Cool Justice Editor's Note:
These columns are reprinted from Chapter 3, "more COOL JUSTICE," in light of Dylan Farrow's CBS This Morning interview and recent revelations in the Harvey Weinstein case. Weinstein's deployment of private investigators to intimidate victims and reporters mirrors the efforts by Woody Allen's legal team to spy on cops, prosecutors, doctors and the Farrow family.
Notably, even after the CBS interview, The New York Times fails in its diligence, citing Yale's grotesquely flawed report as a legitimate document.
Chapter 3 columns:
Maureen Orth cooks Woody Allen like Thanksgiving turkey
Oct. 8, 2013
Author’s Note: I wrote about the Woody Allen sex abuse case in 1994 and 1995 as editor of The Register Citizen and followed up with a profile of then Litchfield County State’s Attorney Frank Maco for Connecticut Magazine in 1997. In between, I had the opportunity to publish a few pieces about the case for Page Six in The New York Post.
The most startling experiences I’ve had covering the Woody Allen sex abuse case keep on repeating themselves, even to this day.
Just last week, the latest in a line of about a dozen private investigators I have known for many years told me, “Oh yeah, I worked for Woody, too.”
The difference with this fellow, though, is, he wasn’t digging up dirt on Connecticut State Police detectives or prosecutors. His job, with a colleague, was to shadow Mia Farrow’s children at locations including the Danbury Fair Mall.
This latest revelation shows the lengths to which Allen went in the midst of his custody battle 20 years ago with former partner Mia Farrow of Bridgewater.
These PIs did not come cheap. Some of them – former FBI and DEA agents, state troopers and municipal cops – charge more per hour than the top tiers of Connecticut lawyers. When your net worth has been estimated at upwards of $65 million, you can hire the best. You can reach out to all kinds of people.
The case has been resurrected with Maureen Orth’s blockbuster opus in the November edition of Vanity Fair. Orth elicited the first public statements by Dylan Farrow, now 27, regarding allegations that Allen violated her in 1992.
Allen has vehemently and repeatedly denied the charges.
“I was cracking,” the Farrow daughter told Orth. “I had to say something. I wanted it to stop … ”
The 8,000-word story generated extraordinary interest in Farrow’s son Ronan as “L’il Blue Eyes,” possibly the biological son of Frank Sinatra rather than Woody Allen. Notably, all of the eight children interviewed said they wanted nothing to do with Allen.
Other highlights include the impact of Farrow’s activism in Darfur, her relationships with Philip Roth and Vaclev Havel and the missing case file about Allen at New York’s Child Welfare Administration.
I interviewed the caseworker for that New York agency, Paul Williams, in 1995. The Page Six headline was “Unsilenced Ghost of Woody case.” Named Caseworker of the Year in 1991, Williams was fired in March 1993 after he refused to remain silent when superiors removed him from the Allen case and ordered him not to cooperate with investigators from Connecticut and the Manhattan DA’s office. He was reinstated seven months later, in September 1993, with the help of Brooklyn lawyer Bruce Baron and feminist author Gloria Steinem.
“They played it dirty and ugly,” Williams told me.
In another bizarre twist, I got to interview a Queens, NY private detective known as “Gotti’s PI,” Victor Juliano. This happened after many people – including Allen – might have wondered if Sinatra was kidding when he supposedly threatened to have Allen’s legs broken.
I asked Juliano if he had gone to the maximum security federal prison in Marion, Illinois, to visit the mob boss known as the Dapper Don on Allen’s behalf.
“Don’t even talk to me about that – that’s bull!” Juliano barked. He would only admit to having a long-standing working relationship with one of Allen’s many attorney’s, Jake Laufer: “I worked for Jake Laufer lots of times – It’s not like I just met him.”
Sources said Juliano persuaded John Gotti that if Sinatra ever said anything about leg breaking, it wasn’t to be taken seriously, and that the Woody-Mia war was a family matter best left alone.
