Thursday, July 30, 2009

Child-Snatchers and Life-Stealers, Pt. II: Protecting the Guilty and Powerful

Under the rule of District Attorney Ed Jagels, Kern County, California became ground zero for the child abuse hysteria that raged across America for most of the 1980s. Utterly ruthless in pursuing convictions and entirely indifferent to the truth, Jagels recruited and developed a disciplined cadre of persecutors -- assistant DAs, police investigators, social workers, and "expert" witnesses -- who refined the art of railroading defendants into an exact science.

Kern County was the laboratory that developed the methods employed by opportunistic prosecutors who would eventually imprison thousands of innocent people on the basis of palpably fraudulent abuse accusations.

The process would begin with one or a handful of children believed to have been abused by someone. Those children would be designated "victims" and taken into "protective" isolation. Investigators and social workers would barrage the children with leading and suggestive questions, and then dispense with questions outright and demand that the children simply ratify accusations made by the adults themselves.

Some of the methods of manipulation favored by Jagels's agents were sleep deprivation, prolonged interrogation, positive reinforcement when the child would "admit" to being abused, coupled with contemptuous, hostile treatment of any child suffering from "denial" of abuse. Toys and other gifts were used as inducements, as were consciously dishonest promises that children who cooperated would be re-united with parents they accused of abusing them.

Once a handful of "victim"/accusers had been assembled, the investigation would take on the characteristics of a pyramid scheme: Each "victim" was urged to name other "victims," who in turn were pressured into naming "abusers." In this fashion, within a little more than a year Jagels -- with the help of a scandalously incurious local press -- was able to convince the public that Bakersfield and its suburbs were infested with at least eight child abuse "rings." And before long, other prosecutors began to copy the Jagels Formula.

As Edward Humes points out in his Pulitzer-winning expose
Mean Justice: A True Account of a Town's Terror, a Prosecutor's Power -- and a Betrayal of Innocence, Jagels's minions "helped ignite similar cases throughout the country, as Kern County investigators and social workers fanned out to spread the word of their winning techniques."

For the rest of the decade and into the early 1990s, the public would be barraged with tales of massive child abuse "rings" found in communities from coast to coast --from the
McMartin pre-school in Manhattan Beach, California to the Wee Care daycare center in Maplewood, New Jersey.

It was as if a chain-reaction were underway, causing public officials and local populations to suffer a complete melt-down where critical thinking and rational application of the law were concerned -- and Kern County had served as the breeder reactor.

Ironically, given his role in abetting this national disaster, Ed Jagels (to alter our metaphor) didn't ignite the firestorm in Kern County, even though he did cynically feed the flames.

During his 1982 campaign for the District Attorney post -- the last campaign he's ever had to run, now that he's effectively the Kern County DA-for-life -- Jagels capitalized on the issue during a May debate with his opponent, Judge Marvin Ferguson.

During a question-and-answer period, a woman named Jill Haddad strode to a microphone and, brandishing a large sheaf of photocopied papers, accused Ferguson of being lenient in his treatment of child abusers. The documents she held, according to Haddad, proved that in 1975 Ferguson had sent an abused four-year-old girl named Mary Ann Azevedo back to the stepfather who had beaten her, and then compounded this act by giving the abuser a ridiculously light sentence.

A few months later, after the stepfather was released, he took Mary Ann and her mother to Mississippi, where -- just a short while later -- he beat the poor child to death.
Ferguson, blindsided by the accusation, dissolved into a gibbering, stammering mess while Jagels sat next to him on the rostrum smirking.

This confrontation -- memorably captured in a photograph run on page A-4 of the Sunday, May 16
Bakersfield Californian -- proved to be the decisive moment in the campaign. It undoubtedly impressed on Jagels the political potency of the child abuse issue.

The procurement of the case file wielded by Jill Haddad, and the cover-up of the circumstances under which it was made available, may have been the first of the many instances of official corruption that would characterize Jagels's career as Kern County prosecutor.
The case file was obtained from the county clerk by a woman named Colleen Ryan, who -- like Jagels -- was an assistant county DA. At the time, Ryan was on maternity leave and had no official need for the confidential document; that fact was not explained to the clerk who handed it over.

