Last Exit to Ponchatoula
It's beginning to look as though another demonstrable case of ritual abuse is about to be mishandled by American law.
The Hosanna Church paedophile ring will be tried upon the word of three abused children, while confessions of occult motive and corroborating evidence are being written out of the record:
What is missing from the court case as it stands are the allegations of occult activity as the motive for the sexual abuse of children and animals, he said. No physical evidence of the occult, such as pentagrams drawn on the floor and spell books were ever found, Tangipahoa Parish sheriff's Detective Mike DePhillips told the court.
"You heard today that they couldn't find any evidence of the occult, so that is a dead issue," said Assistant Public Defender Reginald McIntyre, who represents defendants Paul Fontenot and Patricia Pierson.
No pentagrams? Just last month, The New York Times reported that clear imprints of pentagrams, showing attempts at erasure, had been found on the floor of the church youth hall.
No evidence? Upon accused Nicole Bernard's April confession to the FBI, she "directed authorities to her storage unit, containing videotapes and nine bin liners full of masks and robes for use in the ceremonies. Also, she described performing oral sex on her infant daughter as part of the child's dedication."
No motive? The confessions were of crimes that had occult motive. Detectives were told by church members that "they carried out the practices for years as part of a devil-worshipping ritual involving cat blood." Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff Daniel Edwards said "This is hard to talk about and harder to believe, but some of the suspects have told us their intention in all of this was devil worshipping."
But no; that's just too much to expect a jury to accept. And so an incredible motive is erased, more effectively than the pentagrams from the floor of the youth hall. What remains are still inconceivable crimes, yet now without motive. Of course occult practice is not a crime, nor should it be. It should be irrelevent before the law whether injurious practices are conducted in the name of God, or the Devil, or neither. But eliminate the occult from this picture and the picture loses focus, because the crime has been stripped of its motive. Eliminate too much, over-fog the picture, and the prosecution loses its case. It's certainly a development, and a prospect, that seems to cheer the Public Defender.
The McMartin prosecution as well refused to pursue the allegations of ritual crimes - they were too fantastic to believe - and instead made the trials about "simple" child abuse. Given the prosecution's failure to convict, that adds an ironic gloss upon McMartin's perceived legacy as a cautionary tale of "Satanic panic."
Today's headline that reads "Occult Activity No Longer An Aspect Of Sex Abuse Case" should make some bad people feel good, but perhaps worse, it will make some good people feel better, because they will again be let off the hook of needing to investigate the shadows at their door.
And we should ask, as we always should, whether the law's looming incompetence arises from a benign though ham-fisted resistance to introducing bizarre material which seems of another space and time, or the intentional slamming shut of a lid that is not meant to be opened.
At least, not yet.