mm-hmm. Oh, since we were sentenced.
WILLIAMS: I'm going to take a break. You'll see him today. We'll be back right after this.
WILLIAMS: The judge says, 'You have been brought before this court and are being charged with,' what was it? I don't know, '40-something, 50-something'...
JOHN (Was Falsely Convicted Of Molesting 6 Boys): Ninety-seven counts.
WILLIAMS: ...'97 counts of child molestation. How do you plead?'
JOHN: 'Not guilty.'
(End of excerpts)
WILLIAMS: Please welcome Margie's friend, John, to the show.
JOHN: Hi, Margie.
MARGIE: It's good to see you again.
JOHN: Montel, how are you?
WILLIAMS: Good to see you. Good, good, good. Have a seat, John. I should take you to the same place, the same journey. Let's go back.
WILLIAMS: When did you find out? When did they walk in and click-click, and to take you away?
JOHN: Oh, they didn't do all the click-click. They just came in and knocked on my door, and they said, 'We need to talk to you.' I said, 'OK. What's the problem?' 'Well, we're going to search your house.' And I thought, 'Search my house? What would you be looking for?' And I turned over the search warrant, and on the back, they said what they were searching for: pornographic, films, you know. I'm going, 'What in the world are they talking about?' So far, they haven't said I did anything.
I said, 'OK, come on.' They took me outside, didn't handcuff me, put me in the back of the car and drove me down to the station, took me in and said, 'Your son said you molested him, and we believe him.' And I went, 'What? What the hell are you talking about?' I was just dumbfounded. I just--you know, I mean, no one had ever hinted that that--you know, we didn't even see it coming. And I'm standing in the holding cell, and I look up, and here comes Margie out in--out of the elevator. They--they bring you into the basement of the jail, and they take you up in an elevator to the floor where they book you. And there was Margie. I looked over and I saw her. And I went--(raises hands in gesture of question) And she's looking at me, and tears are running down her face, and I'm thinking, 'What in the world's going on?'
WILLIAMS: Then I'll go through the same process. The next day, they take you in, and they arraign you, right?
JOHN: Couple of--yeah.
WILLIAMS: Two days later, they do the arraignment, and they're standing, and a judge says, 'You have been brought in this--before this court and are being charged with 40-something, 50-something'...
JOHN: Ninety-seven counts.
WILLIAMS: ...'97 counts of child molestation. How do you plead?'
JOHN: 'Not guilty.'
WILLIAMS: And I know you had to be standing there, same way Margie is. You're listening to the things, the boys recanted--the boys didn't recant, they said it didn't happen.
WILLIAMS: And then they said it happened, but then they even said it didn't happen again, and they said--so you're thinking, 'This is getting thrown out.'
JOHN: And the strangest thing, Montel. Margie could tell you. What they testified to at the preliminary hearing to bind us over, you know, the acts they said we did were never, ever repeated again, and there was a whole 'nother story.
JOHN: If you take the preliminary hearing and read it, and you take the trial and read it, 'Well, where are all these charges?'
MARGIE: Wasn't even close. Wasn't even close.
JOHN: Wasn't even close. They were--they just...
WILLIAMS: They threw those--they--they just made up something different?
JOHN: 'We got them here now. Now--now it's time to get everything together.'
MARGIE: Yeah. Mm-hmm.
WILLIAMS: The judge slapped down a gavel and said it was 48 for you, 40 for you?
WILLIAMS: Forty-two for you?
JOHN: Forty years.
WILLIAMS: Forty years. That judge said, 'Remanded to the state penitentiary for'...
JOHN: Forty years.
WILLIAMS: ...'40 years.' Four-zero.
JOHN: Four-zero. I'm counting, '30--Oh, my God.' I'm thinking I'm going to be pretty old if I ever get out of this mess. That's just what I've been thinking. I swear to you, I'm counting going, 'Uh-oh.'
WILLIAMS: But through this all, just like Margie, she had to sit there in a room and watch her children say these things about her.
JOHN: At the preliminary hearing, my son came in and said, 'Hi, Daddy.'
JOHN: 'Hi, Daddy!'