Ryan gave the file to Jagels's campaign manager, who in turn provided it to Jill Haddad, a local child abuse activist and Jagels supporter.

As it happens, Jagels and his allies not only stole the file,
they lied about its contents in order to cover up their own role in the death of Mary Ann Azevedo.

It is true that Judge Ferguson sent Mary Ann back to a seriously troubled home. He didn't have a choice: The District Attorney didn't bother to send anybody to attend the critical hearing. In the absence of someone there to make the case for the prosecution, Judge Ferguson quite properly dismissed the charges.

Furthermore, the leniency granted to Mary Ann's stepfather (who was in jail for a different offense) was not Judge Ferguson's idea. He was the beneficiary of a plea-bargain arrangement that dramatically reduced his sentence. So if anyone in an official capacity was responsible for the death of Mary Ann Azevedo, that blame resided with the District Attorney's office.

This was not the first or last time the Kern County law enforcement community had covered up embarrassing details regarding the death of a child.

In 1979, four years following the death of Mary Ann Azevedo, a 14-year-old honors student named Dana Butler disappeared on her way home from church. Three days later, her mutilated mortal remains were found at the side of the highway just outside the Bakersfield city limits. Her body had been perforated by scores of stab wounds, and there was evidence that she had been tortured before being permitted to die.

Of particular interest was the fact that the murderer had carefully bathed and dressed the body before depositing it on the side of the road; it was still damp when the police discovered it. The obvious intent was to wash away critical physical evidence -- hairs, fibers, fluids -- that could be used by investigators seeking to identify the perpetrator.

Within a short time investigators learned that Dana had been a frequent house guest of 56-year-old
Glenn Fitts, who routinely invited teens to his home for parties in which he'd ply the underage youth with alcohol and drugs and often receive sex in return. According to her friends, Dana had visited Fitts the day before she disappeared, and planned to return on the following day. Although Fitts was an obvious suspect, the DA's office and the Sheriff's Office were reluctant to pursue the investigation.

Prior to his retirement just a few years earlier, Fitts had been a pillar of the local law enforcement community: In addition to being chairman of the law-enforcement program at Bakersfield Community College, Fitts had been director of the Kern County Police Academy and a high-ranking member of the Bakersfield Police Commission. He had personally instructed many of the local police officers and sheriff's deputies, and as commissioner he had served as their supervisor.

A powerless victim, an unpunished crime: Investigators retrieve the body of 14-year-old Dana Butler, who was almost certainly raped and murdered by former Kern County Police Academy director Glenn Fitts.

After a lengthy and unnecessary delay, a search was conducted of Fitts' home, which had been thoroughly -- but not adequately -- scoured of evidence.

Carpet fibers and human hairs found in the house matched some found on Dana's body. Among them were (please forgive the specificity of this description) pubic hairs from Fitts that matched a sample found clinging to the head of the deceased 14-year-old girl.

Despite the accumulating evidence, the Kern County DA's office refused to prosecute. This decision was made by District Attorney Al Leddy in collaboration with his three top assistants. The Sheriff's office retaliated against the cover-up by leaking news of the investigation to the press; this resulted in the creation of an ad hoc pressure group called Mothers of Bakersfield, which pressured the state Attorney General to investigate the Kern County DA.

With pressure mounting on him, Leddy eventually submitted a case against Fitts to a grand jury. The ridiculously inadequate charge against him was contributing to the delinquency of a minor. And even then, notes Humes in
Mean Justice, "senior prosecutors withheld key evidence from the panel and ultimately closed the investigation without asking for an indictment."

The only purpose served by that exercise was to provide political cover for Leddy and the local law enforcement hierachy. Their problems appeared to solve themselves shortly thereafter when Fitts died of what was officially described as a self-inflicted gunshot to the head. And even then, a neighbor reported hearing
two gunshots rather than one -- a fact that suggests either really poor aim by Fitts, or very careful work by an assassin.

