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Posted in 2000, updated in 2005:
That's a seldom-asked question. Unfortunately, unethical cultists and cult defenders often are unable or unwilling to deal with the real issues, and therefore engage in "Black propaganda." (Scientologists refer to negative publicity as "black propaganda." As Scientologists themselves are notorious for engaging in negative publicity toward others, I am borrowing the term). By refusing to address issues and preferring ad-hominem attacks instead, cultists and cult supporters commit the logical fallacy of attacking the messenger instead of the message. For example, anonymous cultists have speculated and outright lied on anything from my physical to my mental health, the reason for my divorce (unrelated to the issue addressed below), and the cause of my sister's death. Recently, an anonymous person posted the following message to the alt.support.ex-cult newsgroup using a computer at the Los Angeles Public Library:
:===Begin Quote===The charges stemmed from accusations made by my ex-brother in law in retaliation for the fact that my (ex-)wife and I helped her sister divorce him due to a long history of abuse. During his lengthy divorce case he repeatedly threathened to get back at me, and - after his divorce was finalized - he followed through. When money for my legal defense ran out, I took an (admittedly ill-advised) plea-bargain arrangement rather than face a worst-case scenario. I arrived at my decision in part after being advised by both my attorney and the Dutch consulate that false convictions on these charges occur with great frequency within the U.S. justice system.
What is a plea bargain?
It is an agreement between the prosecutor and the accused in which the accused pleads guilty in exchange for a lesser sentence or a reduced charge. About 95 percent of all felony convictions in the United States are the result of plea bargains.
Law professor Stephen Schulhofer offers this general critique of the system: "The major problem with plea bargaining is that it forces the party into a situation where they have to take a guess about what the evidence is, about how strong the case might be, and they have to make that guess against the background of enormously severe penalties if you guess wrong. So defendants, even if they have strong defenses, and even if they are innocent, in fact face enormous pressure to play the odds and to accept a plea. And the more likely they are to be innocent, and the more strong their defenses are, the bigger discount and the bigger benefits the prosecutor will offer them. Eventually at some point it becomes so tempting that it might be irresistible, especially when the consequences of guessing wrong are disastrous.
"So the result is that the system as a whole doesn't do what we count on it to do, which is to sort out the guilty people from the innocent people. It doesn't do that because the guilty people and the innocent people are all faced with the same pressure to plead guilty."
News articles about "The Plea" - Ofra Bikel's latest investigation into America's criminal justice system:
It is very easy to be falsely accused of child abuse or child molest, but it is exceptionally difficult to be exonerated in court. Even though 60% of molest or abuses charges are false, more of these trials end in the wrongful conviction of the innocent than any other type of criminal case. Widespread media attention has caused a state of hysteria in which people who are accused are presumed guilty. This highly emotional charge tends to destroy the ability of the system to handle such cases objectively. One charge of molest or abuse can send a parent, professional or any adult who deals with children to prison for up to eight years. In most cases it is a mandatory sentence and, therefore, many innocent people are now serving long prison sentences.
I maintain that I am not guilty of the charges, fully realizing that is my word against the legal documents; and my word against that of my attackers - none of whom are familiar with the details and background of this case. Note that the anonymous publishers of a publication called OTE are especially victious in their - apparently deliberate - errors and distortions. For example, what they claim to be an ''admission'' in my handwriting, is not. This has been pointed out to them by several people, but that fact doesn't fit in their version of the case... Many people, including my sister-in-law and her entire family - intimately familiar with the circumstances - supported me throughout the legal ordeal. Two forensic psychologists, a licensed counselor, and two pre-trial probation officers provided favorable reports. In the process, I took and passed three lie-detector tests, but results of polygraph tests are inadmissable in a court of law. But in the process, I learned how easy it is to have one's words, views and actions misinterpreted and twisted by zealous prosecutors. Despite the fact that an accused person is to be considered ''innocent until proven guilty,'' prosecutors apparently see things the other way around. (Even the fact that I was born and raised in Amsterdam, and for many years worked in that city's ''Red Light District'' - albeit with a Christian ministry - was seen as negative). They also insisted that my claims of innocense would result in extra punishment should I be convicted. But I was most surprised to learn what information could or could not be brought up in a jury trial. For example, significant information included in the pre-trial probation report that put the accusations in their proper perspective, could not be used during a trial. Meanwhile, my finances had been depleated. I had fully expected to have my case thrown out after a pre-trial investigation, but