JOHN: This is right after they got done telling the judge how these poor children were so withdrawn and traumatized.
MARGIE: Oh, yeah.
JOHN: Yeah. And Jed comes walking in, 'Hi, Daddy!' and they grabbed him, out he went. Came back, and he never looked at me again ever.
MARGIE: Yeah. Yeah they didn't even--yeah.
JOHN: What did they say to my son?
WILLIAMS: And then he testified without looking at you.
JOHN: Yeah. Never looked at me. Never again.
WILLIAMS: And I should say--I should say--let's get this--I don't--how do I get to where we are today? Let's jump ahead a little bit real quick. Because he didn't speak to you then. Now let's jump ahead. It started with you because seven years in, you got out. Now, how did you get out?
MARGIE: On a technical detail.
WILLIAMS: And what was the technical detail that got you out of jail?
MARGIE: You know, I don't even remember. It was just...
JOHN: I do.
MARGIE: Do you? What was it?
JOHN: It was me.
WILLIAMS: It was you?
MARGIE: You did something?
JOHN: I did something that they didn't do.
MARGIE: Oh, that's right. Yeah. OK.
JOHN: We all took psychological examinations within the--MMPI was the big thing.
MARGIE: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.
JOHN: We took that. We took lie detectors. We took everything.
MARGIE: See, we passed all this.
JOHN: We passed all that. And we're thinking, 'Hey, this will be all right. We'll get into court, judge will go, "Oh, we made a terrible mistake."'
JOHN: Never got to court because they wouldn't let the guy that gave me the test--they had called him, then they sent the jury out, and my attorney forgot to put it on the record. Her attorney didn't. Timmy's attorney didn't. They got--on Stoll's Evidence is in the laws right in California. It's called Stoll's Evidence.
MARGIE: That's right. Yeah.
JOHN: They went home on my evidence, and I sat there.
JOHN: Because my attorney forgot to mention my name...
WILLIAMS: And it's the fact of the matter that they didn't...
JOHN: ...forgot to get me in the thing.
WILLIAMS: So the fact that they never included all the mitigating information that would have exonerated you as evidence...
JOHN: Then it's--then it's no good because it wasn't in trial, Montel. And once it isn't in trial, then it's--didn't count. It didn't happen if it's not on--in the trial.
WILLIAMS: But it happened to the two of you. So that's what got you out.
MARGIE: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
WILLIAMS: They just walk in all of a sudden and said, 'Pack your stuff, you need to get out.'
WILLIAMS: 'Excuse--excuse me?' 'No, you're leaving today.'
MARGIE: Mm-hmm, right after the count. I said, 'Going back to court?' They said, 'No, you're released.'
WILLIAMS: You're released?
WILLIAMS: And then they just open up the front door?
MARGIE: Kind of. It was the longest count ever. I had to wait till afterwards, and it took, like, hours. Usually, it takes about 15 minutes, but it took, like, three hours. And they took me to the R&R release and handed me $200 and said, 'We're sorry.'
WILLIAMS: After destroying her family, taking her children away from her, leaving her locked up for seven years, 'Here's $200, see you.'
Let me take a break. We'll be back right after this.
(Excerpts from upcoming segment)
WILLIAMS: Look your mother in the eye. You haven't done it yet. Look her in the eye.
WILLIAMS: Lean forward.
MARGIE: We look each other in the eye.
DONALD: I love my mom.
WILLIAMS: You know what? Take your hand out of your hand and hold your mom's hand.
DONALD: I don't like doing that.
WILLIAMS: You know what? Right now, we're going to figure out how to change that. Because guess what? If you could hold your mother's hand, guess what? If you can get close to your mom, those little kids can get you. That's why you can't hold them. Because you can't let yourself hold her.
WILLIAMS: I did a Broadway play last year called "Exonerated."
MARGIE: Oh, that's right.
WILLIAMS: Where I performed as one of the characters who was released from death row.
WILLIAMS: And I'm going to tell you, just play-acting--play-acting, I walked around angry for day after day after day, because I had to play this character who spent three and a half years on death row in Florida for a crime he didn't commit where it was obviously completely fabricated, and I walked around the majority of the time doing that play just mad. I don't get how you can sit here and not be angry, man.
