“Dateline NBC” (4/8/12) Recap: Nancy Smith Wrongfully Accused of Child …
“Dateline NBC” tonight showcases just one of the child molestation cases from the late 1990s in which innocent individuals were wrongfully convicted during a time when there was rampant accusations being tossed around the United States related to a suspected trend of child care workers abusing daycare children. The case of Nancy Smith from Lorain, Ohio is one which not only should never have gone to trial, but one in which it is felt numerous “professions” should be held accountable for botching!
Ron Mott presents this story of Nancy Smith, who in 1993, was accused and arrested for several counts of rape and the abuse of a child all based on the accusations of one mother, Margie Grondin, who first went to the school authorities and police to tell of “disturbing details” from her daughter about being taken by Nancy to the house of a black man instead of school. When the police did not move fast enough in the arrest, Grondin went to the mayor and finally the media in what would become a frenzy of suspicions and false accusations in Lorain, Ohio and place an innocent women in prison for nearly fifteen years and ruining her reputation as well as her life and the lives of her children.
Almost immediately after the media aired the story, other parents and their children converged on the police department with “similar” stories and five months after the first accusation was made, Joseph Allen appeared and although Allen and Smith never met, they were associated as being in a relationship despite Allen’s own testimony he never met her before trial. It was appalling that during this broadcast Margie Grondin is seen stating they should castrate Allen and stuff “it” down his throat as her child can be heard saying “cut him up!”
According to the testimony of the children as aired on “Dateline NBC” Nancy took them to Joseph’s house “repeatedly” where they were urinated on and threatened with death. Okay, I used to work for a fairly large HeadStart in Dearborn, Michigan and I can tell you without a doubt there is NO WAY a bus driver would have been able to “repeatedly” do anything with those children under her care because as she stated, there is always a bus attendant on board as well as documentation of absences and lateness as required by the government! For the parents to state the children were “acting out” that could mean a million different things at this age when they are naturally exploring their bodies.
The story reports there was never any medical testimony to support the claims presented in court and even though Nancy stated she was “momentarily” without an aid could have simply been while an aid was away going to the bathroom which the prosecution used to their advantage. What was really disturbing was the fact several coworkers of Nancy begged her attorney, Jack Bradley, to allow them to testify on her behalf which he never did. These included Sherry Hegerman, who was the attendant on the day one of the supposed “side trips” took place, Sue Coates and Eddie Soto, who stated Margie Grondin had secretly confided in him her daughter’s story changed which was brought to the attention of the prosecutor who objected to allowing it in court and the judge throwing it out!
Nancy Smith, in 1994, was convicted and sentenced to 30-90 years in prison while co-defendent, Joseph Smith, was convicted and sentenced to five life sentences. The originating detective for the case, Cantou, states nothing ever really meshed beginning with the children’s testimonies which he feels were manipulated by the constant
questioning of the police, parents, and prosecution. Bradley states he wanted answers to questions like how could the children return home or go to school after supposedly being urinated on on the bus or at the house of Joseph Allen in addition to being stuck with needles and sexually assaulted? There were video tapes which were never played for the jury in the case of parents lying about what transpired during the lineup identification as well as direct guidance for identification as in the case of Margie Grondin’s daughter.
Cantou claims none of the houses looked familiar to the children and none were identified as the correct house in which Joesph Allen actually lived. Although the children were stated as having been abused together in a basement, the description never matched the basement of Allen nor do HeadStart records confirm the children were ever late or absent on the same day. It was heartbreaking to hear Nancy Smith talk about what this has taken from her life – proms, graduations, grandchild births, weddings, and deaths – which she was unable to participate in and memories she will never know. As far as this reporter is concerned, Bradley, as well as the police department who never called Cantou to testify, the judge, parents, and prosecution all have played a hand in this absolute miscarriage of justice!
Nancy Smith’s daughter, Amber, started assisting in finding a way to prove her mother’s innocence and contacted Cel Rivera, now police chief in Lorain, Ohio who was the overseer for the lineup. He stated (behind closed doors)the department was pressured by the prosecutor. families, and media for a conviction but he always felt there was a political motivation and unreliable testimony in the case. The unreliable testimony was the manipulated testimony of the children and the political motivation was the media circus. Three of the families settled with HeadStart in a multi-million dollar lawsuit which seems to be the financial motivation behind this case as stated by Emily Oliver’s son who is now serving time for burglary.
Amber states the police chief stopped talking to her and when questioned by investigators, denied ever stating departmental pressure or misgivings about the case, so she secretly taped the conversations which showed him a liar which he publicly voiced outrage but recently is now endorsing clemency. Bradley discovered a clerical error which required a new judge to re-sentence Smith but after looking over all the testimony and tapes, he instead granted an acquittal which was promptly contested by the prosecution office to the Ohio Supreme Court. They agreed the judge overstepped his bounds and ordered him to return Smith to prison with a new sentence in the case last year. Advised against this, both Smith and Allen wait in limbo for John Kaisch, Ohio governor, to make his decision. Will it be clemency or will he uphold the Supreme Court’s decision and return both to prison? Was Nancy Smith wrongfully accused of child molestation? It is my personal opinion the answer to that question is absolutely!
Images courtesy of NBC
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