In the new Vanity Fair piece, Farrow talks about fears that Allen would cause her harm and then going to Sinatra for help. She notes that Allen’s driver was related to a confessed murderer and mob enforcer. Farrow goes for a ride with a mysterious man who gives her names and phone numbers to call for help as needed. She says that made her feel safer.
Among the hundreds of stories published since Vanity Fair posted a preview of the Orth article on line, some address the issue of whether to watch Allen’s films. This is yet another repeat of the quandary faced by filmgoers 20 years ago, rekindling discussion about the art versus the artist.
Former Connecticut prosecutor:
Kidnapping charges still possible for Woody Allen
Feb. 3, 2014
NEW HAVEN – A former Connecticut prosecutor says the act of taking a minor to a secluded area for a sexual assault constitutes Class A felony kidnapping – a charge famed actor-director Woody Allen could still potentially face.
“The act of taking the minor victim to the attic for the purpose of committing a sexual assault would be a kidnapping in the first degree for which there is no statute of limitations,” attorney Proloy K. Das, a former state appellate prosecutor now with the Hartford firm Rome McGuigan, told the New Haven Register Monday.
Litchfield County State’s Attorney David Shepack, who succeeded Frank Maco, declined to comment. However, Mark Dupuis, spokesman for Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Kane, said: “There is nothing pending at this time. If we were to receive a complaint, it would be reviewed and the appropriate action taken.” Dupuis declined to respond to questions regarding the viability of potential kidnapping charges.
The allegations against Allen are more than 20 years old. They resurfaced over the weekend when Dylan Farrow – who had been adopted by Allen and Mia Farrow – detailed the sexual assault accusations in an open letter to The New York Times.
The Connecticut State Police Major Crime Squad and forensic expert Henry Lee investigated the case. During the probe, Allen hired teams of private detectives to investigate law enforcement officials, the Farrow children and the Yale Child Study team. Then-prosecutor Maco determined there was probable cause to arrest Allen, but declined to pursue the case for fear of damaging the already fragile 7-year-old. Connecticut Magazine examined the case in 1997. Vanity Fair followed up in November 2013.
Allen has denied wrongdoing throughout the course of the case and issued another statement Sunday.
Unbridled, expensive fantasies of Woody Allen mouthpiece
Feb. 9, 2014
The Elkan Abramowitz Fantasy Special – as told to CNN’s Erin Burnett and Nightline’s Juju Chang among many others – has driven much of the false and misleading coverage about Dylan Farrow’s open letter accusing her adoptive father Woody Allen of sexual assault.
Abramowitz is Allen’s long-time lawyer and public voice.
In the lawyer role in this case, Abramowitz has a zero batting average.
Abramowitz lost two ethics complaints against the Connecticut prosecutor who found probable cause to arrest Allen. Abramowitz lost the custody battle with Mia Farrow.
Why, then, is this clown taken seriously? Why is he paid in the range of $1,000 per hour and considered one of the top lawyers in Manhattan?
A couple of lawyers asked me those questions.
The short answer: Abramowitz is extremely clever at confusing issues, parsing words and changing the course of a conversation in a nanosecond. Just watch his recent performances on CNN, Nightline and in other forums. It helps, of course, if his spiels go on without substantive challenge. One striking exception is Maureen Orth’s Feb. 7 post of 10 bullet points at Vanity Fair:
I came into this case a little late, in 1994, as editor of the local daily paper for Litchfield County, The Register Citizen. I investigated the complaints against State’s Attorney Frank Maco and the bogus Yale report used by Abramowitz to repeat false claims against Dylan Farrow. In the course of my reporting, many of the private investigators working for Team Woody told me about their efforts to dig up dirt on cops, prosecutors and children in the family.
As I reported in Connecticut Magazine in 1997, Allen’s private detectives were compartmentalized, hired by different lawyers and contractors. The PIs who talked to me were all highly paid, some of them billing several hundred dollars or more per hour at that time. They included former FBI and DEA agents and former state police and municipal detectives.