JOHN: I'm--oh, I'm angry.
JOHN: But it takes too much effort. I just got out of prison. I'm trying to have a good time here. I don't want to be miserable.
WILLIAMS: OK. I know you've spoken to none of the boys...
WILLIAMS: ...since you've been out.
JOHN: Eddie. Eddie--not since I've been out, no. Eddie came to see me the day after he testified in the county jail, which was a beautiful thing.
WILLIAMS: He came and said what?
JOHN: I--he just--he started to say that--what he said on the stand. He cried on the witness stand and apologized, said, 'I'm sorry, John.'
MARGIE: He didn't do anything.
JOHN: And then when he got to the--excuse me. And then when he got to the jail, I--before he said anything, I told him, 'You didn't do anything wrong. I don't want to talk about it. You didn't do anything wrong. Let's just talk.' And that was it. We talked. Because he didn't do anything. None of the children did anything.
WILLIAMS: Please welcome Victor, Ed, Alan and Donald back to the show.
You come around this way.
JOHN: Thanks, man.
ED: What's happening, buddy?
JOHN: Hi, Victor.
WILLIAMS: You know, I look at--I look at--at--at you guys, and I--and I think in terms of not just like a family, but I mean, had this never happened, the six of you might be sitting around here right now talking about the barbecue that just happened last week over at your house and the fire blew up or something, you know what I mean? I'd have you here for another reason. And now you're here. I know each one of you guys has wanted to say something to John. What do you want to say? Start with you.
VICTOR: I'm sorry.
MARGIE: Guys don't need to say anything.
ED: Yeah, I'm just glad that you could be so OK about everything now. I really worried about that.
JOHN: Thank you, Eddie.
JOHN: Thank you, Victor.
ALAN: John, I don't know how you did it.
JOHN: Very carefully.
ALAN: Well, I imagine so. And--and in fact, I heard some of the stories. I got to talk to people, and it's amazing how you--you could get by.
WILLIAMS: You know--you know, since you bring it up--and John, and I don't want you to relive this, but I got to make you for a second.
WILLIAMS: Why don't you tell these people? To go to prison in this country today as a child molester, are you kidding me?
JOHN: Twenty years is a long time to hide.
WILLIAMS: Twenty years, and--and you--there was--there was--and a lot of times, you didn't get a chance to hide.
MARGIE: And yeah, you want to go on the main yard because you don't want to be PC'd with the people who really did it. You know, you don't want to live with that person. That's what--you know--yeah.
JOHN: That's who you'll end up with. If you say, 'Hey, I'm scared because of my charges.' Well, they'll just put you with a whole bunch of child molesters. And the last thing I want to do is spend 20 years with them.
MARGIE: Yeah. Thank you. Exactly.
JOHN: So I just said, 'I'm not PCing nowhere.'
JOHN: 'I didn't do anything. I don't even want to hear it.'
MARGIE: So we both went out. We went out on the main line.
JOHN: Both went out on the main line. I stayed on the main line for 20 years.
WILLIAMS: And every once in awhile, somebody had to...
JOHN: Oh, yes, sir, every once in awhile.
MARGIE: Anyone would say something.
WILLIAMS: It came up. Guys, you know...
MARGIE: Aren't they nice boys?
WILLIAMS: If you stop right now, and you think about it, I mean, I don't know if you know anything that's happened in their lives.
JOHN: Not really. No.
WILLIAMS: If the six of you sat down and we wrote out everything that took place in your lives, and then took those back to the prosecutor or the state, somebody should probably roll over in their grave trying to figure out something to do. This is--families destroyed.
MARGIE: Yeah. Yeah.
ALAN: We've all been in our own prison, you know?
JOHN: You bet they have.
ALAN: We--we--we didn't get the walls, but--but we definitely...
ALAN: Still, I still lost 20 years of my life. I don't know, you know--I lost all of the--the growing up times learning how to be a kid and learning how to have fun and all that kind of stuff. All that was shot, you know? So I'm still eight years old as far as my living skills go.
WILLIAMS: Social issues.
ALAN: Sure. You know, we're still stuck. And...