eventually did not have enough money for proper legal representation during a trial. Thus, when I was offered a pleabargain, I took the ''easy'' way out. Like I said, I arrived at my decision in part after being advised by both my attorney and the Dutch consulate that false convictions on these charges occur with great frequency within the U.S. justice system. Rather than face the prospect of a lenthy prison term for something I was not guilty of, I bit the bullet and accepted the ''bargain.'' (Note that at the time my boss, who fully supported me, declared that my job would still be available to me, that I was now involved in a romantic relationship with a woman who - familiar with all the details of the case - also fully supported me, and who would be waiting for me, and that I also had my family back home in mind when I made my decision). As a result of my pleabargain, I spent six months in jail. Those who follow U.S. child abuse cases, real or alleged, know that is a very short period of time compared with the usual lengthy sentences. The pre-trial probation report stated that if I were convicted (which the report did not recommend), I should get probation, but that if the judge insisted on custody, it should be in a work furlough program only. According to my attorney, under the terms of the pleabargain arrangment the latter was not made available to me largely because thoughout the process I had maintained my innocence. After my release from jail, I intended to remain in the United States. However, my father's doctor strongly suggested I was needed in Holland to help take care of my parents. My father had recently become partially paralyzed after a stroke. Then my younger sister died suddenly and unpectedly in the hospital from a rare disease that also killed her unborn baby. Thus I returned to Holland to provide emotional and physical support to my parents. [Note: I was released from jail in Jan. 1996. My sister died in June that year, and I left for Holland in July.] Immediately upon my return to Holland I contacted the Dutch justice department. After officials looked into my case, I received full, unconditional permission to remain in Holland - because according to Dutch law no crime was committed by me. I long ago shared details of this situation with certain online- and offline friends and ministry associates, many of whom were aware of this issue from the very beginning. Their references, available on request, their continued support, and my work in the area of apologetics and ex-cult support speak for themselves. Legal professionals in my family's circle of friends are still working on possible ways of clearing my name. In time they will aid in bringing libel/slander charges against individuals who choose to engage in defamatory propaganda. Unfortunately, according to legal professionals at the US-based FalselyAccused.com, once you pleabargain, ''you will never have a second chance to prove your innocence.'' That said, I chose to operate Apologetics Index understanding that in doing so I could become the target of negative propaganda and ad hominem attacks. I fully intend to continue operating the site. Ad hominem attacks on me won't slow me down. Incidentally, despite ongoing speculations and lies by cultists and cult defenders, I do not intent to engage these folks in a discussion over their ad hominem attacks. I will note that the suggestions that I am a spokesperson for an "anti-religious campaign," or that I am a "spokesperson for AFF" are false, and merely serve to show from which direction the wind blows. In addition, my own divorce was not over this issue or anything like it. Also, out of what appears to be be sheer desperation on their part, my unethical attackers somehow feel qualified to second-guess the Dutch medical professionals who declared me disabled due to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (diagnosed both in the USA and in Holland). My experiences in the U.S.A. led me to become a supporting member of Amnesty International and an outspoken critic of the U.S. justice system. A note to Christians: While Christians who know me personally - and who know the details of this case - support me, a handful of online folks who indentify themselves as ''Christians'' continue to attack me on this issue. Perhaps they are as unfamilar with scripture as they are with the facts of the case. Jesus said, ''Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.'' ((John 7:24 NASB ). I do not intent to engage such people in discussions on this issue. Rather, I have long-established relationships of mutual accountability with other Christians - friends I fellowship with. The Bible says, ''Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.'' ((Galatians 6:1 NIV ). We are accountable first to God, and then to each other. We trust and accept each other, and see in each other's lives the fruit of our walk with the Lord. I do not see that in those who, unfamilar with the details of this case, nevertheless feel qualified to judge me from afar. As a Christian I try to live my life in a way that is pleasing to God. When I fail, I confess my sins and know them to be forgiven. In my theology, only Satan and his ilk are interested in portraying sins - real or perceived - otherwise, parading them as juicy bits of gossip, or using them in ad hominem attacks. Any so-called Christian who behaves likewise either does not understand the Gospel of grace, or wilfully militates against it. That said, I appreciate the many messages of support I have received. As I mention below, I have even offers of financial support for a possible legal challenge to my case. However, as I understand that under U.S. law, a plea-bargain can not be undone, I ask that those who feel so led, support ALMS prison ministry instead.