Here’s how one of them described Abramowitz in a meeting: “Abramowitz had an aura about him; he was very charismatic.”
In a phone interview leading up to the Connecticut Magazine story, Abramowitz denied meeting with private detectives on the case. He did acknowledge 10 or more investigators worked for Allen. “We didn’t go into any kind of smear campaign against the police,” Abramowitz told me.
It was probably just a coincidence that a state police detective working on the Allen sexual assault case was falsely accused of trying to sell a videotape of Dylan Farrow to the tabloid media.
As I watched Abramowitz pitch his talking points in several venues over the past week I took careful note of his statements. Following are just three Abramowitz assertions that struck me as outright falsehoods or willful errors of omission. Each Abramowitz quote is followed by some of the fact checking I shared with HuffPostLive on Feb. 7 and is based on published reports in The Register Citizen and Connecticut Magazine:
“Yale New Haven experts … investigated the matter totally.” The Yale Child Study team asked state police for a witness list. State police refused to provide it because they did not trust Yale. Yale didn’t know about Allen changing his story regarding hair found in the attic. The team never saw Allen and any of the children together. The leader of the team, Dr. John Leventhal, did not interview Dylan Farrow.
“Dylan was having difficulty distinguishing between fantasy and reality.” This is a key mantra for Abramowitz and Team Woody. However, Leventhal admitted that claim was erroneous. In the report, Leventhal cited what he called “loose associations” by the child. He said she talked about looking in a trunk and seeing “dead heads.” When advised that Mia Farrow had a trunk in her attic in which she kept wigs from her movies on wig blocks, Leventhal acknowledged this was not evidence of a fantasy problem or a thought disorder. The pediatrician also attempted to categorize Dylan Farrow’s banter as “magical thinking,” citing her vivid description of a sunset. However, after being advised that Mia Farrow described the dark sky upon leaving New Haven in the evening as “the magic hour,” Leventhal said he was “less concerned” about the incident as an example of “loose thinking.”
“Woody took a lie detector test and passed the lie detector test.” In fact, Woody Allen refused to take a lie detector test administered by the Connecticut State Police. Police did not ask Mia Farrow to take a lie detector test. Abramowitz has some explaining to do here. Who administered the test referenced by Abramowitz? What were the specific results of the Allen examination[s]? How many tests were taken? What questions were asked? How was each answer evaluated?
Also of note:
The Yale team destroyed its notes. The night before Leventhal gave a statement to the Farrow family’s attorney, he discussed the scenario with Abramowitz for about 30 minutes. The team interviewed Dylan Farrow nine times.
For three consecutive weeks, she said Woody Allen violated her sexually. Among her statements to investigators: “He put his finger in my vagina. He made me lay on the floor all ways, on my back, on my side, my front. He kissed me all over … I didn’t like it. Daddy told me not to tell and he’d take me to Paris, but I did tell.” In several of the other sessions, Dylan Farrow mentioned a similar type of abuse. When she did not repeat the precise allegation in some of the sessions, the team reported this as an inconsistency.
The Yale team had been asked to determine if the seven-year-old child’s behavior was consistent with having suffered sexual abuse and if she would be a credible witness. The team was not qualified to conduct a criminal investigation.
“Concluding guilt or innocence is not the role of a mental health team — that’s for the court.” That’s the word I got in 1997 from Dr. Diane Schetky, then an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Vermont, co-author of the widely used textbook Child Sexual Abuse and co-editor of Clinical Handbook of Child Psychiatry and the Law.
The botched Yale report is among the major weapons being used against Dylan Farrow at this time. I find this quite telling.
New York Times bent rules for Woody Allen, but not for Frank Maco
Feb. 14, 2014
News item 2-5-14: The New York Times said it may publish an op-ed by famed moviemaker Woody Allen that responds to allegations of sexual assault by Dylan Farrow, his adopted daughter.