WILLIAMS: Please welcome John's attorney and the director of the Innocence Project, Linda Starr. Welcome her to the show.
Ms. LINDA STARR (Legal Director Of The Innocence Project): Thank you.
WILLIAMS: Linda, thank you for being here.
And also welcome another one of John's attorneys, who's also a director of the Innocence Project, Mr. Justin Brooks. Welcome him to the show.
The two of you--your project got involved in this when and how?
Ms. STARR: We got a call from another attorney who said that he knows we do DNA cases, do we do other kinds of cases, too? And we said, 'Yes, we do.' He said he had represented some other people from Bakersfield who've been exonerated in these child sex abuse cases, and he wondered if we would be interested in representing Mr. Stoll, who he was certain was innocent. We hadn't met John.
WILLIAMS: And you said?
Ms. STARR: We said, 'Well, we'll look at the material. We'll look at the case and the charges.' We respected the attorney very much, Mr. Snedeker, so we had a lot of faith in his recommendation. And when we realized the--the time period that the case came from in Bakersfield, which was during this huge wit--witch hunt during that time, and when we met John, and then when we talked to each of these young men, we knew that this was a battle we had to fight.
WILLIAMS: How many people got arrested in Bakersfield at this time? Sixty-something people, correct?
Ms. STARR: Something like that, yes, and there were more--there were--some estimates put something like 200 suspects. Some people just left knowing that they were going to be in the same situation.
WILLIAMS: This is--this is a town where the peop--the officials went crazy, and anybody who blinked, just about, got arrested for child molestation.
MARGIE: You didn't even have to blink.
WILLIAMS: You didn't have to blink. Let me take a break. We'll be back right after this.
California Innocence Project 224 Cedar Street San Diego, CA 92101 www.cwsl.edu 619-525-1485
WILLIAMS: When are we going to get some attorneys to--to step up to the plate and start asking for prosecutors to go to jail? This seems to me like it would be a landmark case to go to court and try to sue and get a state to pass a law that says if, in fact, a prosecutor does this, you spend the same amount of time in jail that the people you put in jail spend? This crap will stop. And add something to it. And the state has to pay a million dollars a day. It's over. Nobody else is going to jail this way.
Mr. JUSTIN BROOKS (Attorney For The Innocence Project): Well, you know, good district attorneys, when you go to them with cases, they do review them, and they should--part of their job is, you know, justice for the defendant and to look over the whole system.
WILLIAMS: Well, that's the dream.
Mr. BROOKS: But at the end of John's case, the district attorney walked out of the courtroom, looked into a TV camera and said, 'You win some, you lose some.' And that was the attitude. They fight till the end, and maybe they win, maybe they lose. But they're going to defend this conviction as long as they can.
Ms. STARR: And they still do.
WILLIAMS: And they still do?
Ms. STARR: They still defend the conviction.
WILLIAMS: It's so sad. And obviously...
Ms. STARR: Even though--they don't know--you know, these are very brave young men to have gone forward. Then when they get up as adults to take the stand, they're ridiculed, accused of lying, accused of being in it for some other reas--unknown reason, accused of doing it for some deep-rooted psychological problem. They--they can't win.
Mr. BROOKS: We're--we're law school clinics, where we have volunteer law students looking into these cases, and you're right. This is something the government should be doing.
Ms. STARR: Right.
Mr. BROOKS: When you have to have little teams of law students--and we have 168,000 inmates in California, more than most countries in the world, we just have in the state of California--and we have to review those, and it's left to us to go in and clean up this mess. And usually, even after those exonerations, they still don't go back to look for the right guy. They still don't admit they made a mistake.
WILLIAMS: Now--now, I got to say this, because in John's case, recantation by everybody except for one.
WILLIAMS: And because that one didn't recant, you weren't exonerated. You were let out. Correct?
Ms. STARR: Well, what they did was they reversed his conviction.
JOHN: No. They reversed my conviction.
WILLIAMS: Reversed the conviction.
Ms. STARR: And they said they couldn't--they--they were given the opportunity to re-prosecute. If they could get the son to testify again as to what it was, they would--they could re-prosecute it. But he has no recollection of anything ever happening. So they end up having to dismiss all the charges for having nobody to testify against him.
