In 1984, Cuban immigrant Frank Fuster was accused, along with his undocumented wife, of molesting eight children, despite coercive interview sessions and a lack of physical evidence. Fuster was sentenced to six consecutive life terms, or a minimum of 165 years in prison. As of 2021, he has been imprisoned for over 35 years and will not be eligible for parole until 2134. He reportedly has no legal representation.
As appalling as Fuster’s sentence is, he’s not alone. North Carolina inmate Patrick Figured is, at age 72, still serving time for a 1992 conviction due to coerced allegations of ritualistic abuse. And Joseph Allen, age 63, has been serving time in Ohio since 1994 for a highly bizarre case in which he was convicted of ritualistic child abuse along with another woman, even though the two had never even met. She was later exonerated.
The list goes on and on. One Florida school principal spent 21 years in prison after being convicted of false SRA claims; he was released at the age of 80 and ordered to move to another country. In El Paso, two preschool owners each spent 21 years in prison.
In 1984, three members of the Amirault family of Malden, Massachusetts, were convicted of false child molestation charges, following yet another pattern of false memory coercion from children. Two of the defendants spent 10 and 20 years in prison before being paroled in 1999 and 2004, respectively. The third defendant died of cancer in prison before her conviction could be overturned. She was exonerated in 1998 — the year after she died.
In 1997, four lesbian women who became known as the San Antonio Four were targeted and wrongfully convicted for child molestation claims. Their trial played out against a resurgence of Satanic Panic tied to homophobia in a conservative state, and their fight for justice lasted nearly two decades. All four women spent 15 years in prison before having their convictions overturned in 2015 and ultimately expunged in 2018.
But by far the most notorious criminal case of the Satanic Panic era was that of the West Memphis Three. In 1993, three teenagers in West Memphis, Arkansas, were accused and later convicted of the horrific sexual assault and murders of three young boys. The teens were accused primarily based on hearsay surrounding their goth lifestyles and rumors that they worshipped Satan, despite a lack of any physical evidence. The famed documentary Paradise Lost publicized the case, and the three men were ultimately freed in 2011, after new DNA evidence showed them to have no connection to the killings. They entered Alford pleas, which commuted their sentences to time served: 18 years in prison, each.