Shortly before our divorce, my wife and I helped one of her sisters divorce an abusive husband. Throughout the court (custody) fight that followed, the husband threathened to pay me back (we had housed his wife and the oldest daughter who had left with her, and supported them in any way we could). During the custody fight, he started accusing me of molesting the oldest daughter. He used that accusation as one of the strategies by which he hoped to gain full custody of her. From the moment he sued for custody, this kid became very rebellious. She got involved with gangs, started using and dealing drugs, and frequently ran away from home. At one point, Child Protective Service interviewed my niece regarding her father's accusations. She adamantly denied being molested, and a subsequent letter from CPS shows the charges were deemed not true. (See excerpts, pre-trial probation report) Her mother could not handle the pressure, especially when the girl was banned from her school district for once again dealing drugs on school grounds. We therefore used to have the girl over every other weekend (so the mother could get a break). The other weekends the girl went on court-appointed visits with her dad. The latter would tell the child that her mother was a ''slut'' who was ''completely in the power of Satan.'' He claimed he wanted to have custody of her because he did not want her to end up in the gutter - which, according to him, she surely would if she stayed with the mother. When the girl made it clear she did not want to live with him, he made her read Ephesians 5:1-2, told her that since she did not honor him she was possessed, and forced her to repeat ''I am the devil's child'' dozens of times. That is just one example of his general attitude, which also included kicking and beating her. The mother meanwhile was getting so upset at not being able to handle her daughter's increasingly rebellious attitude that she said she would consider signing the girl over to her dad anyway - simply because ''he would be able to handle her.'' Yet this is precisely what we wanted to prevent from happening. One day when I was to pick the girl up her grandmother called me and said ''Don't talk to [the mother] about [the girl] because I think she is going to have a nervous breakdown.'' That evening, I picked the girl up at her boyfriend's house. In the car she casually stated that she was bleeding because she just had sex. My first thought was to bring her home, but I knew this would result in the girl being signed over that night, and her mother indeed having a nervous breakdown. Since it was night, no doctors were available, and the girl insisted she did not want to go to a first aid station because they would contact her parents as well. I panicked and thought that with her luck she'd be pregnant on the first try and be signed over anyway as soon as her mom found out. I stopped at a VONS and bought her some sperm-killing cream (which, according to the instructions, must be applied within 60 minutes after intercourse), told her to apply it, and took a walk so she could do this in private. [NOTE: I now know that I misread the instructions, as the cream must be applied before intercourse] Back at the car, the girl told me she could not do it and asked me to help. I refused. By now she was scared herself, and said, ''If you don't help me I will tell my dad that what he says about you is true; that you really are molesting me.'' I did not like that at all (especially knowing that he, a sharp-shooter, had previously broken into another sister's home to demand - at gunpoint - she tell him where his wife was). Thus I made the mistake of my life, and helped her apply the cream (by way of an applicator). I was not motivated by lust or desire. One month later, the mother called me and said she was signing the girl over to her dad because the girl had almost succeeded at strangling her grandmother (with whom both were living) with a dog leash. A week after that, the girl called me (against court orders), and said I should not worry about her because her dad allows her to do far more than her mom allowed her to do. She had just come home from a party where, she said, two boys touched her intimately. One month after this phone call, she developed a vaginal infection. At the hospital, the doctor determined there were scratches. Long story short, she told the doctor they could have been caused by the applicator... (With the exception of her father, the whole family - including her mother - supported me. Given the guy's anger flareups, we believe the girl wasn't about to confess that she was sexually active, and thus told the doctor about the cream incident). I was picked up a few days later. Since I am not a criminal, I didn't think to ask for a lawyer and made a statement. Later, when I did get a lawyer, he got me released on my own recognizance. However, I was charged with multiple counts of ''lewd conduct upon a child.'' According to my lawyer, if her dad had accused me of killing pink polka-dotted elephants in the bathroom, I would have been charged with that as well... Subsequently, I spent tens of thousands of dollars (my own, and money sent by my parents) defending