Although it is not the first case of its kind, it is now the longest in California history, exceeding the record previously held only by the now notorious McMartin Preschool case from the eighties. Parallels abound: beginning with the fact that in both cases the accuser is the son of a clinically diagnosed mentally ill woman and comes from a family all too often under the watchful eye of CPS. Also, in both cases, an arrest was made based upon an accusation alone- without evidence to prove a crime had occurred at all.
Most disturbingly, however, is the similarity between the prosecution style of the McMartins and the style of our very own Marin Prosecutor, Lori Frugoli, and the MVPD. In their determination to get a conviction, just as those before them, they have pioneered the employment of new "investigative procedures"; such as "purging" all recordings of the original interviews with the accuser- so that now the defense, nor the judge, nor the jury shall ever hear them. These "new procedures" were employed after Officer Graff of the MVPD was perjured on the stand early on in the preliminary hearings that began back in 2006. After submitting a transcript of a pre-text phone call between the accused and the accuser, Defense Attorney Douglas Horngrad obtained the actual recording of the call and had it transcribed by an independent third party. When Horngrad asked Officer Graff why the MVPD had turned in a transcript to the judge, and to the defense, that was at least 55 pages shorter than the actual transcript, Officer Graff claimed she "did not know that any omissions had been made." Horngrad read aloud in court some of the dialogue missing from the MVPD version of the transcript, and asked Officer Graff if she still felt the recorded conversation,when in its proper context, described a crime. Officer Graff was unable to answer, and by the time she was dismissed from testimony, she was in tears. Very soon after, transcripts of an interview between Officer Graff and the accuser were submitted to the defense, which described new allegations never before made by the accuser. Weeks later, Officer Graff was once again called to the stand, at which time Douglas Horngrad told her, "You will have to forgive me if I don't take your word for it." When Horngrad asked her to explain why none of the recordings of the interview were available, she responded that she was "just following the procedure of the MVPD to purge recordings." Horngrad asked why they did not purge the taped recordings of the telephone call, if indeed it is their regular proceedure; to which again she had no answer.
Also like the McMartin Preschool Case, the prosecution has sought to bring in the last minute, and seemingly coached testimonies, of a special education student as well as a surprise witness who, at the time of his testimony, was incarcerated. It was apparent to the packed court room that the low functioning youth who testified was trying his very best to say the right thing. Often times, before answering the defense attorney's questions, he would look to the Prosecutor, or Officer Graff, for approval. Both of their stories matched exactly, as if they were reading them from a cue card. At one point, the packed courtroom could contain their laughter no longer, and the judge had to warn them to remain silent. Once the low functioning youth let down his guard and told the defense attorney that "Coach Burgos was an excellent teacher," and then caught himself, looked at the Prosecutor with a red face, and turned his eyes to the floor. Several weeks after he took the stand, his paren ts and his therapist hired two separate legal representatives to try to force the prosecutor to remove him, and his testimony, from the pending trial. "I am not prepared at this time to grant their request," Prosecutor Frugoli told the judge. The parents' legal representative argued that Lori Frugoli had another witness and therefore did not need to rely upon his client's testimony, citing that she had an incarcerated witness willing to take the stand.
In these last flailing days of the longest preliminary hearing our state has ever seen, Prosecutor Lori Frugoli is reaching so far as to now attempt a creation of new case law, which would in essence change black letter law, by doing away with the need to prove intent before being charged with felony restraint, and simultaneously redefine restraint as being in a room alone with a client, patient or student while using the tools of the practice of your trade. The implications of such a new law, if codified, should be giving the professional community chills. For unlike the McMartin case, even if the accused is acquited, if Judge Faye D'Opal allows Frugoli to argue her case for restraint before a jury, it will create a legal precedent that prosecutors can employ for time indefinite. Any practice which requires the professional to employ stirrups, eye masks, strapped on apparatus, or requires them to apply pressure with their arms or hands to their client- can result in a felony restraint charge if the client later reports that he or she felt uncomfortable, or suspicious, during the treatment. The ramifications of such a new law will be unprecedented within the corporate and professional world, making it nearly impossible to adequately insure hospitals, doctor's offices, dentists, schools, therapy centers, and countless other fields across the nation. Similar to the McMartin Case, the prosecution does not seem to care who will get hurt along the way. Lori Frugoli and the MVPD seem to have personally invested themselves in getting the final outcome they desire, and despite any casualties that may occur; including the ramifications of such a precedent upon society at large, nothing so far has stopped them.
After creating a nightmare in the community of Manhattan Beach, the McMartin case lead to three self inflicted deaths and left a trail of crumbled lives, before the accused was finally acquitted. I predict that if Lori Frugoli and the MVPD continue to thumb their noses at history, it will repeat itself. Although justice will ultimately grace itself upon the accused, just like in the McMartin case, the shattered lives of many innocent people will never be the same again. "Justice for all" did not apply for the community of Manhattan Beach; for the prosecutors and the police went forward with their lives just as comfortably as before; whereas the community and the victims of their witch hunt, were left to try and put their lives back together again.