The Dana Butler murder and cover-up ended Leddy's career, and helped propel his subordinate Ed Jagels into Leddy's old office. It also offered a telling glimpse into the workings of the local ruling oligarchy, the so-called "Lords of Bakersfield," whose corrupt and criminal behavior was carefully protected by Jagels for more than a decade.

an investigative report by Rolling Stone observes, many Bakersfield residents -- including people with access to the corridors of power -- concluded that Jagels' child abuse jihad was intended "to divert attention from the illicit sexual behavior of the city's ruling elite."

Kyle Beckman, who served as an investigator for the DA's office under Jagels, now says that "the 1980s molestation trials were overcompensation," that Jagels and his allies among the "Lords of Bakersfield" were "covering up their tracks by going after other people."

"Between 1981 and 1984," reports
Rolling Stone, "three prominent men in Bakresfield were murdered by their teenage lovers. At his trial, one boy testified that he had sex with 150 closeted gay men in Kery County, a group of judges, prosecutors and other pillars of the community who became known in local lore as the Lords of Bakersfield. For years, rumors about the dark cabal filtered through town: the wild parties at the house of Ted Fritts, publisher of the Bakersfield Californian, where teenage boys mingled with graying power brokers; the park at the edge of town where homeless kids would swap sex for money or drugs."

The Californian newspaper, interestingly enough, was little more than a megaphone for Ed Jagels' office during the child abuse frenzy, and displayed no interest at all in pursuing the truth about these tantalizing rumors -- until after Fritts, the paper's publisher, died of AIDS in 1997, and another of the local "Lords" was murdered five years later.

Remove Formatting from selection On September 13, 2002, the body of assistant Kern County DA Stephen Tauzer was found in his garage. Tauzer was the victim of a particularly vicious attack: His head was riddled with multiple stab wounds.

With Tauzer's death the curtain was pulled back far enough to reveal one unsavory aspect of his private life: For years he had been involved with a teenage boy named Lance Hills, a meth addict and hustler.
Many speculated that Tauzer, by that time in his late 50s, was supplying Hills with drugs in exchange for sex.

Public records documented that the assistant DA was using his influence to protect Hills when he was arrested on drug charges. Rather than being sent to jail or prison, Hills was sent to a rehab facility, where he stole a car that he wrecked in a head-on collision that also ended his life. One month after Lance Hills died, his father Chris murdered Tauzer.

During the child abuse frenzy of the 1980s, Tauzer had been Jagels' right-hand man, supervising the persecution of scores of innocent people. He was fully complicit in the crimes and abuses committed by the DA's office. That relationship, and revelations about Tauzer's relationship with Hills, support the accusation that Jagels' child abuse campaign was intended, at least in part, as a diversion undertaken to protect the depraved "Lords of Bakersfield."

Additional support for that assessment came a few months after Tauzer's death, when
the Bakersfield Californian ran a revealing series about the "Legend of the Lords of Bakersfield."

Abounding in detail and carefully reported, the series substantiated at least some of the speculation regarding the influence and activities of that powerful clique.

Jagels remains ensconced in the Kern County DA's office to this day. In terms of the security of his position, the longevity of his rule, and the cruel lawlessness of his reign, Jagels invites comparisons to Fidel Castro. Despite the fact that all of the child sex charges were dismissed, neither Jagels nor any of his subordinates or allies has ever admitted error, or been held accountable in any way.

Although large-scale child abuse scandals no longer dominate the headlines, families are ripped apart, children are abducted, and innocent people are terrorized by predatory state officials using techniques pioneered by Jagels and his comrades. This happens somewhere in this country every day.
But Jagels and his associates did more than just create a template for spurious child abuse investigations; they were the vanguard of a movement to create a corporatist police state.

Notes Edward Humes in
Mean Justice: "Even as schools and parks and clinics suffered, Kern County bolstered the budgets of the sheriff, police, and prosecutors. It built a new, bigger jail far out in the desert, doing everything it could to crack down on crime, hard and sure...."

