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Franklin Panel Faults Grand Jury's Conclusion - July 8, 1992 - Omaha World-Herald

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July 8, 1992 Franklin Panel Faults Grand Jury's Conclusion; [Sunrise Edition] Robert Dorr. Omaha World - Herald. Omaha, Neb. pg. 1

Full Text (1184 words)
(Copyright 1992 Omaha World-Herald Company)
The online version is longer than the published version.

The Legislature's Franklin committee Tuesday criticized a grand jury's conclusion that child-sexual-abuse allegations against prominent men amounted to "a carefully crafted hoax."

But the legislative committee indicated in its final report that it was not certain who was telling the truth among four young adults who told the committee's investigator that as minors they had seen and experienced sexual abuse.

Two of the four recanted their sexual-abuse stories. The other two, Alisha Owen and Paul A. Bonacci, were indicted on perjury charges by the grand jury that said their allegations added up to a hoax.

The special legislative committee spent two years investigating various matters connected to the 1988 failure of Omaha's Franklin Community Federal Credit Union, including rumors that prominent Omaha men had sexually abused under-age boys and girls.

The committee's final report stated:

"It could be that a large portion of the (sexual abuse) stories are true with certain lies incorporated where necessary to make the testimony more dramatic. . . . We cannot be sure because the truth is now trapped in the minds of witnesses whose credibility under the circumstances cannot be ascertained with any certainty."

The 91-page report, signed by all five committee members and issued 18 months after the committee officially went out of existence, was less strident in tone than some past statements of State Sen. Loran Schmit of Bellwood, the committee's chairman.

Schmit contended throughout his committee's investigation that the sexual-abuse stories were believable.

During its two years, the committee spent $294,162.

The Douglas County Franklin grand jury, after interviewing 76 witnesses and meeting for 82 days, concluded in its final report on July 23, 1990:

"There is no doubt after reviewing all relevant evidence that the story of sexual abuse, drugs, prostitution and judicial bribery presented in the legislative videotapes is a carefully crafted hoax, scripted by a person or persons with considerable knowledge of the people and institutions of Omaha, including personal relationships and shortcomings."

The legislative committee responded in its final report:

"To assume that the 'hoax' was crafted assumed the existence of a craftsman. Who was it? To state that it was 'carefully crafted' assumes someone with intelligence and enough knowledge of accurate facts to make the 'hoax' credible. . . . We can find no clear evidence which conclusively establishes what was the truth and what was a hoax."

Miss Owen, now 23, was convicted last year by a Douglas County District Court jury of eight counts of lying to the grand jury in her stories of sexual abuse. She was sentenced to nine to 15 years in prison. She remains free on bail until her appeal of that sentence is decided.

Miss Owen has completed the sentence she had been serving for writing bad checks.

The Franklin grand jury also indicted Bonacci, 24, on perjury charges. The grand jury termed Bonacci "the most pathetic witness" to appear before the jurors.

The perjury charges against Bonacci were dismissed after Miss Owen was convicted. Bonacci remains in prison, where he is serving a sentence for sexually molesting minors.

Two others who told a legislative committee investigator that they were sexually abused as minors recanted those stories before they testified before the grand jury. The two - Troy Boner, 25, and Danny King, 22 - never were charged with any crime.

With two exceptions, the grand jury did not accuse any prominent men of sexual crimes.

One exception was Omaha businessmen Alan Baer, who was indicted on two charges of pandering. Baer later was fined $500 after pleading no contest last year to a reduced charge of aiding and abetting prostitution. The charges against Baer involved alleged sex acts between consenting adults and did not involve minors, a special prosecutor assigned to the Baer case said.

The other exception was Lawrence E. King Jr., former chief executive officer of the Franklin Community Federal Credit Union, which was closed by federal officials in 1988. The grand jury said King probably was guilty of pandering because he engaged in sex with men in their late teens or early 20s.

The grand jury did not charge him with that crime because, it noted, he faced 40 felony charges resulting from his alleged financial misconduct while Franklin's top officer. King later pleaded guilty to three charges of fraud and embezzlement and was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

The grand jury noted that Peter Citron, former World-Herald columnist and WOWT entertainment reporter, had been charged with molesting two young boys but said Citron had no connection with the Franklin case.

Citron is serving a prison term of three to eight years on two charges of sexual contact with boys.

The legislative committee's report criticized the grand jury for not charging King with sexual crimes and for stating that Citron's case wasn't connected to the Franklin case.

Because the grand jury failed to indict King, the allegations of illicit sexual acts against him never were fully investigated, the committee said, adding:

"Who might he have implicated? . . . We are left wondering whether there is much more to this story."

The committee said Citron was arrested because parents of two young boys molested by Citron became suspicious after he was named in a 1990 memo drafted by former State Sen. John DeCamp, a Lincoln lawyer-lobbyist.

The legislative report said: "If law enforcement had followed our lead, his (Citron's) arrest would have resulted directly from the Franklin investigation, although probably not on the specific charges on which he was convicted."

Miss Owen, in her videotaped accounts to the committee's investigator, named Citron among those she said had attended sex and drug parties at which she and other minors were abused.

In addition to Schmit, the committee's other members who signed the unanimous report were Sens. Jerome Warner of Waverly; Bernice Labedz and Dan Lynch, both of Omaha; and Dennis Baack of Kimball, the Legislature's speaker.

The report was dedicated to the memory of the late Gary Caradori, the legislative committee's investigator who was killed when the plane he piloted crashed in 1990.

Twelve days after Caradori died, the Franklin grand jury issued its report saying that Caradori led his witnesses and fed them information. "We believe that Caradori was duped into working with (Michael) Casey, who took advantage of Caradori's background information," the grand jury said.

Casey was a free-lance writer who was described by the grand jury as a con man.

The grand jury said Caradori "stood to gain professionally and personally" from the allegations of sexual abuse.

The legislative committee's report defended Caradori, saying that although his death left many unanswered questions about his investigation, "We do not believe for a minute that he was a 'dupe' for anyone.

"We also do not believe that he had any ulterior motives for developing the allegations made by Owen, Boner, King and Bonacci."

The legislative committee said that as a result of its work, the Legislature passed Legislative Bill 1246.

That measure, among other things, established a special unit in the Nebraska Attorney General's Office that assists county attorneys in prosecuting child abuse cases.

Credit: World-Herald Staff Writer

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