The dilemma of publishing a response as a full op-ed was addressed on many levels at The Times. The public editor, or reader representative, reported on the challenges to inform while bending the paper’s own rules. The standard procedure is to run a letter to the editor.
Public Editor Margaret Sullivan said she reached out to Editorial Page Editor Andrew Rosenthal, who told her, “They (the Woody Allen camp) asked and we said, ‘Yes, send it in.’” Sullivan noted that publishing such a piece is unusual for The Times’ opinion pages.
It’s not certain that The Times will publish the piece, Sullivan wrote in Public Editor’s Journal. She quoted Rosenthal as saying, “It comes down to the editing process,” something that all op-ed pieces are subject to.
There was an editing process?
The Times published Allen’s op-ed two days later.
Clearly, the fact-checking department was out to lunch.
For example, in the very first paragraph, Allen wrote, “Twenty-one years ago, when I first heard Mia Farrow had accused me of child molestation, I found the idea so ludicrous I didn’t give it a second thought. ... It was my show business attorney who told me she was bringing the accusation to the police and I would need a criminal lawyer.”
In reality, the criminal referral was made by a pediatrician.
Also, as noted Feb. 7 by Maureen Orth in Vanity Fair — “10 Undeniable Facts About the Woody Allen Sexual-Abuse Allegation” — Allen had been in therapy with a child psychologist for alleged inappropriate behavior toward Dylan Farrow before the abuse allegation was presented to the authorities or made public. Mia Farrow had instructed her baby sitters that Allen was never to be left alone with Dylan.
In terms of fact checking, it goes downhill from there.
Allen stated the Yale Child Study team “spent months doing a meticulous investigation, interviewing everyone concerned, and checking every piece of evidence.” This is among a number of incorrect statements that should have been checked by The New York Times.
In a column Feb. 9, I noted similar assertions by Allen lawyer Elkan Abramowitz that struck me as outright falsehoods or willful errors of omission. For example, “Yale-New Haven experts … investigated the matter totally.”
I reported that the Yale Child Study team asked state police for a witness list. State police officers refused to provide it because they did not trust Yale. Yale didn’t know about Allen changing his story regarding hair found in the attic. The team never saw Allen and any of the children together. The leader of the team, Dr. John Leventhal, did not interview Dylan Farrow.
In The New York Times op-ed, Allen states, “I very willingly took a lie-detector test and of course passed because I had nothing to hide.”
In fact, Woody Allen refused to take a lie detector test administered by the Connecticut State Police. Police did not ask Mia Farrow to take a lie detector test.
Who administered the test referenced by Allen and Abramowitz? What were the specific results of the Allen examination(s)? How many tests were taken? What questions were asked? How was each answer evaluated?
Critical thinking demands that any reader look at Allen’s op-ed and Orth’s 10 bullet points, side by side. Bottom line: The New York Times failed its duty to readers when it ran Allen’s op-ed without checking facts.
“Normally, we don’t publish a direct response” as a full op-ed article, Rosenthal told Sullivan, but instead as a smaller and less prominent letter to the editor. “In this case, it was so personal, we thought that we should.’”
Notably, when the prosecutor cited in Allen’s op-ed submitted a short statement to The New York Times, the paper rejected it.
Here’s what Sue Mermelstein, staff editor, New York Times letters department, wrote to retired Litchfield County State’s Attorney Frank S. Maco:
“Here’s the shortened form of your letter that I had planned to send for your review and approval. If you’d like to go ahead with publication, would you revise it a bit so it doesn’t echo the language that has appeared in other media already? We have limited space, so we need to keep it short while allowing you to make your point.
“ ‘To the Editor:
‘Re “Woody Allen Speaks Out,” by Woody Allen (Sunday Review, Feb. 9):
‘I served the State of Connecticut for 31 years as a prosecuting attorney. In 1992 I directed the investigation involving sexual assault allegations against Woody Allen.