And where criminals could not be found, Jagels and his allies were prepared to manufacture them, thereby guaranteeing a return on this civic "investment."
"You don' thave to do anything at all in this town to be convicted of a crime," explained a former employee of Jagels to Rolling Stone. "I tell my kids, `Get out of this county after high school or you'll end up in prison.'"

A similar admonition applies to visitors: According to a popular local folk saying, Bakersfield's Chamber of Commerce invites tourists to "Come on vacation, and leave on probation."

At the time Jagels came to power, Bakersfield's civic elite described their community as an "All-American City." What it became was a foreshadowing of America as our descent into abject police state tyranny accelerates.

Not-entirely-gratuitous video extra

Dwight Yoakam and Buck Owens perform the country classic, "Streets of Bakersfield":


Be sure to tune in to Pro Libertate Radio on the Liberty News Radio Network.

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Dum spiro, pugno!


The Omega Man said...

People in power railroading innocent victims into prisons for crimes which those in power are guilty of themselves--convicting the innocent of their own crimes--sounds straight out of a Marquis deSade novel. DeSade offered illuminating (and horrifying) insights into the mindset of evil, essentially opening the lid on an evil person's mind and letting us look inside. What titillated evil persons the most was not just committing crimes, or even getting away with them, but making sure another innocent person was punished for their own crime.

If your article is accurate, the "Lords of Bakersfield" may have enacted their very own 120 Days of Sodom.

Cranky_Old_Guy said...

Prosecution in today's courts has nothing to do with victims, justice, or truth. It is the scoreboard for prosecutor's / DA's future job prospects. A resume builder.

I can't wait to be put on a jury-but they never choose me. I think the prosecutors are afraid I may make them work-like prove their case.

BTW-Yoakam is THE best country artist. "Dwight Sings Buck" album is exceptional, I listen to it almost every day.

Anonymous said...

Keep on reporting Will. What gets me is that these vermin are not sent up the river for falsely imprisoning someone. That they haven't all been knifed for their evil deeds makes me wonder.

Anonymous said...


was that song on hee haw?


"Ed Jagels....Billy Joel if he had gray hair."


William N. Grigg said...

Rick, as a child I LOVED "Hee-Haw," because I was fascinated to watch people playing the guitar. Every once in a GREAT while they'd ditch the schtick and let Roy Clark rip, and that was always fun to watch.

As an adolescent, I learned to appreciate other, ah, attributes of the program, but I won't elaborate on that unworthy thought.

Ironically, Ed Jagels in some press accounts is said to resemble Paul McCartney (I can't see it). I think this is ironic because there was a VERY brief period in the late 1980s when Bill Joel looked a bit like Sir Paul.

Anonymous said...


you wouldn't happen to be referencing the "butt hugger short shorts" and the "gee, can i see more cleevage?" t-shirts would ya?

never mind. :-)

p.s. daisy duke's shorts had nothin on those girls'. ironically, that style is in vogue now as girls and women wear those pants like it's ok to show that much skin. geeze. i think i was like 6 and watching that show. yup, i'm a black redneck!


I Hate Bobby Flay said...

Isn’t this happening right now? I just read this article from 2/7/2008, Bedford sheriff tracks local computers for child porn:

“It’s epidemic,” says Brown. “There have been 217,000 file transfers of child pornography in Virginia over the last two years …

Since 1997, Brown’s cyberspace patrol… has been using tracking software that can identify the computers of people who swap child porn files on the internet which leaves a “digital fingerprint.”

“From the first key stroke, everything is recorded,” says Brown. “We’re not Dateline. We have to follow strict guidelines from the department of justice about how we monitor people, and it can take months to build a case.”

Brown says they’ve had a 100 percent conviction rate, 90 so far.

Is the government actually monitoring EVERY computer?

averros said...

Omega Man mentioned Marquis de Sade.

It is interesting that historian Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn argues that de Sade was the ideological father of leftism (de Sade was, in fact, one of the instigators of the French Revolution). His book "Leftism Revisited: From De Sade and Marx to Hitler and Pol Pot" is very illuminating - he tells a lot of history which went missing in the modernized versions.

