Monday, May 14, 2007
7 News Investigations: Will the truth set him free?
When she was a teenager, she accused a man of molesting her. He was convicted and sentenced to prison, and, today, the young woman admits she made it all up -- that she lied, that he never molested her, and she can't stand it anymore. Tonight, Seven's investigative reporter Patrick Fraser has this exclusive: Will the Truth Set Him Free?
WSVN -- When I opened the letter and began to read it, I was stunned. It said, "About seven years ago, I accused a man of a crime he did not commit."
The woman who wrote the letter to us is 20 today. She was 13 when she made the accusation.
Gina: "I was tired of being screamed at. I was tired of watching him scream at my grandmother, and I wanted him to leave."
Gina -- as we are calling her -- said a friend told her she knew a way to get her grandmother's boyfriend out of their home.
Gina: "She told me exactly what to say, and that day I went to my school teacher and told her what she told me to say."
What Gina told the teacher and then told police changed several lives in horrible ways.
Gina: "I know that I told her that he was touching me down in my private areas. I told her that it might have been my sister too."
Gina says she got her little sister to go along with the accusations.
Gina: "She's my little sister, she trusts me, so she said the same thing."
She says they didn't have to make up any details; questions from police made it easy for them.
Gina: "'So you are saying that he touched you down on your vagina?' and we were like 'Yeah, that's it. That's where he touched me.'"
That day, Anthony Zorn was arrested and charged with several sex crimes, such as lewd and lascivious molestation on the 13-year-old Gina, and lewd and lascivious on her 11-year-old sister.
Patrick Fraser: "Did he touch you?"
Patrick Fraser: "Never?"
Patrick Fraser: "Your sister?"
Patrick Fraser: "The girl who accused Zorn says she made it all up. He didn't do it; the case falls apart, right? Except then there is this: Zorn's confession, where he admitted to police in graphic detail how he touched both girls -- admitting to molesting Gina over 10 times. But, today, he says he was tricked into admitting it all."
Anthony Zorn: "They lied. They lied to me, and I had trust in the police department."
We spoke to Zorn when he called Carrie Mayes, Gina's grandmother and still Zorn's girlfriend.
Anthony Zorn: "I felt the kids were lying."
Carrie was raising the girls and Zorn was supporting all of them. She says it left him exhausted, depressed and suicidal -- and he had no idea of what he was confessing to.
Carrie Mayes: "I think he just kind of lost touch with reality there for awhile."
In his confession, Zorn says the police didn't offer him anything, but today he says they offered help if he would confess -- and so he did.
Anthony Zorn: "They told me, 'Look, you are not going to go to prison. You know we can get you the psychological help that you need.'"
Donnie Goodwin represented Zorn.
Patrick Fraser: "Did you think he was guilty at the time?"
Donnie Goodwin: "No."
Goodwin says Zorn told him he was tricked into confessing.
Donnie Goodwin: "He got around to actually saying 'I didn't do this. I actually didn't do this.'"
But a judge refused to throw out the confession -- meaning if Zorn went to trial and lost, he was facing 30 years in prison.
Donnie Goodwin: "I gave him my opinion, which I thought that the evidence would probably be overwhelming and that he would probably be convicted."
Patrick Fraser: "Because of the girls and the confession?"
Donnie Goodwin: "Because of the girls, and most of all because of that confession."
Zorn agreed to a deal: 12 years in prison -- he has now served six.
Anthony Zorn: "Yeah, I've been mad over the years, but I got past it."
Gina never knew Zorn went to prison; her father wouldn't talk about it and wouldn't let them visit their grandmother. Then, when she turned 18, she moved out of her father's home, reunited with her grandmother and heard about Zorn.
Patrick Fraser: "What did you think when you found out he got 12 years?"
Gina: "At first it hit me like, 'Oh, my God, what have I done.' I know that I was a kid, but I couldn't have been that stupid."
That's when she says she decided the truth had to come out.
Gina: "It got to the point where I couldn't keep the secret anymore."
Her sister won't discuss this.
We contacted the Broward State Attorney's office. They told us they appreciated the information and would begin to look into it.
But Howard Finkelstein -- a veteran criminal defense attorney and 7's legal analyst -- says it won't be easy to get Zorn's sentence overturned.
Howard Finkelstein: "There are two ways to approach this: ask governor Crist to grant clemency or ask the judge to reopen the case. But the problem is the confession -- it was clear and specific, and it will be difficult to overcome."
And for Zorn to get out of prison, first of all, the state attorney will have to believe Gina.
Patrick Fraser: "Were you lying then, or are you lying now?"
Gina: "I was lying then."
The fact that Gina is admitting it was a lie stuns Zorn.
Anthony Zorn: "It floored me. It made me happy, and I was just, I couldn't believe it was finally going to happen."
He is happy Gina finally admitted she lied. Carrie is proud she did.
Carrie Mayes: "And not knowing how I was going to react, it takes an awful lot. She is a very brave girl."
A girl who grew up and says she now wants to admit to a tall tale as a teenager.
Gina: "I want to see him home, and I want to see him happy. I don't want him to sit in prison for something that he's never done."
But will her truth set Anthony Zorn free?
Craig Stevens: "It is a crime to lie to police, but Patrick says legal experts tell him the likelihood of pursuing charges against someone who did it as a teenager are very remote."