This is a case that we’ve been following that seems to have come to an end (Rocklin & Roseville Today, 12/17/10).
A former California child protective services caseworker, Yolanda Perez Fryson, has been sentenced to nine years and four months in prison for attempting to extort money from a complete stranger.
What was her modus operandi? Well, she was a CPS worker and she apparently realized that that gave her power. So she picked out a man, seemingly at random, and told him that she’d file child molestation charges against him if he didn’t fork over $10,000.
The victim of the crime, a 40-year-old Roseville man, attended the sentencing and fought back tears as he told the court how being falsely accused of child molestation had turned his world upside down.
The victim said he spent “three days of hell’ wondering what to do and kept imagining being led away in handcuffs by police or having people point to him in the false belief that he was a child molester. He said he even briefly contemplated suicide.
He said he still has nightmares about being arrested and losing his family.
Eventually, he went to the police and they set up a sting operation in which the man agreed to meet with Fryson in a parking lot. He handed over the $10,000 and the police arrested her.
Fryson was charged with 16 counts that included offenses unrelated to those involving her extortion try. But it looks like it was her abuse of office that got the judge’s attention and he was none too happy about it.
Placer County Superior Court Judge Joseph O”Flaherty… called her extortion attempt “close to the worst crime I”ve seen in my 21 years on the bench.’
“A public official picked out a completely innocent victim for monetary reasons,’ O”Flaherty said. “It”s a despicable crime. You can”t ignore the evilness of this conduct.’
And he didn’t, sentencing Fryson to significant prison time.
The lesson is simple: place power in people’s hands and someone will be sure to abuse it.
But there’s more. I’d say it’s no accident that what Fryson charged the man with is a sex crime. The semi-hysterical view our society continues to take about sex is never far from public awareness because, in our fine old Calvinist way, we just can’t seem to take a balanced view of sex.
It’s no accident that the entirely fabricated daycare scandals of the 1980s and 1990s were about, not simply child abuse, but about child sexual abuse. It’s the aspect of sex that gave them their urgency, that extra element of luridness that allowed otherwise sane adults to believe the patently unbelievable.
Read any account of the allegations in the McMartin Pre-School cases or the Fells Acres cases. Then realize that intelligent adults came to believe them and you get an idea of what I’m talking about. When physically unharmed children talk about sexual abuse with large butcher knives while tied to trees in plain public view, and adults believe them and indeed have put those ideas in their heads in the first place, you know you’re through the looking glass.
What put you there? I say that, in this society at least, it’s sex. When all else fails, it’s the one thing that can make normally skeptical people utterly credulous.
We learned that back in the 80s and 90s and we’ve tried to take steps to prevent future witch hunts. But still it crops up, and more often than you’d think, as people like Tonya Craft learn to their dismay. Craft was acquitted a few months ago of 22 counts of the most unlikely charges of sexual abuse of kindergarteners in her care.
The point being that, out of all the possible false allegations that can be made, those involving sex, and particularly sex with a child, are the most likely to find a gullible audience. My guess is that people like Yolanda Fryson know that, if not consciously, then as a matter of intuition.