Some of his finds are spectacular - like the cannibal sensibilites of FDR (check the story of the letter knife made from a bone of a killed Japanese soldier). This alone makes a decent person to firmly put this leftist idol into the category of monsters in human shape.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to assay an introductory answer to your question, IHBF. I chased a few links on the Bedford sheriff's "Blue Ridge Thunder" program, and the related "SafeSurf" program. I note Shaquille O’Neal has participated in this as a specially appointed temporary officer on at least one raid, which was an embarrassing flub. That's because the department's technique is highly flawed, based on chasing IP addresses after-the-fact. It appears they make that mistake all too often.

I'm going to deduce from articles I found they have a computer lab somewhere which depends mostly on entrapment of "online predators" by workers pretending to be kids on various forums and chat services. We've seen that before.

I further deduce they have precious few real networking technicians involved, and rely on the software to do the work of tracking and identifying, which would explain a high ratio of errors. They probably do plant snooping software on computers they suspect of being involved, but that almost certainly is limited to Windows computers. If the targets of their investigations used Mac, Linux, or BSD, I doubt they could do anything like that. This is a common limitation on standard police-issue investigative software tools.

Naturally, the worst element of this whole thing is they seem all too willing to jump on such poor leads, and destroy lives without the least bit of remorse. Will has amply demonstrated what's wrong with all that.

All things considered, I am really glad I learned to use Linux.

Anonymous said...

Isn't that dandy Bobby! They snoop around and trap people by tracking porn! But that begs the ultimate question based on the story you cite.

Just how do you track something unless you first embed code, etc. into these images and YOU either witness or you've "seen" or handled the very files others can be sent to jail and labeled as a sex offender?

Isn't that the ultimate form of hypocritical irony?

I suppose Gahndi's quote of "Be the change that you want to see in the world." should be rephrased for the political and legal parasites. How about "Be the corruption you wish to (hypocritically) jail". Yeah... that works.

William N. Grigg said...

It is interesting that historian Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn argues that de Sade was the ideological father of leftism (de Sade was, in fact, one of the instigators of the French Revolution). His book "Leftism Revisited: From De Sade and Marx to Hitler and Pol Pot" is very illuminating - he tells a lot of history which went missing in the modernized versions.

This is a very important observation.

About a decade ago I wrote and published an essay on this subject for The New American. The people running that outfit have done their considerable best to cleanse that essay (and most of my other TNA-era work) from the 'net, so I've re-posted it over at one of my other blogs:

AvgJoe said...

This is more proof that we have lost our country to tax feed parasites. Where is the DOJ and the FBI stepping in for the citizens who have lost their civil rights to these monsters? If even half of all of this stated by Will is true there should be federal LE raids and arrest.
Yet we seen no action of any sort which again clearly points to the sad fact. We the people are nothing but numbers that matter very little if any at all.
In fact, would we be better off with no government if this is the kind of government that is going to subject us, decent and lawful citizens to such unanswered criminal acts. Thats a question that needs to be a subject of topic across the country.

Anonymous said...


It would be nice if the feds would help on this. Too bad they are part of the problem. Our government leaders are corrupt at every level. Inmates are big money for the private prison companies.
It's all about the money and power.

I Hate Bobby Flay said...

Broken, I had forgotten about Shaq wanting to be a cop. He looks a decent sort; I wonder if he gave up his cop-luv after seeing them pointing semi-autos at women and children and terrorizing them for hours.

So you think the cops are luring people they talk to online? How did the sherf know that there had been 217,000 file transfers? (I also wonder how they caught those desperado music downloaders who were fined millions.)

MoT, do you remember that show on Dateline, To Catch a Predator? Even in the Before Time when I was a law-&-order conservative, I couldn’t watch that show. I just found this article yesterday, To Catch a Predator Suicide, where Dateline went to a town in Texas and played their lure game (with the cops in tow). The last man they tried to lure didn’t show up, so the “boy” called him several times to get him to the house. Finally, the man just quit answering his phone. By this time Dateline had found out he was the District Attorney and since they couldn’t lure him to the house, THEY went to HIS house. You gotta read it.

