The Elsa Newman Case—A Brief Introduction
Did this mother’s devotion to her children and her attempt to protect them from sexual abuse actually play a role in her being sentenced to prison?
I think so…
Elsa Newman. Please remember this name. She is in prison. She is in prison, and two children are in the hands of a man whom physicians and psychiatrists have told her is a pedophile, her former husband, and the father of the children. In addition, the boys themselves have made disclosures of unspeakable abuse at their father’s hands.
Well…of course you don’t believe me! Or at least I suspect you doubt. I’ve met doubt at every turn:
“How can I help a wommon who is in prison, when I believe her to be innocent?” When I posted this question to a popular question site on the web, one of the answers I got was this: “Stop thinking with your d***,” and yes…that is a precise quote, except this rude responder used the word instead of the asterisks. The problem with the answer is that I am a nearly-seventy-year-old retired seventh-grade teacher—a woman, and I lack that aspect of human anatomy which I was accused of thinking with.
So you see, I do deal with doubt in a variety of forms.
After all…Elsa was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder&mdashlus a bunch of other stuff—was she not? The American justice system doesn’t make that kind of mistakes, does it?
Yes…it does…and frequently. I have read that as many as one in every seven people in prison is innocent. I suspect that is a bit high, but it certainly seems to me to be within the realm of possibility. If you are dubious, google the words “Innocence Project,” and read about the people who have been found innocent through DNA testing--while they were on death row.
Elsa is not on death row. She is in prison for supposed “conspiracy”. There is a serious problem with this “conspiracy” concept, however: no conspiracy ever existed.
While Elsa was out of the state, attending her niece’s wedding, a family friend, Margery Landry, broke into the house of Elsa’s estranged husband, planning, she says, to look for evidence of child pornography, molestation or abuse in other forms. She is the godmother of Elsa’s children and she believed—with Elsa, as well as with a variety of medical and psychiatric professionals (and me, many years later)—that the boys were being sexually abused by their father. Landry carried with her a gun, “just in case.” [She had, on more than one occasion, been assaulted by Slobodow.] The gun was loaded with two whole bullets—hardly the arsenal of a woman who planned a killing.
When Landry reached the master bedroom she found Elsa’s ex-husband in bed, naked from the waist down, and beside him was one of Elsa’s children, a five-year-old boy, completely naked. The unavoidable question strikes me here: how on earth did Landry know the state of undress of the two people in the bed? It was mid-winter in Maryland. The season should have demanded blankets or quilts or both. Yet she saw the state of undress of father and son. I can only conclude that Landry had stumbled upon a case of abuse in progress.
Beside the bed was small pile of child’s clothing. At that point, Landry completely lost control. She moved to the bed and tried to pull the two of them apart. She struggled with the father, and as they struggled, the gun went off twice, striking him once in the leg. The angle of the entry/exit wounds showed that Landry had been on the floor, where she had been shoved by Slobodow in an apparent attempt to turn the gun on her.
After some further struggle, Landry fled. The father was finally able to reach a phone and call 9-1-1. In that call, he stated that his wife had sent someone to kill him. Thus the call itself was to become a major part of the prosecution case against Elsa. There was one serious problem with the nature of that call, however: if, indeed, Elsa had sent someone to kill the man (which she clearly had not)—there was no earthly way he could have known that.
Landry was arrested the following morning, outside her home. Shortly thereafter, Elsa Newman, learning what had happened, returned voluntarily from her out-of-state visit. Logical enough. She knew she had had nothing to do with the incident, and if the police wanted to talk to her? Why not?
Subsequently Newman was also arrested and charged with—among other things—conspiracy and attempted murder. She was also, because of the “conspiracy theory” charged with the other crimes of which Landry had been accused.
Landry pled guilty to the crimes she had committed. Surprisingly to some, she refused to plead guilty either to conspiracy or to attempted murder, insisting that neither had occurred. Those two charges were null prossed in her case.
Elsa Newman awaited trial. She waited with a great deal of what she now calls very naïve hope and trust. She knew she was innocent. As an attorney, she believed firmly in the American justice system. She knew her innocence would be proven and knew she would be released. She knew she could then return to her legal battle to remove her two much-loved sons from the clutches of their father/molester.
