In March 2001, in Williamsburg, Kentucky, 28-year-old Samuel Plotnick was accused of sexually molesting the four-year-old son of a woman with whom he was having an affair.
He went on trial in Whitley County Circuit in September 2001. The boy’s maternal grandmother testified that on November 15, 2000, the boy climbed onto her lap and told her that Plotnick had “stuck a tent pole up his butt” 10 days earlier. The boy’s mother, Lori Roberts, who was married to another man at the time, testified that her son told her the same story about the tent pole, and that she took him to a physician’s assistant who said there was substantial bruising around his rectum.
A state police detective and a social worker who also interviewed the boy both testified that the he told them the same story that he had told his mother and grandmother.
Under questioning by the prosecution, the boy testified consistently with his prior statements. But during cross-examination, the boy said that Plotnick was not the abuser. Instead, the boy said that he had been abused by another man, Rondel Goins, with whom his mother had affairs during breakups with Plotnick.
The boy also launched into a fanciful account of the event, saying it was snowing at the time, the snow was up to his chest, and he was throwing snowballs at his mother at the time he was abused. He also said that Goins had stuck the pole through his arm and it came out his abdomen, that pieces of his brain leaked out through his arms and that his arms had grown back.
Testifying in his own defense, Plotnick denied abusing the boy. He said that he believed the boy had been coached by his grandmother to make the accusation because she did not want him involved with Roberts.
Plotnick’s mother testified that she was with Plotnick and the boy on the date of the alleged abuse and that it did not occur.
Plotnick was convicted by a jury on September 13, 2001 and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
In August 2006, the Kentucky Innocence Project filed a motion for a new trial, claiming that Roberts had admitted that she had given the boy several enemas in the days prior to the alleged abuse and that the prosecutor had threatened Roberts with the loss of her other children if she did not cooperate in the prosecution.
The motion was denied in November 2006.
On January 18, 2008, the Court of Appeals for the Commonwealth of Kentucky reversed the conviction. The court rested its decision on Plotnick’s trial attorney's failure to object to hearsay testimony given by the grandmother, the police detective and the social worker. The testimony improperly bolstered the boy’s account, the appeals court ruled. The Court of Appeal also noted that there was new evidence of innocence and prosecutorial misconduct that would have required a hearing in any event: Roberts’ statements that she had given the boy several enemas soon before the alleged abuse and that a prosecutor had threatened to take custody of her other children if she did not cooperate in the prosecution of Plotnick.
On September 17, 2008, the charges were dismissed and Plotnick was released.
He filed a federal wrongful conviction lawsuit in 2009, but it was later dismissed for failure to proceed with the case.
– Maurice Possley