Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

Melinda Bronson

Other Female Exoneration Cases with Perjury or False Accusation
https://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/PublishingImages/Queens_County.jpg
In February 2002, 47-year-old Melinda Bronson was found guilty in Queens County Supreme Court of sexually abusing her 11-year-old son. She was placed on probation and required to register as a sex offender.

At the trial, conducted by a judge without a jury, Bronson’s son testified that his parents separated when he was four years old and his father ultimately remarried and moved to Connecticut while he and a younger brother remained with Bronson.

In January 1999, the boy, identified in court records as A.R., moved in with his father and stepmother. By that time the boy’s father, an alcoholic, was fighting bitterly with Bronson over money.

A.R. testified that in February or March of 1999, his stepmother began asking him “what it was like” living with his mother. A.R. said he told her that it was “really bad” and when she pressed him for details, he said that his mother had fondled his genitals on numerous occasions between September 1 and November 30, 1998.

Despite this disclosure, no action was taken. For the rest of 1999 and into 2000, A.R. exhibited many problems while living in his father’s home: he set a fire in the backyard, engaged in self-mutilation and threatened his father with a knife. Eventually, A.R. was placed in the custody of the Connecticut Department of Children and Family Services.

At that time, A.R. re-iterated the fondling allegations and in April 2000, a social worker interviewed him and determined that Bronson had touched A.R. inappropriately. On May 25, 2000, Bronson was arrested and charged with sexually abusing A.R. and attempted endangering the welfare of a child.

Bronson testified in her own defense and denied any inappropriate actions. She recalled one incident where the boy fell asleep in bed with her and when he rolled over on her, she accidentally touched his genitals as she pushed him off.

On February 22, 2002, the judge convicted Bronson of sexual abuse of a child and endangering the welfare of a child. Prior to sentencing, Bronson’s attorney filed a motion for a new trial on the ground that the prosecution had failed to disclose to the defense a “Child-Adolescent Psychiatric Intake” report in February 2000 for the child services department in which they twice described A.R. as a “compulsive liar” and said he had been lying “since he could talk.” The motion was denied and the judge placed Bronson on probation for one year and designated her as a sex offender.

In March 2007, five years after the conviction, A.R. was visited by his brother who spoke of the hardships experienced by their mother, who was a teacher but could not obtain work because she was required to register as a sex offender. A.R. then confessed to his brother that his testimony was false and that their mother had never fondled him.

One year later, A.R. approached a lawyer and signed an affidavit recanting his trial testimony. By then, A.R.’s father had died from alcohol-related health problems.

A motion for a new trial was filed and a hearing was held over two days in 2011. A.R., by then 23 years old, testified that after he and his brother, who was two years younger, moved in with their father and stepmother, he made up the allegations because his father and stepmother “probed” and “prodded” him to disclose negative information about his mother. A.R. testified he believed they were “looking for something” that they could use to accuse her of wrongdoing so he said she had sexually abused him.

He said that by the time he returned to his father’s home after spending several months in the custody of child services in 1999 and 2000, he had carried the lie so far that he feared that if he turned back, his father would see him as a liar or disloyal. A.R. testified that he made the false accusations because he wanted stay with his father and his father was constantly making disparaging comments about his mother. He said he naively took everything his father said about his mother “as truth.”

He said he came forward to recant because “this is a horrible thing that I did to my mother. And it’s something that for me to really go forward with my life, I need to at least know that I tried to have it reversed because I know in my heart where the truth is.”

A.R.’s brother, identified as M.R., who was then 21 years old, also testified at the hearing and described how A.R. had admitted to him in 2007 that his testimony had been false.

On April 29, 2011, Queens County Supreme Court Justice Joseph Zayas granted Bronson’s motion and vacated her convictions, saying he was “convinced that he was telling the painful truth throughout the hearing. His testimony was honest, forthright and consistent, and his explanations were completely plausible.”

The judge noted that A.R.’s demeanor at the evidentiary hearing was “appropriate and consistent with that of a young man who was attempting to look inward and come to grips with the extraordinary pain which he caused as an adolescent, who was unfortunately spurred on by his alcoholic father’s persistent, poisonous complaints about his mother.”

The prosecution declined to appeal the ruling and the case was dismissed.

– Maurice Possley

Report an error or add more information about this case.

Posting Date: 8/21/2015
State:New York
County:Queens
Most Serious Crime:Child Sex Abuse
Additional Convictions:Child Abuse
Reported Crime Date:1998
Convicted:2002
Exonerated:2011
Sentence:Probation
Race:Caucasian
Sex:Female
Age at the date of crime:44
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No