On April 30th I read an article published in XL Semanal regarding a horrific case of false charges of abuse of minors that occurred in Italy back in the 1990s, and which the press christened “The Devils of Lower Modena.” Speaking about the investigation, Fatima Uribari—the journalist who authored the article—writes, The children’s’ declarations led several families to prison. It was a shocking case: A group of adults raped, tortured, and even forced children to stab others to death. (…) And all of that was a lie. And none of that took place. And all the accused were absolutely innocent. And five of those adults died while they were suffering through this frightful nightmare.
Reading the article took me back to painful experiences because there are many parallels between that case and my own: false accusations based on false memories; parallel trials and social pressure; innocent victims accused and harassed… The investigator of that case—Pablo Trincia, who published a book about it titled Poison—comments that this is the case that shakes him the most from his whole career because that nightmare could happen to anyone. Truer words have never been spoken. In 2012, when they first accused me of abuse, I considered myself to be that anyone: a teacher who was excited about his work, who was trying to help his students, oblivious to life inside courtrooms and on the front pages of newspapers.
In the Italian case, the basis of the accusations was built upon the false memories of minors, induced by professionals who used the “progressive disclosure technique,” for the recovery of memories via multiple, arduous interviews. Although it appears colloquial, nevertheless “false memories” is a technical term. “False memories”—as described by Elizabeth Loftus—are memories that a person has of events or experiences which never actually happened. These false memories can be created and believed by someone as a result of suggestion, manipulation, or external influence. In my case, the experts I presented—some internationally renowned—argued that the testimony of the sole accuser, and the only evidence of the charge against me, met the criteria to be considered a “false memory.” Their tremendous expertise was not sufficiently appreciated.
As we now know, neither the abuses nor the dark practices that led to the convictions of the Italian “perpetrators” occurred. Nevertheless, the full weight of the law, and of injustice, fell upon them; because when Justice is not blind, it is certainly merciless with the sword. I’m hopeful that, at some point in the future, the truth about my case will come to light.
And I say hopeful, because in the awful article published in XL Semanal, Fatima Uribari writes, Don Giorgio and Alfredo died of heart attacks (as defendants); Monica and Adriana died of cancer while serving out their sentences; and Francesca committed suicide. And all of them were innocent. There were case reviews and acquittals, but they came too late for them. Now, Marta and Dario admit that they made up the accusations: “In these 20 years I’ve had my doubts; now I’m certain that I made everything up,” Marta confesses. However, other accusers remain convinced that aberrations existed.
Recently a writ of defense of my innocence that was prepared by several attorneys has been published by a digital media entity, and in which solid reasons are givento question Juan’s veracity and to affirm my own. I decided to send that document—which is technical and very detailed—to ecclesiastical authorities. It’s one of the only little things I can do, together with my legal defense.
Although I don’t know if the truth will ever come to light in my case, I’ll continue fighting for that. For now, in these past several weeks I’ve found myself with these two documents—one journalistic and one legal—which I hope that, at the very least, serve to reflect on how versions accepted as true for years, even by professionals within the justice system, can turn out to be wrong.