She Said, She Said

by Bruce McEwen, March 28, 2012

Richard Kruse was found guilty of child molestation last Tuesday night after nearly two years of his inevitable conviction. It’s been over four years since the victim who convicted him came forward, and 34 years, at least, since the whole sordid business began in Albion, an enclave of alternative lifestyles for those who find the rest of Mendocino County too normal, staid and generally “uptight.”

Looking back on the Kruse trial, it looks like a contest of wills between two girls; one who wanted to put Kruse in jail and one who wanted to keep him out.

The girl who wanted to spring Kruse, his ace-up-his-sleeve, the defense witness who was supposed to vindicate him as a saint rather than a demon, we'll call Joan Doe.

Jane is the girl who wanted Kruse put away.

Jane and Joan were friends at the time Jane's serial molestations were underway, and they say they are still friends.

It was Joan who introduced Jane to Kruse. Joan, we learned, thought of Kruse as sort of a year-round Santa Claus, but after Jane came forward and made her accusations that Santa was in fact a mega-perv, Joan was no longer allowed to go to Santa's house because Joan’s mother said she thought her daughter's visits were no longer “appropriate.”

After testifying that she no longer allowed her daughter to visit the Kruse residence, Joan’s mother remained seated behind the witness stand in nearby support of her daughter while the child testified.

The defense mounted by Public Defender Linda Thompson has been that little girls are big storytellers. Ms. Thompson established that Joan was now 11 and that the events in question happened when she and Jane were in the second grade.

Thompson: “And at that time, how often did you go to Rick Kruse’s house?”

Joan: “I went there a lot.”

Thompson: “Mostly after school?”

Joan: “Yes.”

Thompson: “How did you get there?”

Joan: “On the bus or, mostly, Rick would pick me up at school. Sometimes, my mom would give me a ride.”

Thompson: “Would it be fair to say that you went there at least three out of five days a week?”

Joan: “Yes.”

Thompson: “Did you stay overnight?”

Joan: “Yes, most of the time.”

Thompson: “Where did you sleep?”

Joan: “On the couch.”

Thompson: “Was Rick’s wife there?”

Joan: “Yeah … most of the time.”

Thompson: “Were you aware of the accusations made by [Jane]?”

Joan: “Yes.”

Thompson: “Do you recall being interviewed by law enforcement?”

Joan: “Yes. I think it was two or three times.”

Thompson: “Do you have some idea of what it was Rick was accused of?”

Joan: “Yes.”

Thompson: “Was [Jane] there on some of these sleep-overs?”

Joan: “Yes.”

Thompson: “Did you ever see Rick touch her?”

Joan: “No.”

Thompson: “Now, you have had talks with your mom about good and bad touching, haven’t you?”

Joan: “Yes.”

Thompson: “So you know the difference between what’s good touching and what’s bad?”

Joan: “Yes.”

Thompson: “Did you ever see Rick touch [Jane] in a bad way?”

Joan: “No.”

Thompson: “Did Rick ever touch you in a bad way?”

Joan: “No.”

Thompson: “Did Rick ever threaten you?”

Joan: “No.”

Thompson: “Now, when you had these interviews with law enforcement, did they ever tell you that Rick had admitted to touching you?”

Joan: “Yes.”

Thompson: “Did they tell you to go ahead and admit it since he’d already told them he had?”

Joan: “Yes.”

Thompson: “So did you then tell law enforcement that Rick had touched you?”

Joan: “No.”

Thompson: “Are you still friends with [Jane]?”

Joan: “Yes.”

Thompson: “I have nothing further.”

Ms. Larson for the prosecution: “You would be glad if you could help get Rick out of jail, wouldn’t you?”

Joan, enthusiastically: “Yes.”

Larson: “He has always been really nice to you, right?”

Joan: “Yes.”

Larson: “Do you remember talking to Cynthia Silva from Child Protective Services?”

Joan: “Not exactly.”

Larson: Okay. But you told law enforcement that he didn’t touch you at all, didn’t you?”

Joan: “Yes. I would do anything to help him.”

Larson: “The People rest.”

Thompson: “Defense rests.”

The case went to the jury at noon on Monday and by early Tuesday afternoon they'd returned with the guilty verdict. In proportion to the time it took to bring the case to trial, and the many months of assertion by defendant Kruse that he would be acquitted, it hadn't taken the jury very long to find him guilty.

The most damning evidence against Kruse were his own statements to the police. If he hadn't called law enforcement back after their initial interview with him, his denials may well have been sufficient to prevent charges ever being filed against him. But his need to explain himself, to get a little credit for the rehab “work” he was doing — he told Detective Comber he’d taken Jane on as a project — his image of himself as a protector of little girls and his need to be recognized for his selflessness, led to his downfall.

As for his admissions regarding touching Joan, it was not a ruse by law enforcement to get Joan to admit the touching. In the taped interviews, Kruse described such extensive “touching” of this child that he was virtually her full-time masseuse.

Of course in a progressive place like the Albion Nation, nobody would think twice about some old codger, a car mechanic by trade, examining their female children for signs of molestation. Hey! Rick was only doing his thing.