WILLIAMS: But you don't have to register as a sex offender.
JOHN: Oh, no. No.
Ms. STARR: No.
WILLIAMS: Neither do you?
MARGIE: No, but I wasn't--my wasn't--my conviction wasn't turned--overturned. I just got out on a technicality. So legally...
WILLIAMS: You're still guilty?
MARGIE: Yes, absolutely.
WILLIAMS: And so--but they have not made you register as a sex offender.
WILLIAMS: But the state could step in and say, 'Where you been?'
MARGIE: Yes, they could. Yes.
WILLIAMS: And how ignorant is this? Let me take a break. We'll be back.
WILLIAMS: You know what? I--I want to take a break here for a second from--from just this discussion. And--and this may seem a little odd, but, ladies and gentlemen, please give it up for John.
And I think the strength that you have shown--over the top. I'm having you back. I want you back on this show. I want you to come back, because we're going to have some people from this same town here back on the show as soon as we can gather some more together. Because this story needs to be told. And this is an example of why some of the things in this country need to change.
And this is what--I'm going to ask the two of you guys. You know, do me a favor. I'm going to send you backstage, too. So give it up for Ed and Victor, also. All three of you guys, go backstage for a second.
You know why? Because I'm going to keep you guys around. Mom, move over a chair, for a second. Mom, move over a chair. You move over a chair.
MARGIE: OK, you guys.
WILLIAMS: Why won't you move over a chair? Because, see, ladies and gentlemen, one of the things that's happened here is that, since this incident took place, the three of you have spoken about this, what, once? In 20 years?
WILLIAMS: I think only the two of you, and it was only a momentary comment.
DONALD: One time I--I had written a poem explaining how I felt about this situation, and--and in the poem, it said that I lied, and I cried, and I put my mom there, innocently in prison for seven years, or something right about like that. And I accidentally left it out on my--on my dresser when I was in high school. Was going through it, you know, looking at it, and trying not to be mad about the situation. Read the poem, just left it out. While I was at school, Mom--Mom came in and put my clothes on my bed. You know, folded the clothes on the bed and was walking out and saw it, and that was the only time I spoke--we spoke about it. She brought me in the room. I thought I was in--in trouble. Says, 'I need to talk to you.' And she says, 'I found this poem that you had written.' And I--the only thing she said was, 'We never blamed you kids.' And I said, 'I know, Ma, and we know you didn't do it.' And that was our conversation.
WILLIAMS: And now, guys, what do you say? You're trapped at eight. You've been trapped. We can't go back and erase it.
ALAN: I still...
WILLIAMS: I saw--huh?
ALAN: I--I--I--I don't know how, after 20 years, still to look my mother in the face, in the eyes. I mean, after--I--I didn't have the guilt feelings. They--they convinced me that my mother was a child molester, and only until recently had I even considered that it may have not happened. And after 20 years, I have a hard time, you know, connecting with my mother because there's this big something in the way.
WILLIAMS: But you know what? That's been sitting there for 20 years because the three of you haven't figured out a way to work on it, damn it.
ALAN: Well, there's no school for this.
WILLIAMS: There is no school, but you know what there is? There's a way to sit and talk. Let me take a break. We'll be back right after this.
WILLIAMS: Please welcome Dr. Alicia Salzer to the show.
Doc, come here. Yeah, that's OK.
Dr. Salzer's the--the director of our Aftercare Program, and I didn't even expect to bring you out here, but I'm bringing you out here. So hold onto the microphone for a minute. But he's saying there's no school. It's not a school that you need.
MARGIE: There's no handbook.
WILLIAMS: There's no handbook. It's--because this has never been written before, I don't think. And they may find something--and she could find something in a book that may come close. But it's not about a book. It's about the three of you. Has this woman molested you or done anything to you in the last 17 years of your life?
WILLIAMS: Has she done anything disparaging whatsoever toward you in the last 17 years?
ALAN: Absolutely not.
WILLIAMS: So then maybe if you approached this to begin with--not from a forgiveness standpoint, but you know what? You said it yourself--'I don't know the truth.' But what you have now is reality, and this is real, so base your truth on this day forward.