And we really don’t know how many people may already be languishing in prison for just looking at what-the-government-calls child porn. (It can be nothing racier than some advertisements you see.)

Al Newberry said...

After watching Witch Hunt, my biggest question is: Why the Hell is Jagels not behind bars?

I think we all know the answer to that question.

Unknown said...


You seen this?

Pregnant woman tazered

William N. Grigg said...

David, go check out the blog at

This is simply sick, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

They tazered a pregnant woman?


Lemuel Gulliver said...


These two articles are a masterpiece of reporting, in their clarity of presentation, detail, and logical development of your case. They deserve, (but will never in a million years receive,) a Pulitzer Prize. (Except the Pulitzer is usually awarded for longer pieces with more padding, not suitable for a blog like this.)

As for the story, it is a tragic and revolting look into the cesspit America has become.

I have read that for a poor country, the discovery of huge natural resources and great wealth is a curse that brings corruption and civil war - witness Sierra Leone, Congo, Nigeria, Indonesia, and so on. The oligarchs get obscenely rich while the general population suffers horribly.

It seems the same has happened in America. The fact that this is such a rich country has stimulated the greed of the oligarchy while the general public suffers for it. It began with the stealing of lands from Mexico, then the Civil War, (which was more about economics than slavery,) then the theft of entire nations from Spain, then the creation of the Federal Reserve and the theft thereby of the wealth of the entire human race, whether they be in China or Russia or Japan.

These people created entire world wars One and Two, plus the Cold War and now the War on Terror. They have caused the destruction of centuries of art and culture and the deaths of hundreds of millions of human beings, all in the pursuit of millions, then billions, and now trillions of dollars of profit. What is a few innocents sent to jail in comparison with that?

Who are "they"? Well, everyone will have to figure that out for themselves. With the media and political and financial power they command, they have cast themselves as the victims instead of the perpetrators, just as Ed Jagels managed to do in his own small way when he sent Jill Haddad to cast Marvin Ferguson as the responsible party in the Azevedo case instead of himself. An absolutely classic maneuver for these people.

There is the old saying, "You can't fight City Hall." Unfortunately it is as true today as the day it became a cliche. However, Mother Nature seems to have a way of cleansing the Earth of pollution, and eventually she will cleanse these people also. She has cleansed many empires - too many to count - from the face of the planet, and I believe firmly that the turn of the American (if that is what you choose to call it) Empire has now come.

It won't be easy. I lived through the end of the British Empire, and it takes a generation or two for the oligarchs to realize that their orders are no longer being listened to by the rest of the world. The naked emperor is the last one to realize people are laughing at him. I recall when Idi Amin started a charity to collect money for Britain. He managed to raise about $15,000. How long before Hugo Chavez or Kim Jong Il start a charity fund for America?

It'll be fun to watch.
Lemuel Gulliver.

Anonymous said...

If there is evidence of misfeasance on the part of the DA then charges should be laid, even if they have to take the position of obstruction of justice.

Letty Hagstrom said...

"J. Edgar" Jagels should be put down, like the conscienceless little rich boy he is. That way, he can join Stephen Tauzer and all of his other perverted associates in an exclusive, boys-only corner of Hell. It really wouldn't be much different than that overpriced prep school he attended back in San Marino, but he wouldn't want to have it any other way....

Unknown said...

I have live here in Bakersfield California since 1970 and nothing has changed,Ed Jagels has just found different people to make their lives miserable, they are still railroading the innocent, not to say that every case that comes through his office is false, but in my years here i have seen and heard of so many different cases that would not have had a leg to stand on in any other up standing county that have been found guilty for little to
none evidence,conjured up evidence, you name it i have seen it here. there was a social worker that the newspaper reportedly said that had something to do with this "supposedly molestation ring" and i remember her name but i won't put it out there, but i was wondering has anyone else heard of what happened to her in this case. oh yeah and by the way there is a lot more going on when it come to the lords of Bakersfield, i just would be so glad when someone from the outside steps in and shuts them down.

Boris Epstein said...

Thanks for awesome reporting once again. One question: how did that piece of shit Jagels get to become a DC-for-life?