myself. Pre-trial probation officers wrote in their reports that the girl had simply shifted her allegiance in an effort at self-preservation (to give you another idea of what this guy is like: at his final divorce and custody hearing, his own lawyer refused to shake his hand. Instead he shook the mother's hand, and apologized to her for ever having gotten involved with the guy...). Throughout this case the Dutch Consul and Vice-Consul told me that while they could not get involved in legal affairs, it was best not to risk a trial. This even though they were convinced of my innocence. The forensic psychiatrist I saw told me she did not think I was guilty, but said my problem was that I fit the profile of a child molester, and that a jury in a conservative town would likely give that a lot of weight. The profile? A man between 30 and 40 years old, currently in a poor love relationship (my divorce - which was not related to this issue at all), friendly face, intelligent, slightly overweight, and a Christian. That's right, being a Christian is part of the profile. According to her, 95% of all child molesters fit that profile. Then my money ran out, so I'd have to go to trial with a public defender instead. Having seen how they work I did not consider that an option. I was given to understand that the violation I was charged with carried an automatic 17 years in prison. However, if I pleabargained, I would get one year, of which I would serve 6 months. My lawyer (until the money ran out...) and the Dutch consul strongly suggested I don't gamble on a jury trial, but instead bite the bullet and pleabargain. So I did, accepting only 1 charge - the one related to applying spermicide cream. Note, the statute under which I was charged specifically says that any such act must have been done with the intent to arouse and/or satisfy sexual desire. Clearly, that was not the case. (The penal code states that one must have had the ''intent of arousing, appealing to, or gratifying the lust, passions, or sexual desires of that person or the child''. Hence when I opted for the pleabargain, that is what the pleabargain form reflects. I had no choice in that matter, but to this day maintain that I am innocent of the charges.) Anyway, I spent 6 months in jail. Then my younger sister, here in Holland, suddenly died while giving birth. My dad's doctor contacted me and said that it would be a good idea to come and be of support to my parents if at all possible (my dad had recently become paralyzed on his left side due to a stroke, and both my parents needed emotional support as well). I thus obtained permission from my probation officer for a one month visit. Upon arriving in Holland, I immediate contacted the Amsterdam Probation Department. Officers there concluded that I had not committed a crime and said I am free to remain here. Initially, and at my request, officers of the Amsterdam Probation Department contacted my probation officer in California on my behalf, asking whether I could finish my probation here. According to the probation officer, this was not possible because the USA has not such agreement with Holland. She did write a letter to the Dutch authorities, saying the decision was up to me, and that the consequence would likely be that I wouldn't be able to return to the USA. Various legal professionals in Holland have assured me I have made the right decision in staying here. Bottom line: Dutch authorities, familiar with all the details of this case, have a) encouraged me to remain in Holland, and b) given me full permission to do so. Those who claim I fled ''justice'' have not been paying attention. I, along with people intimately familiar with the situation, consider myself not guilty as charged. Circumstances led me to take a plea bargain. Anyone who researches the U.S. justice system and the plea bargain approach knows the system's shortcomings, and anyone who finds him or herself in a situation similar to mine will understand the conflicting pressures involved into making a decision one way or another. I spent six months in jail, and 6 months after my release visited Holland - with full permission from my probation officer. Then extensive communication took place between her, Dutch authorities and myself. Dutch authorities at first attempted to have the remaining time of my probation transferred here. That solution was refused because there is no such agreement between the USA and Holland. As stated, I then received full permission from Dutch authorities to remain in Holland, and my U.S. probation officer stated - in writing - that the decision to do so was up to me, and that the consequence would likely be that I would never again be able to enter the USA. Those who attack and speculate based on their reading of a few documents, without the benefit of knowing the details of the case and all that transpired over the year that my case went through the court system, and without access to psychiatric reports, lie detector tests, and other documentation should realize that if my case was as serious as they speculate I would not have been offered a plea bargain - certainly not one in which I would spent just 6 months in a county jail.