Dr. ALICIA J. SALZER (Director of Aftercare, "The Montel Williams Show"): And I watched you guys talking, and John, too. Such a pleasant guy, such a likable guy. So, you know, just where's the anger? Where's the anger? I feel it. I've been furious watching this whole show. I know you guys have been furious (to the audience), and I know you are furious (to Montel). I see it. I see it in your eyes.
And I think that sometimes, to try to spare your children the pain of what you've been through, to not put any more guilt on them than you already see in their eyes, you bury the anger.
Dr. SALZER: You know, you hide it away. 'Everything's fine. Jail, shmail. You know, it's over. Let's move forward. Let's be a family.' But you haven't moved forward to be a family because you guys can't look each other in the eye. And yet I see so much love there. I see you guys holding each other's hands. I don't see you pulling your hand away from her. I know that...
DONALD: No, I love her. I just don't...
Dr. SALZER: I know that there's love there. And I think the thing to get in touch with is the anger. You've buried it for so long because you couldn't live with it. It would eat you up. If you don't get in touch with that and get it out, all you're going to have is this tight, bottled-up, tears overflowing, sad, scared feeling that you guys have been living with.
DONALD: I actually feel more comfortable with my kids around my mom than I do around my kids.
WILLIAMS: You know, but see, let me tell you something. One of the things that she has said you have to get in touch with is this anger and this rage, OK? I'm sorry. I think you also got to get in touch with the anger--the way you are so angry at yourself. Watch this. Not only are you mad at yourself--and you've been mad at yourself for the last 20 years for doing this to your mother. Watch this.
DONALD: And John.
WILLIAMS: And John. You've been mad, OK? Because you don't know. But I can guarantee you that you've been mad at her. Watch this. Why? Because even though you did it, she still abandoned you. She still left you by yourself. You thought for sure if you told the truth, she was going to come home.
WILLIAMS: And she didn't. That's the lie that you've held onto longer than the rest of them. Because you kept--you've said it over and over again in each--the pre-interview. You said it here. You thought she was coming home, and she didn't. So it's OK to be mad about that. You stopped yourself from being angry because you think you put her there.
You haven't even been angry because you didn't do nothing wrong. And they don't know whether it was true or not. But let it go. You guys are going to have to do that because one of these days, you're going to be able to look right over there like that and look her right dead in the eye and not look at the floor.
Mom, look back. Look him back. Look him back.
MARGIE: Get over here so I can see.
WILLIAMS: Oh, you got to lean forward some because she can't move her neck.
WILLIAMS: Look her back. Look her back.
Look at him. Turn around. Look at your other son.
Look your mother in the eye. You haven't done it yet. Look her in the eye. Lean forward.
MARGIE: We look each other in the eye.
DONALD: I love my mom.
WILLIAMS: You know what, take your hand out of your hand and hold your mom's hand.
DONALD: I don't like doing that.
WILLIAMS: You know what? But right now, we're going to figure out how to change that. Because guess what? If you could hold your mother's hand, guess what? If you can get close to your mom, those little kids will come to you. That's why you can't hold them, because you can't let yourself hold her. That's it, bud. I'm telling you.
I'm going to take a break. We'll be back right after this.
WILLIAMS: You know, we're out of time, and I have to thank all of our guests for being here. And this will be a topic that we will do again, no question.
Before we go out of here--and I talked to Dr. Salzer. One of the things that she thinks might do you both a little good.
(To Donald) I'm going to start with you, sir. Part of what you might want to consider doing is when you look in that mirror--and you said it. You were trapped at eight. I'll tell you, the both of you are trapped at the same place you were when your mom was snatched. Because it's not just about you. You got how many kids at home?
WILLIAMS: You don't have a relationship right now, do you?
WILLIAMS: Of course not. And--and part of this is all of that. You know that.
ALAN: You betcha.
WILLIAMS: Your life stays here unless we can step you forward. It isn't easy. I'm sorry. It's not. But who the hell am I? Except for somebody who just wants you guys to move forward, and you can.
I'm out of time. Join us on the next MONTEL.