‘I believe those who knew me and my work before 1992 would agree that I was a prosecutor who took a case, tried the case to a conclusion, if necessary, accepted the decision of the judge or jury, remained silent and took on my next case.
‘I was outraged by Mr. Allen’s describing me as a district attorney “champing at the bit to prosecute a celebrity case.” The attack upon my character was unprovoked, gratuitous, unwarranted and, most important, unsupported by my history as a prosecutor.
‘FRANK S. MACO
‘Stratford, Conn., Feb. 10, 2014’ ”
I asked Maco why he did not make any revisions.
“I refused to revise five sentences, which included a quote from Allen that I challenged,” Maco said.
POSTSCRIPT: Mermelstein, of The New York Times, had this to say Friday: “We were bending over backwards to give him (Maco) a chance to respond. I got a little annoyed because I spent a lot of time working with him … . I don’t want to speak for op-ed.” Mermelstein said she would forward my inquiry to op-ed, but that I might not get a response right away.
Vanity Fair Article Excerpt
.... The Aftermath
Staff at the Yale–New Haven Hospital Child Sexual Abuse Clinic concluded that Dylan had not been sexually abused. They had been asked by Frank Maco, the Connecticut state attorney handling the case, to render an opinion solely on Dylan’s ability to perceive facts correctly, her ability to recall, and her ability to repeat the story on the stand in court. Instead, as Maco tells it, not only were his requests ignored but the clinic went far beyond them, and he learned in March 1993 from Dr. John Leventhal, the pediatrician in charge of the clinic, that “ ‘we find no merit in this claim, and we’re going to present this to Woody Allen’ the next day. The next thing we know Woody is on the steps of Yale proclaiming his innocence.”
Maco says giving the results to Allen first, ignoring the state attorney’s request, and then pronouncing judgment on the case was unprecedented. In a 1997 Connecticut Magazine article, investigative reporter Andy Thibault quoted a deposition given in April 1993 by Leventhal: “Regardless of what the Connecticut police wanted from us, we weren’t necessarily beholden to them. We did not assess whether she’d be a good witness in court. That’s what Mr. Maco may have been interested in, but that’s not necessarily what we were interested in.”
The clinic cited Dylan’s “loose associations” and her active imagination as thought disorder. Dylan, for example, had told them she had seen “dead heads” in a trunk in the attic. When he was informed that Mia “had a trunk in her attic in which she kept wigs from her movies on wig blocks,” Thibault wrote, “Leventhal acknowledged this was not evidence of a fantasy problem or thought disorder.”
Thibault cited a litany of practices employed by the Yale–New Haven clinic that at least one expert put into question. Based on an examination of court documents and the report, he wrote, “The Yale team used psychologists on Allen’s payroll to make mental health conclusions.” He reported that the team had destroyed all of its notes, and that Leventhal did not interview Dylan, although she was called in nine times for questioning. They did not interview anyone who would corroborate her molestation claims. Judge Elliott Wilk, who presided over the custody hearing brought by Allen, wrote in his decision that he had “reservations about the reliability of the report.”
The specter of celebrity and Allen’s clout loomed over everything. The general public today has no memory of how complex, intense, and ugly this battle became. The court proceedings and hearings dragged on for more than four years. Although Allen spent millions of dollars in legal fees, he lost two trials and two appeals. The day after the Yale–New Haven clinic report came out, Maco issued a press release that said he was going to continue investigating.
Meanwhile, private investigators were hired by Allen. “There was a serious effort to dig up dirt on Maco and a number of state-police detectives and have an impact on the criminal investigation, and it did have an impact,” says Thibault, who spoke to some of the detectives involved. One of the top state-police investigators in the case told me, “They were trying to dig up dirt on the troopers—whether they were having affairs, what they were doing.” In his article, Thibault wrote that Allen’s lawyer Elkan Abramowitz acknowledged that at least 10 private investigators were hired, but, Thibault quoted him saying, “we didn’t go into any kind of smear campaign against the police.” Maco says, “I was informed by the state police that someone is going to be out there watching you. I was given the information to just be careful.”
