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Prosecutor Cites Lack of Evidence in McMartin Case

January 27, 1986 GMT

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ An inability to substantiate children’s accounts of many molestations troubled prosecutors deciding if there was enough evidence to take all seven defendants in the McMartin Pre-School case to trial, District Attorney Ira Reiner says.

″There was a lack of corroboration that was hard to explain,″ Reiner said. ″It’s one thing to have a single incident that is not corroborated. But when you’re dealing with such large numbers, the lack of corroboration became more and more disquieting.″

On Jan. 17, Reiner announced that charges would be dropped against five of the seven McMartin defendants. Only Raymond Buckey, 27, and his mother, former school director Peggy Buckey, 57, face trial in the case involving students at the now-closed preschool in suburban Manhattan Beach.

Mrs. Buckey is charged with 20 counts of child molestation and one count of conspiracy, while Buckey faces trial on 79 counts of child molestation and a conspiracy count. Both pleaded innocent. Charges were dropped against school founder Virginia McMartin, 78, her granddaughter, Peggy Ann Buckey, 29, and three former teachers.

In the end, it was Reiner’s decision alone to vastly reduce the scope of what he had thought of as ″the case of the century″ when he inherited it upon taking office in December 1984.

Reiner said he became ″increasingly skeptical of the evidence″ but did not make a final decision until the end of the preliminary hearing.

Despite an intensive search, for example, no pornographic photos of the McMartin students could be found, although many of the child witnesses testified they had been photographed in the nude.

Some in Reiner’s office feared that ″all of the publicity had caused some of the children to jump in and say ’Yes, yes, yes‴ they had been molested, said Jack B. White, chief of the district attorney’s bureau of investigation.

″I was in favor of vigorously prosecuting seven people until the preliminary hearing was over because at the end of the preliminary hearing, I knew there would be no more evidence that I could look forward to analyzing,″ said Assistant District Attorney Curt Livesay.

Other factors, including fears that words might have been put into a child’s mouth by parents, playmates, social workers, investigators, lawyers or exposure to publicity, also figured in the evaluations, officials said.