Excerpt 1 - Pre-Trial Probation Report One
[The mother] was very supportive of Mr. Hein and stated that he was only protecting her daughter against pregnancy and does not think that he did any fondling as her daughter claims. She stated that he daughter talked Mr. Hein into injecting the spermicide cream. She based this on knowing her daughter and how she is. She indicated that in January, 1994, her daughter became out of control after hearing that her father watned to gain custody of her and also after her father told her that she would be dead by the age of 16. These two bits of information seemed to cause drastic change in the girl after which she bagan to act out, running away from home, smoking marijuany at school, and becoming promiscuous. The victim's mother said the Mr. Hein would not hurt his niece, that he was trying to help her. He counseled her to obey her mother, and to remain virtuous. She indicated that her daughter even signed a promise to remain a virgin and that Mr. Hein gave her daughter a ring as a sign of sealing the promise. But none of this seemed to do any good once her daughter had found out that her father was trying to get custody. The mother described her ex-husband as a man who had treated her as a slave, physically abused her and would say anything to convince her to come back. She feels that the father hated Anton Hein, ''To the hilt,'' spread stories about him, and probably convinced her dauther to embellish the facts of the offense. For example, the father claims that the letter that Mr. Hein wrote to his niece were love letters however, the victim's mother feels these letters were letters of encouragement and support. As to his stories that Mr. Hein was paying off the victims's mother in exchange for sexual favors with his niece, she strenously denied this and said that Anton and his wife, Donna, were very helpful to her and tthe only money she received from them was to pay for phone bills and counseling (...) Further, as to Anton Hein molesting her daughter, the mother indicated that in March, 1994, a social worker from the Social Services department came to interview her daughter at which time she denied that anything was happening to her. The mother did not know why social service had come or who had called them or what the referral regarded. All she knows is that her daughter was not pregnant at the time and that her daughter denied that her uncle was doing anything to her.
Excerpt 2 - Pre-Trial Probation Report Two
The following parts 'bother' the undersigned in this particular matter. (...) First, there is the letter the victim wrote to the court in which she portrays her father in much the same way as she currently does the defendant. She ''hated'' her father and quoted quite obscene vocabulary he supposedly used. She reported that during this entire time, her father insinuated that her uncle, the defendant, was molesting her.(...) The thirteen-year-old victim, in her own words, stated that she thought she was pregnant after taking a test. When she found out this was not true, she cried and became angry. She ws not pregnant because her uncle applied spermicide and he should now go to jail. It appeared the victim wanted to come forward because she was not pregnant, because she had an infection and had been sexually active, which her father now knew.
(...) The victim turned tables between her father and her uncle (...).
Excerpt 3 - Pre-Trial Probation Report Two
On August 26, 1994, the undersigned spoke to Dr. Gilligan, the defendant's therapist. According to Dr. Gilligan's judgement, the defendant is not a pedophile. He made a major error in judgment. Per chance, his cultural background added to the defendant making this error. (...) Dr. Gilligan does not view Mr. Hein as a danger to the community and feels this will never happen again. (...) It should be noted at this point that culturally speaking, the attitude towards sexual education and nudity is less restrictive in Europe than in the United States.
The better part of the ''bargain''
All in all, this entire affair was a very sad case for all people involved. Now, some cultists and cult defenders are adding insult to injury - preferring ad hominem attacks over addressing the cult issues. As I have indicated, that will not get them anywhere. Recently, in a message posted to a newsgroup, I wrote the following: Some tell me I should have had faith in the U.S. ''justice system.'' I am sad to say I did - until I found out by experience what it is like. Up till that time, I had a hard heart toward those who were in jail or prison. My (now ex-)wife was involved in prison evangelism - something I couldn't understand, and which I said I'd never do. Turns out, I spent six months preaching in jail. Once again, I learned the truth of this Bible verse:
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
I had the opportunity to pray with many of the people I met in jail. We even held daily Bible studies and a nightly prayer meeting. Best of all, I had the privilege of leading several people to the Lord. In the process, God changed my heart. I can honestly say I learned more about His grace and mercy in those six months than in all my years as a Christian prior to that. In a way, I think I got the better part of the ''bargain.'' And, as some of my friends have pointed out, the recent spate of ad hominem attacks on me will also turn out to be something of a blessing in disguise. After all, the garbage-diggers' revelations free me up to pay more public attention to a cause I have thus far supported and promoted privately: prison and jail ministry - as addressed by Jesus in Mat. 25:34-35. For starters: a number of people have contacted me with offers of financial support for a possible legal challenge to my case. However, I now understand that under U.S. law, a plea-bargain can not be undone. Therefore, I ask that those who feel so led, support the prison ministry of your choice instead.© Copyright 2000-2015+, Anton Hein
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