At a key moment in the investigation, the trooper in charge of the case was accused of trying to leak a tape of Dylan to a local Fox affiliate in New York. The accusation was later proved to be false, but it prevented any Connecticut police from going to custody hearings in New York or from talking to New York authorities during the internal investigation. Their job was to determine whether or not there was probable cause to issue an arrest warrant. The top investigator I spoke to had interviewed Allen. “He had a scripted presentation, with his attorneys there. I did not find him credible,” the officer told me of the three-hour session. “I allowed him to say his piece without questions. When I questioned him, he starts stuttering and saying he didn’t do anything.” The officer stated, “There was never ‘Yes, I did’ or ‘No, I didn’t.’ There was not a clear, definitive yes or no.” (“You’ve seen how he talks sometimes,” Abramowitz says of Allen. “But there was no hesitation on the merits of what that was about.”)
In June 1993, Justice Elliott Wilk awarded custody of Dylan to Mia and denied Allen immediate visitation with the child. He allowed Moses to decide for himself whether he wanted to see his adoptive father again, and he increased Ronan’s—then Satchel’s—visits to three a week, supervised. The judge concluded that Allen demonstrated no parenting skills and was “self-absorbed, untrustworthy, and insensitive.” Allen’s trial strategy, he concluded, had been “to separate his children from their brothers and sisters; to turn the children against their mother.” He found “no credible evidence” to support Allen’s contention “that Ms. Farrow coached Dylan or that Ms. Farrow acted upon a desire for revenge against him for seducing Soon-Yi.” He found the molestation allegations inconclusive. Allen appealed, but the opinion was upheld.
Unlike the Yale–New Haven staff, the state investigators found Dylan credible. “When a little girl says someone digitally penetrated her,” one of them told me, “if a child relates pain to the incident at that age, that’s credible.” Maco had steered clear of any questioning of Dylan during the Yale–New Haven inquiry. After Wilk’s decision, however, he decided he needed to see for himself if she could be relied on to take the witness stand. “I sat down with the child, with my secretary, with another female from the state police, and we rolled around—we had stuffed animals. As soon as I broached the idea of Woody, the child just froze. Nothing.”
On September 24, 1993, Maco called a press conference to say that he believed he had probable cause to arrest Woody Allen but that he would not press charges because of the fragility of the “child victim.” Maco’s statement caused at least one legal expert to accuse him of wanting it both ways—of convicting Allen without a trial. Allen called a press conference to say that “vindictive” Mia’s “cheap scheming reeks of sleaze and deception.” He asked, “Did State’s Attorney Maco choose to overlook the truth and become a stooge for Miss Farrow because he didn’t like my films?”
“It should have been ‘complainant’ instead of ‘victim,’ ” Maco admitted to me, but he had felt he owed his community an explanation: “It’s not that the mother is a fabricator or concocter or that the child is unbelievable.” Dylan just wouldn’t cooperate, he said, so it would not have been fair to Allen or anyone involved to bring the case to trial. Allen’s lawyers swiftly filed ethics claims against Maco with two Connecticut state boards. The Connecticut Criminal Justice Commission, which appoints state prosecutors, dismissed the complaint, and a local panel of the Statewide Grievance Committee, which reviews and investigates attorney complaints, also dismissed it, but its decision was overturned by one vote in the Statewide Grievance Committee. It was not until a year after public hearings were held, in 1996—a “mini trial” with both Maco and Allen testifying—that Maco was found not to have violated the rules of professional conduct. It had cost the state more than $250 ,000 to defend him. Maco, whose more than 20-year record remains unblemished, was forced to absent himself from trials for a time. He retired early, in 2003 ...
UPDATE, Jan. 30, 2018