I have not contacted you before, but have been an interested reader of Skeptic Magazine for a few years now. I thought Skeptics might take interest in the following mail that I received about using "recovered" memory in a criminal trial, since you've covered this topic in the past.
Glad to see your website, btw, and will look forward to scrutinizing it closer in the future!
September 7, 1998
Dear Media Person,
This is to alert you to the fact that the first CRIMINAL trial concerning "false" or "recovered" memory issues begins Tuesday, September 8 in Houston, TX. Enclosed is a press release outlining some of the issues. The trial is an important one and is expected to go on for three months. You are receiving this because of your interest and your coverage of false memory issues, but please feel free to share this information with any interested colleagues.
You may also want to obtain a copy of Ofra Bikel's documentary video "The Search For Satan" which was aired on PBS on October 24, 1995 for background on this case.
To cover this event and other unfolding news, the False Memory Syndrome Foundation has established a website:
It is designed as an on-line media center for this trial and other breaking events. [There are some big ones coming up!] This site will have background information, copies of important documents, commentary, suggestions for slants and sidebars, breaking news, and on-line access to some of our experts. It is the Foundation's first major effort since the Scientific and Advisory Board voted in May to continue the work of the Foundation with special attention to media issues.
Dozens of civil suits for malpractice have been decided or settled against psychotherapists whose false or recovered memory therapy has done enormous harm to patients and their families. Some of these have brought in substantial settlements. Most notably, there was a record $10.6 million settlement to a Chicago-area woman and her family in a similar case last December.
Unfortunately from a media standpoint, many of these cases have been settled out of court, the settlements have placed gag orders on the plaintiffs and their attorneys, and the records have been sealed. As a result, the public has generally been deprived of information about how widespread these false memories cases have been, how extreme and damaging the clinical treatments have been, and the extent of the involvement by highly credentialled professionals and large urban teaching hospitals. Perhaps this is partially responsible for the fact that some of the major professional associations in the U.S. and some of the licensing boards have failed to take concrete steps to eliminate these treatments. Although public opinion is slowly changing, there are still many innocent people who need to be freed from prison and still more who are alienated form family members.
We believe this criminal case provides an unprecedented opportunity for full media treatment. Please check into our website and feel free to contact us if there is anything else we can do to assist you.
Pamela Freyd, Ph.D.
_____________________ FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
PHILADELPHIA, PA. On Tuesday, September 8, 1998, the first CRIMINAL trial involving "false" or "recovered" memories will open in Houston, TX. A sixty-count indictment has been brought against five former employees of Spring Shadows Glen Hospital. One count is for conspiracy, the other 59 for mail fraud. Each count carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Officials estimate the trial may go on for three months.
Named in the indictment are Dr. Judith Peterson, psychologist, Gloria Keraga and Richard Seward, psychiatrists, therapist Sylvia Davis and hospital administrator Jerry Mueck. The prosecution intends to establish that the defendants (among other things):
Conspired to defraud health insurance providers of millions of dollars for the treatment of patients falsely diagnosed as suffering multiple personality disorder said to be caused by severe ritualized sexual abuse in satanic cults
Paid several thousands of dollars out in health insurance premiums to keep the patients' policies in effect with the intent to file claims amounting millions of dollars against these policies
Directed subordinate members of the clinical staff to falsify patient records in order to justify these claims
Established a hospital ward with the express purpose to defraud insurance carriers
Abused their status as professionals, applied techniques associated with mind control or "brainwashing", used hypnosis, administered drugs for untested uses and in untested dosages, and used restraints to coerce patients into believing they had been ritually abused in cults
Used the U.S. mails to send out fraudulent bills for treatment.
The prosecutor in the case is Assistant U.S. Attorney Larry Eastepp. In a copyrighted article in The Houston Chronicle of October 29, 1997, Eastepp said the case is based on medical records and insurance billings for seven patients treated at Spring Shadows Glen. The identities of the seven patients are not revealed in the indictment, which refers to the patients by numbers. However, all of the patients had generous or unlimited insurance policies.
According to the October 29 article by Mark Smith in The Houston Chronicle, "more than a dozen other patients have made similar civil claims involving the former Spring Shadows Glen Hospital." In August of 1997, plaintiff Lynn Carl was awarded $5.8 million dollars by a federal jury for damages suffered as a result her treatment at Spring Shadow Glen, believed to be the second highest award granted in a false memory case. Carl testified that during her stay at Spring Shadow Glen she became convinced that she had 500 different personalities as a result of ritual satanic abuse. In December, a similar suit was settled against treaters and a major teaching hospital in Chicago for a record $10.6 million.
NOTE: The False Memory Syndrome Foundation has established a website for the use of media to follow this trial and other breaking news on this issue. Check the website at: