The Woody Allen Controversy Reader: (7) Debunking Maureen Orth’s “Undeniable Facts About The Woody Allen Sexual-Abuse Allegation” — Rebutting Orth’s Suggestion That The Report Which Exonerated Allen Was Not Reliable
This is an excerpt of a larger and more complete essay that debunks Maureen Orth’s false and misleading article “10 Undeniable Facts About The Woody Allen Sexual-Abuse Allegation”. This particular section focuses on Orth’s seventh claim — that the Yale-New Haven Hospital Child Sex Abuse Clinic’s concrete finding that Dylan Farrow had not been sexually molested by Woody Allen was not accepted as reliable.
Here is Orth’s precise contention as stated in her article:
7. The Yale-New Haven Hospital Child Sex Abuse Clinic’s finding that Dylan had not been sexually molested, cited repeatedly by Allen’s attorneys, was not accepted as reliable by Judge Wilk, or by the Connecticut state prosecutor who originally commissioned them. The state prosecutor, Frank Maco, engaged the Yale-New Haven team to determine whether Dylan would be able to perceive facts correctly and be able to repeat her story on the witness stand. The panel consisted of two social workers and a pediatrician, Dr. John Leventhal, who signed off on the report but who never saw Dylan or Mia Farrow. No psychologists or psychiatrists were on the panel. The social workers never testified; the hospital team only presented a sworn deposition by Dr. Leventhal, who did not examine Dylan.
All the notes from the report were destroyed. Her confidentiality was then violated, and Allen held a news conference on the steps of Yale University to announce the results of the case. The report concluded Dylan had trouble distinguishing fantasy from reality. (For example, she had told them there were “dead heads” in the attic and called sunset “the magic hour.” In fact, Mia kept wigs from her movies on styrofoam blocks in a trunk in the attic.) The doctor subsequently backed down from his contention.
The Connecticut state police, the state attorney, and Judge Wilk all had serious reservations about the report’s reliability.
The investigation by the Yale-New Haven Hospital Child Abuse Clinic was commissioned by Connecticut police on behalf of prosecutor Maco himself, as Orth admits. Not by anyone on Allen’s defense team mind you, but rather by a team of state investigators seeking evidence against Allen that a crime had taken place.
“The panel consisted of two social workers and a pediatrician, Dr. John Leventhal, who signed off on the report but who never saw Dylan or Mia Farrow.”
The social workers were Dr. Julia Hamilton who held a Ph.D. and Jennifer Sawyer who held a Masters degree. They both interviewed Dylan nine times during the course of the investigation. Their expertise made them more than qualified to conduct such interviews. (For more information regarding the hospital team that investigated the matter, see the essay that debunks Orth’s equally fatuous claim that there was no evidence that Dylan was coached in making her accusations.)
Orth’s deliberately vague and clumsy writing is calculated to give the reader the impression that none of them saw Dylan, when in fact it is only alleged that Dr. Leventhal, as a member of a larger team, did not interview Dylan.
I say “alleged” since there are actually two credible press reports that state that Leventhal himself did in fact meet with Dylan.
The LA Times reported on March 13, 1993 that “Leventhal had met with Allen, Farrow and Dylan since Thanksgiving.”
Meanwhile the NY Times also reported on May 4th, 1993: “Dr. John M. Leventhal, who interviewed Dylan nine times, said that one reason he doubted her story was that she changed important points from one interview to another…”
However, the summary of the report itself doesn’t indicate that Leventhal met with Dylan personally, so its likely that the reporters either got it wrong or, in a fit of laziness, simply conflated Leventhal’s authority as head of the panel with the panel members themselves. (Laziness and mistakes by the press has been a consistent hallmark in the Woody Allen saga since the beginning.)
It also possible that Leventhal personally saw and spoke to Dylan during the investigation process, but was not present during the more formal interviews by the social worker experts on his team. In either case, whatever the reality is, it should at least be noted that the press at the time did in fact report that Leventhal met with Dylan.
Assuming that Dr. Leventhal didn’t personally meet with Dylan, but only oversaw the Ph.D. and Masters-holding social workers who did, the crux of Orth’s complaint here is that because only the female social workers interviewed a young girl about a sensitive claim of sexual abuse while the male medical doctor neglected to do so, the panel’s entire finding should not be trusted since the females on the panel weren’t qualified or experienced enough to come to a proper conclusion — only the male medical doctor was.
This of course is nonsense. There were far more than three people who worked at the sex abuse clinic (as there still are — 13 in fact, as of this writing), and it is utter folly to suggest that each and every one of them must meet with each and every witness in each and every case to draw reasonable conclusions. It is always standard procedure to delegate certain duties of a panel to certain people.
It wasn’t necessary for the medical doctor on the panel to meet with Dylan for a very simple reason: Mia Farrow had already taken Dylan to a medical doctor on two separate occasions by the time the Yale-New Haven clinic had begun its investigation.
In case you need reminding, Farrow first took Dylan to a medical doctor on August 5, 1992, the day that Farrow first tried to get Dylan to state abuse claims on videotape. The doctor found no evidence of abuse and Farrow was forced to bring Dylan back home, claiming that she had “been afraid to talk to the doctor”.
Of the first doctor visit, Farrow said: “I think she said he touched her, but when asked where, she just looked around and [patted her shoulder]”.
Four days later, when Farrow had finally completed the many attempts to get Dyaln’s confession on video with at least 11 starts and stops, Farrow again took Dylan to a medical doctor where she got Dylan to state her claim, thus compelling the second doctor to report the allegation to authorities as required by law (regardless of any personal doubts he may have harbored himself). But even then, the second doctor visit confirmed what the first visit had concluded — that there was absolutely no physical evidence of abuse (a fact that Mia herself was forced to admit on the stand).
With that history of medical evaluation already completed, why on earth would it be necessary for a third doctor’s examination of Dylan a full six weeks after the second visit already reconfirmed that no physical evidence of abuse existed?
Dr. Leventhal unquestionably met with Mia Farrow and reviewed the tape she had made of Dylan in Farrow’s own presence, along with that of Dr. Hamilton and Sawyer. The fact that he may not have met personally with Dylan while the rest of his staff did is completely and absolutely irrelevant to the credibility of the clinic’s investigation and conclusions.
“No psychologists or psychiatrists were on the panel.”
Orth’s next complaint here in trying to cast doubt on the credibility of the Yale-New Haven hospital’s conclusions is equally fatuous.
Two psychotherapists who treated both Dylan and Ronan were interviewed for the report as objective experts and witnesses. There was no need for them to be “on the panel” when they were interviewed by the panel.
(From the panel’s summary: “[B]ecause the family context and Dylan’s past psychiatric history are important in understanding the meaning of her statements, we met with…two psychotherapists who had evaluated and treated Dylan and Satchel.”)
One of the clinical psychologists treating Dylan was Dr. Nancy Schultz, who testified directly to the court that both Allen and Farrow had requested that she treat Dylan because of their concerns over her difficulties in communicating and the fact that she “lived in her own fantasy world.”
Is Orth seriously trying to suggest that because the Yale-New Haven team didn’t put Dr. Schultz on their own payroll, that their conclusions (shaped in part by their very interviews with Schultz) can’t be trusted?
By the time the Allen/Farrow custody trial started, the Yale-New Haven panel of experts had already handled over 1,700 cases involving allegations of child sexual abuse and was routinely selected by police to help in their investigations (which they still do to this day).
There is nothing to suggest that psychologists or psychiatrists have ever been part of the panel. Does that make their conclusions in all 1,700 cases invalid?
When you look at the current composition of the Yale-New Haven Child Sex Abuse Clinic, there is no indication that any psychologists or psychiatrists comprise part of the clinic. Most consist of clinical social workers and medical examiners. Do you then presume to argue that all of their work is somehow invalid? That we cannot trust any of the conclusions of the many thousands of cases they worked on because they only employ medical doctors and social workers with advanced degrees, rather than psychologists or other psychiatric workers?
Dr. Hamilton had over 22-years of experience just working for the Yale-New Haven team alone when she was called to work on Dylan’s case. She was named Social Worker of the Year by the National Association of Social Workers for her professionalism.
This is the woman that Orth slanders here by suggesting that she was unqualified, too inexperienced and too incompetent to investigate Dylan’s case.
Those who purport to have the best interests of children at heart ought to be very careful here.
It is safe to assume that this clinic has been responsible for putting away just as many violent sexual predators as it has clearing the wrongly accused. (See for instance, the case of William M. Spigarolo, who was convicted based in part by the testimony of a member from the Yale-New Haven team who “merely” held master’s degree in social work and had only been working at the hospital for one-and-a-half years.)
If you are suggesting that their conclusions cannot be trusted based on the fact that they do not employ psychiatrists or psychologists on their panels, then you are suggesting that the justice system needs to revisit any and all convictions of sex offenders who were found guilty based in part on this group’s work and set them free based on flawed evidence because they only interview psychiatric workers, rather than employ them directly.
Be careful what you wish for.
It is the job of the of the Yale-New Haven Child Sex Abuse Clinic to interview psychiatric experts and reach conclusions based in part on those interviews. It is not their job to employ them. Attempting to disparage the work they have done in helping keep thousands of children safe by suggesting that they have no qualifications to do so is nothing less than a gross insult.
“The social workers never testified; the hospital team only presented a sworn deposition by Dr. Leventhal, who did not examine Dylan.”
Given that the report reflected the consensus of all the people who worked on the sex abuse clinic panel, it was not necessary for each and every one of them to testify separately.
In non-criminal civil trials, it quite common for witnesses to give testimony by sworn deposition rather than by personal appearance.
If anyone on Farrow’s legal team had seriously doubted the veracity or credibility of any of these people, they could have attempted to personally subpoena them and compel their in-person testimony. They obviously chose not to do so.
The fact that Dr. Leventhal did not personally examine Dylan in addition to the experienced Ph.D. and M.S.W. staff who repeatedly did has already been addressed above (as well as the contradictory press accounts suggesting that he may have in fact spoken to her directly).
“All the notes from the report were destroyed.”
It is common practice to destroy notes and expunge case files in instances where allegations of abuse are unfounded, as was the case with the allegations against Allen.
In fact, before 1996, many states required the expungement and destruction of the case file immediately after such a finding in order to protect privacy and due process rights of those falsely accused. (After 1996, there was a movement in many states to reform their laws by physically expunging such records only after a set number of years, but still keep them publicly sealed until that time.)
See for instance, pgs. 10–11 of Hawaii’s 1992 manual on Child Abuse and Neglect, which is in keeping with their current law under Hawaiian Code Section 350–2 governing the reporting of child abuse.
See also, Ch. 13, Sec. B, pg. B-1 of the current New York State Child Protective Services Manual which confirms the policies in place in the early 90s that were in fact grandfathered in to the current law in that state (as reflected in 18 CRR-NY 432.9(b)). (See also, pg. 11 of Admissibility of Indicated, Unfounded and Expunged Reports of Child Abuse or Neglect and Their Use by Attorney for the Childs in Custody Litigation by Charity Phipps, David French (Fall 2005), Updated by Gabriella MacDonald (2014.)
In contrast, with cases where the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare found reports of abuse to be credible, courts routinely upheld such findings even though the note-taking and evidence procedures used in the case were no more stringent than the procedures used by the Yale-New Haven hospital in Connecticut when investigating Dylan’s case.
(Note in this case that the Pennsylvania Court had no problem accepting the findings of the “hearing officer’s adjudication” of the case “conveyed by the caseworker’s hearsay testimony” — just like Dr. Leventhal conveyed his findings of the Allen case based on the hearsay testimony of his own case workers — Ms. Sawyer and Dr. Hamilton.)
Though it is yet unclear what the specific laws or procedures were in the state of Connecticut in 1992–93, it is certainly reasonable to speculate that they took their cues from surrounding states and fellow states such as New York, Pennsylvania, Hawaii, etc. (Current Connecticut law calls for expungement of all records in unsubstantiated cases after 5 five years, or directly after the completion of the investigation, whichever is later.)
The bottom line is that, based on past history and procedures in several states, the destruction of notes from the Dylan investigation should not be considered unusual or nefarious in any way, given the fact that the investigators determined that the claims were unfounded.)
As Judge Wilk himself conceded in pg. 23 of his decision, the notes were presumably “an amalgamation of [the] independent impressions and observations” of the panel members.
Those impressions and observations were fully synthesized in the report itself, and nobody has suggested that the report in any way contradicted the findings of its individual members or contained dissenting views within the panel itself.
If anyone on Farrow’s team had serious concerns or suspicions that the impressions of individual panel members would contradict the findings of the report itself, they were free to personally subpoena such individuals and compel them to testify. They chose not to.
Here is a vital question to ask yourself:
Let’s try a thought experiment.
Imagine for a moment that the Yale-New Haven Child Sexual Abuse Clinic had unambiguously concluded that Dylan had in fact been sexually abused by Allen, and that Allen’s defense team had used all of these same exact points to try and argue that the clinic’s conclusions were flawed and could not be trusted.
Would you think that would be a valid and strong defense, and thus conclude that it was still doubtful that Allen molested her? That because the individual members had destroyed their notes, and hadn’t employed psychiatric workers on their payroll, and didn’t have the lead medical doctor interview Dylan directly in addition to the expert social workers who did, that the clinic’s study and conclusions could not and should not be trusted even under a “preponderance of the evidence standard” (rather than the more strict “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard)?
Or would you instead conclude that such points were nothing more than a desperate attempt by defense attorneys to grasp at straws and deflect from a damning piece of evidence against their client?
Search your own conscience here. If you agree that such objections wouldn’t be enough to convince you to toss out the investigation’s conclusions if it had determined that Allen was guilty of a crime, then why would you think it would be enough to doubt its finding when it reached the opposite conclusion?
It’s only if you assume guilt upfront and want to prejudge Allen to find him guilty that you could possibly tolerate the hypocrisy at play here.
Many unquestionably do just that over their anger for his falling in love with Soon-Yi Previn. That doesn’t change the hypocrisy or the flaws in Orth’s reasoning here.
“[Dylan’s] confidentiality was then violated, and Allen held a news conference on the steps of Yale University to announce the results of the case.”
Even by the standards set by Orth’s usual disingenuousness, the utter gall she has here in suggesting that it was Allen who violated Dylan’s privacy concerns in this case is nothing short of jaw-dropping in its absurdity and hypocrisy.
It was Mia Farrow who, months before Allen’s press conference, taped Dylan in the nude, had her point to her crotch, and then leaked the tape to a television station in the hopes that they would air it.
It was Mia Farrow who, the very next day after she leaked the tape of Dylan to the television station, commanded her other daughter, Lark, to go to famed NY Post gossip columnist Joanna Molloy and offer up an exclusive interview of Lark in exchange for information on Soon-Yi. (The same Lark who witnesses described as being a “pack mule” and “scullery maid” for Farrow before turning to drugs and dying of AIDS-related complications on Christmas 2008.)
It was Mia Farrow’s legal team who, on the very first day of the custody battle with Allen, chose as one of their very first orders of business to bring the nude photos of Soon-Yi to a press-packed courthouse and insist that the judge inspect them.
It was Mia Farrow who publicly questioned the paternity of her own son in the press, sowing public speculation as to who his real father might be.
It was Mia Farrow who allowed British tabloids in to her home to photograph her children after her court battle.
And furthermore, it was Woody Allen who declined to speak to Orth for her fawning profile of Farrow, citing an agreement between the parties not to speak to the media at the time. It was Orth’s very article that destroyed the truce that Allen and Farrow had made in agreeing to avoid media publicity — forcing Allen’s spokespeople to respond to her one-sided account. (See Newsday, Oct. 7, 1992, pg. 5 & Oct. 8, 1992, pg. 11.)
To suggest after these events that it was Allen who somehow violated Dylan’s privacy merely for announcing the ultimate conclusions of a report that was introduced as evidence in open court during a public case he was embroiled in is beyond fatuous.
“The report concluded Dylan had trouble distinguishing fantasy from reality. (For example, she had told them there were “dead heads” in the attic and called sunset “the magic hour.” In fact, Mia kept wigs from her movies on styrofoam blocks in a trunk in the attic.) The doctor subsequently backed down from his contention.”
