Raymond Buckey, the only remaining defendant in the McMartin Preschool child abuse case, is spilling his guts. But in his first, extensive print interview since a jury acquitted Buckey and his mother on 52 charges of child molestation, he portrays himself as a victim, rather than a criminal.
Skeptics are likely to read the long interview in the April Los Angeles magazine with a suspicious sneer, as Buckey, who still faces trial on eight counts, systematically seeks to establish a sympathetic view of himself:
He once volunteered at a nursing home but quit because "I'm not cold-blooded enough to block all that stuff out. I couldn't stand to see people suffer."
He decided to get involved in the preschool because it was "a very happy, uplifting atmosphere to be in."
He was protective of the children--"I would not let a child hurt himself or another child or any of the pets."
In all likelihood, though, even skeptics will feel a pang of chagrin at how little they knew about this man about whom everyone has a definite opinion.
Journalist Mary A. Fischer interviewed Buckey for five hours, then edited 160 pages of transcripts into a continuous tale, interspersed with a chronology of events.
What emerges is a portrait of a timid, lazy man who enjoyed volleyball, rock climbing and running, but whose chief ambition is to slip through life with as little fuss as possible.
Those characteristics dictated his sexual activity, as well. "I won't put myself on the line emotionally," he said. Buckey's upbringing taught him that sexual assertiveness is immoral. "The notion of what makes a man is all mixed up in our society. . . . Sex is something very special, and you don't do it with somebody you meet for the first time or when there's no emotion."
Then, with no apparent irony, he goes on to explain his first sexual encounter. "We decided to rent a room at the Fantasy Inn. It had a heart-shaped Jacuzzi next to a round water bed with mirrors on the ceiling and pumped-in adult movies. I saw her as beautiful, and the experience was very special."
Even with such pathetic images, Buckey--who also gave a long interview to television's "60 Minutes"--manages to paint himself as a man deserving of justice, if not respect. The McMartin case fired up public emotions because it was framed as a classic example of bullies against innocents.
If it turns out that Buckey is innocent, as Fischer believes he is, most Angelenos may have to concede that they, implicitly, joined the forces of conventional wisdom in abusing a weak, unsympathetic target.
Buckey thinks the jurors who did not vote for acquittal on the last 13 counts were convinced that "Where there's smoke there's fire," or simply didn't like him. "I can't do anything about it if they think my eyes are too squinty," he said.
As for his future, Buckey remains unambitious: "I want to get out of this crazy metropolis, which seems to breed ill will toward the brotherhood of man. . . . "
In a few years, he predicts he will be forgotten. He'll go on with the simple--some would say sad--life he describes before the trial. "I never had much of a reputation to lose in the first place."
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