Incidentally, for those parents who think Kruse is as he has presented himself, he also told investigators that he thought the parents of his victims were “all dope addicts and scumbags.”

The following is an anonymously submitted letter in defense of Kruse.

Read it and weep.

“Lenny Bruce had a bit where he commented on his court appearances. His defense attorney said, 'Get a haircut, get a blue suit and… get rid of those shoes.' It's costume time in court. The judge is the one in the black robe, the cops are the guys in brown suits, the defendant is the one in the blue suit. The big costume moment in the Richard Kruse trial was when the alleged victim, now 12, took the stand wearing a pink top, a pink skirt with flowers on it, french braids and, can you believe - a pink teddy bear. She's 12. With a pink teddy bear. Aww. Was this a JonBenet Ramsay lookalike attempt or what? It sure made the needle of my bullshit meter jump. I guess it's somebody's idea of what a child victim should look like. I've never seen the girl dressed like that before and I'd bet the clothes were purchased specifically for her court appearance. Another disturbing feature of the case is the woman who claims to have been molested by Mr. Kruse 34 years ago. The disturbing thing is the lack of other supposed victims who have not shown up. Let's say Mr. Kruse was a molester. Molesters don't suddenly stop that behavior and start it up again later. If only one girl a year had been a victim, there would be 34 young women out there eager to get a stab at the man who messed with them. Only silence. An even more disturbing factor is the bias shown by local reportage, The UDJ article by Tiffany Revelle has some waffle words in it: 'Kruse also allegedly said during the 2010 interview that “he was never inappropriate with blank,' according to Porter, contrary to a statement to Comer in 2008 that he had been inappropriate but hadn't molested her when he rubbed her legs, back, stomach and chest during sleepovers. “I did some inappropriate things with her, but I never molested her, as far as stimulating her,' Kruse said in the 2008 interview.” I wondered as I read this, did he, or did he not say these things. It is prejudicial of her reportage to report damaging allegations. Some of the things she reported were said out of the presence of the jury, and were disallowed by the judge. And what shall I say about Bruce McEwen, whose smug self- righteous coverage of the case from the beginning makes one wonder at his competence. His wiseass little asides at the Defense Attys represent his own bias and are Yellow Journalism at it's finest. He makes a big deal of the supposed 'trophies' of little girls' hair supposedly kept by Kruse. The sheriff's investigators tossed the Kruse residence thoroughly, seizing the computer and several garbage bags of photos. Their perusal of them failed to produce any trace of pornography. He had years of photos of his water skiing students. The preponderance of them were girls, but there were family outings with him and occasional boys as well. The tins of hair Mr. McEwen goes on about were never found. If they had been, you can count on them being on the evidence table at Court. No hair collection. No right thinking person thinks well of those who prey on children, so I can understand Mr. McEwen's indignation, but we still work under the presumption of innocence until proven guilty in the US. Mr. McEwen, in an earlier article asserted that in China Mr. Kruse would be taken to the basement and given a bullet in the brain. Can we say, rush to judgment? He's not even correct about China. I asked a friend who has lived in China for many years about it and was told that it would depend on the region, the standing of the individuals in the community, and the damages done. China until recent years had a law limiting families to only one child. Having a son is important in that society and girl children were routinely aborted. This has caused an imbalance in the number of boys and girls, and there is a generation of young men who cannot find a mate. The parents of a girl can command a 'bride price' for their daughter. Anything that would devalue the 'product' would cause the offender to be fined the amount that the Court would find the girl's 'value' had been diminished. Mr. McEwen shot himself in the foot with that one. He tosses in Tree Frog Johnson, the Boonville molester, who had that reputation in the area. No such reputation exists in Albion about Mr. Kruse. More guilt by association. His assertion that no attorney could be found to take the case is another piece of BS. The Kruses spent all their money on an attorney who dropped the case when the cash ran out. No one would take the case pro bono so it went to the PD's office. No problem other than lack of money. Mr. McEwen's been around the court system long enough to know that. Once again, all the news that fits, he tints. He ends his last little meretricious meander into malice with a bet that Mr. Kruse would plead out. Sorry, Bruce, didn't happen. The Defense has rested, Tuesday the 20th is set for the final statements, the instructions to the Jury, and their sequestering. I'm willing to accept the verdict of the triers of the facts. Too bad Mr. McEwen's self-righteousness clouds his judgment. I'll read his reportage with a large grain of salt in the future. Do I think Kruse did it? It doesn't matter what I or anyone else thinks. Under our system of jurisprudence, Mr. Kruse is innocent until a jury of his peers finds otherwise. If appearances matter, I would note that when the Defense rested, the Defense attorney was smiling and the Prosecutor was frowning. Afterword: Mr. Kruse was found Not Guilty of the more serious charges that would have sent him up for 15 yrs to Life. He was found Guilty of Lewd and Lascivious Conduct with a child under 14 with duress. This is good for about 5 years in the joint. His time served dates from about November 15th 2010, and you are credited with one day Good Time for every two days served in the County Jail. This will cut his sentence considerably. Mr. Kruse has no previous record and is a good candidate for Parole. Sentencing is set for May 25th.”

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