Instead, Elsa was tried and convicted of a crime she had known nothing about. Among the important witnesses was a man named Friedman, who had been Elsa’s attorney during divorce proceedings. (And this was not abuse of attorney-client privilege because…?) Bluntly: Friedman lied. He invented things he said Newman had stated in his presence. He said she had said in his presence and plotted a murder. Now, as Will Shakespeare might have said, “This would be scanned.”
Elsa Newman is a superbly intelligent woman. She graduated from Goucher College with the highest honors offered by Goucher. She attended Baltimore School of Law and did extremely well by herself. Her curriculum vitae is highly impressive. And yet I am to believe that this woman of intelligence sat in front of someone—anyone at all—and spoke of murder plans. I don’t think so!
Not only that, but Newman reports that Friedman often seemed to be asleep and completely ignoring her during sessions in which they were supposed to be preparing for a divorce hearing. Was the man schizophrenic and plagued by hearing voices?
Newman certainly said nothing of what Friedman accused her of. In fact, throughout all these proceedings, Newman retained her faith in the American system of law, order and justice.
The American system of law, order and justice, however, failed her completely. She was sentenced to prison. By default, her sons were handed over to the custody of the man against whom they had disclosed unspeakable sexual and other abuses.
Upon Elsa’s appeal, Maryland’s highest court vacated the conviction, saying in their opinion that there was no evidence connecting her to any aspect of the crime. Doug Gansler, who is now Attorney General of Maryland and was, at the time of the Newman trial, State’s attorney for Montgomery county, when he heard of the high court’s decision, stated, “They just released the woman who wanted to kill her kids.”
[Interesting, Mr. Gansler, that you demonstrate no interest whatsoever in this matter of law, order and justice in which Ms. Newman had so much faith. Interesting that your response to the appeals court verdict was, “They just released the woman who wanted to kill her kids.” When the appeals court vacated the verdict handed down by the jury, it seems that a man interested in justice might at least have admitted to the tiniest bit of doubt and willingness to re-approach the investigation. Or did your response have something to do with the fact that your were even then preparing a run for state office…that you wanted very much to be Attorney General of Maryland. Was your response, in fact, a statement that you needed this conviction to hold up in order to demonstrate your suitability for the office?
Elsa Newman was rearrested, recharged and retried. This time with the added element of a death-penalty possibility. I can’t help wondering if that was some kind of perverted punishment for her having won the appeal.
The prosecution had to make do without Friedman’s testimony in this second trial, since the high court had ruled it inadmissible evidence. So the prosecution turned to Friedman’s secretary—whose word also should have fallen within the realm of privileged information—and managed to patch together a flimsy case.
In my opinion, our so-called “justice” system in this country is not only corrupt, but it has become more-or-less a debating society. A favorable verdict depends not on law or truth, order or justice, but on the skills of one’s attorney. Fortunately for the prosecution, although unfortunately for Elsa and her sons, Katherine Winfree, the prosecuting attorney, is an excellent debater—so good that she again won the debate, with virtually no evidence.
Landry has said repeatedly that she committed the crimes entirely on her own. She has said repeatedly that Elsa didn’t even know she (Landry) was planning to break into the home. Landry has repeatedly refused a reduction in her own sentence in exchange for testifying against Elsa. She has gone so far as to say, “I wish I could blame this on someone else. It ruined my life. But the blame is entirely mine.”
Elsa likewise asserts that there was no conspiracy, that she had no idea about Landry’s plans, that she had, in fact, told her to “keep away from” the children’s father. Elsa also refused a reduction in sentence if she would express contrition for the crime. This Elsa refused to do. Newman refused to lie, even though it cost her added years in prison and added time away from her children. She says she could not be “sorry” for a crime that she did not commit, a crime that, in fact, did not even exist, since there was no conspiracy.
Elsa remains in prison. There was never a hearing on the suspicions of abuse because the criminal proceedings interrupted the divorce proceedings. Thus Elsa technically, as I understand it, retains a shared custody of the boys. Nevertheless, her sons remain in the physical custody of the man I believe is constantly abusing them to this day. It is one of the facts of life in dealing with sexual abusers—they do not change.
So here is where it all stands: Elsa is in prison. Her sons are in a virtual prison of abuse. And me? I write…and write…and write, everywhere I can think of to write, in the desperate hope of somehow find help for this mother and her sons.
The site one more time? http://www.thepetitionsite.com/2/free-elsa-newman--save-her-kids-from-abuse