Though the report does indeed conclude that Dylan’s statements were “quite elaborate and fantasy-like at times”, none of these specific examples or phrases are cited in the summary of the clinic’s report that is publicly available. So how can Orth claim that these are “undeniable facts”? Does she have access to the full, sealed report that is unavailable to the public? Was she told this directly by Frank Maco or his investigative team who refused to prosecute Allen? Was she told this by another reporter who in turn heard it from unnamed sources? Was she reading it from the court transcripts? If so, will she be willing to post them online?
Unless Orth is willing to cite her specific sources (which she never does within the body of her tract), none of her claims can be considered “undeniable”.
But let’s assume that Dylan’s statements regarding “dead heads” were in fact uttered by her and that Dr. Leventhal casually cited this as an anecdotal example of Dylan’s whimsical thinking. The fact that Leventhal later conceded a plausible explanation as to why Dylan might use the phrase “dead heads” to describe wig holders is hardly reason to doubt the Yale-New Haven panel’s conclusions. Does Orth suggest that Dylan’s use of the “dead heads” phrase was the primary reason they concluded that she was prone to flights of fancy?
Even Dylan’s own nanny described her as a “very melodramatic child”.
Here are true undeniable facts that are both properly sourced and have not been refuted:
The panel, comprised of experienced experts in a clinic that handled over 1,700 cases and child interviews to compare with by the time it interviewed Dyaln, stated as follows:
“Dylan presented as an intelligent, verbal 7-year-old whose story telling was quite elaborate and fantasy-like at times and who manifested loose associations in her thinking. She appeared confused about what to relate to the interviewers and was very controlling of what she would say. In her statements and her play she elaborated interrelated themes. She was upset by the loss of her father and Soon-Yi and worried that her father might taker her from her mother’s care. She felt protective and worried for her mother. Dylan was very much attuned to her mother’s pain, and her mother reinforced Dylan’s losses and her negative view of her father.”
Dr. Leventhal said it was “very striking” that each time Dylan spoke of the abuse, she coupled it with “one, her father’s relationship with Soon-Yi, and two, the fact that it was her poor mother, her poor mother,” who had lost a career in Mr. Allen’s films.
He also said that Dylan was “extraordinarily protective of her mother and did not want to see her mother hurt.”
Contrary to Orth’s subterfuge via her purposely-selective memory, Dr. Levenathal did not and has not backed down from any of these contentions, and Orth offers no proof that he ever has. Would Orth even deny the notion that Dylan was protective of her mother and did not want to see her hurt?
It also remains an undeniable fact that Dr. Leventhal was given the Champions of Children Award by the Center for Children’s Advocacy and the Ray E. Helfer Society Award for distinguished achievement in the field of Child Abuse and Neglect.
If that weren’t impressive enough, Dr. Leventhal was given a Departmental Award of Special Achievement in 2006.
Do you know who gave him that award? The New Haven Police Department, which has always sought out his expert opinion and continues to rely on, and praise, his expertise in helping them solve child abuse cases. (Scroll down Dr. Leventhal’s bio and click on the “Honors and Recognitions” tab if you doubt the veracity of these claims.)
It is also an undeniable fact that the experts at the Yale-New Haven Child Sex Abuse Clinic also stated the following in their report about Mia Farrow:
“Ms. Farrow has had a very disturbed relationship with Dylan and Satchel. It is absolutely critical for the children’s emotional health that she be in intensive psychotherapy to address these relationships. Without this intensive work, it will be extraordinarily difficult, if not impossible, for the children to regain their emotional well-being or for them to re-establish healthy relationships with their father.”
(Newsday, March 19, 1993, pg. 5.)
This was a widely reported fact at the time — a critical point that Orth is counting on people to simply forget.
The fact that Dylan may have once referred to styrofoam heads in the attic as “dead heads” or referred to the sunset as “magic hour” as many show-business people regularly do (including Mia Farrow) is certainly not the reason why the experts at the Yale-New Haven Child Sex Abuse Clinic came to their conclusions after interviewing her at length at least nine separate times in addition to viewing the videotape that Mia Farrow felt compelled to make (with its several starts-and-stops over the course of a number of days) before taking Dylan to a doctor or authorities.
Orth is being completely disingenuous here by citing facts out of context and mixing them with mere allegations that are most certainly deniable.