‘I’m not guilty,’ Klassen cries: video
Anita Klassen repeatedly asks for her lawyer while being accused of sexually abusing her foster children, but Saskatoon police Cpl. Brian Dueck continues to question her for nearly an hour, court witnessed Tuesday when a disturbing video of the 12-year-old interview was played.
“I believe (the foster children) are telling the truth. Do you want to tell me the truth?” Dueck said to Klassen.
“I didn’t do nothing wrong. I’m not guilty,” she answers, sobbing loudly.
She asks for her lawyer for the second time, but Dueck continues his questions.
“I don’t want to hear it. I want to talk to my lawyer,” she repeats.
Klassen is one of 12 people suing Dueck, Crown prosecutors, social workers, and other justice officials for malicious prosecution in a case known at the time as the “scandal of the century.” They were all charged in 1991 with sexually abusing Klassen’s foster children — Michael, Michelle, and Kathy Ross — as well as other children.
The charges were stayed against all of them as part of a controversial plea bargain which saw Anita Klassen’s father-in-law, Peter, plead guilty.
All three Ross children have since admitted to making up the allegations against the 12 plaintiffs, as well as those against Peter Klassen. Michael was actually abusing his sisters repeatedly.
Dueck showed up at the Red Deer, Alta., Dairy Queen restaurant where Anita Klassen worked on June 25, 1991.
He told her she was being detained for questioning, and they conducted a videotaped interview at the Red Deer police station. That video was played Tuesday in Saskatoon’s Queen’s Bench Court during the second day of the $10 million lawsuit.
Still wearing her red and beige work uniform and light grey running shoes, Klassen sits down on a couch with her arms folded and legs crossed.
Dueck begins by outlining some of the allegations against her.
Klassen says she tried to care for the kids “to the best of my abilities.” Her distress begins to show, as she places one hand over her face.
“I didn’t do anything wrong to them. I took care of them,” she says.
“Why would they make up those kinds of things?” Dueck says.
“I don’t know. . . . I couldn’t control them,” she says.
Later, Dueck says he has interviewed more than 200 children in other cases and “they don’t lie about things like that.”
After requesting her lawyer for the third time, Klassen is crying loudly and almost screaming.
She stands up and walks off camera to a different part of the room, still sobbing.
“Anita, come and sit down here,” Dueck instructs.
“Ohhhhh, God!” she screams.
“C’mon. Sit down. Anita? Anita? Come, sit down,” he says again.
“Ohhhhh, God, ahhhhh!” she screams repeatedly.
After more than a minute, Klassen sits back on the couch and curls up in the fetal position with her head facing away from Dueck.
She stands again and paces, then kneels on the couch looking away from Dueck.
Dueck asks how she is doing, then asks her again to reveal what she did to her foster kids.
“Maybe it was fun for them,” Dueck says.
“Maybe they enjoyed it. Did they enjoy it?”
She begins to sob again.
“Nooooo. I didn’t do nothing,” she says.
Dueck tells her that prosecutors and other American experts have viewed tapes of the children’s allegations, and “we’ve all come to the conclusion that these kids are telling the truth.
“I think it’s time you face reality. It’s up to you now, whether you want to help yourself.”
Eventually, after asking several more similar questions, Dueck ends the interview.
During the playing of the video Tuesday, Klassen sat in the witness box and stared at the floor. Many of her supporters and other plaintiffs cried or shook their heads during the testimony.
Dueck, who has since been promoted to the rank of Saskatoon Police Service superintendent, sat alone in the back of the courtroom.
Dueck declined an interview, saying he doesn’t want to try the case in the media.
Klassen said she felt “caged in this little room and (pressured) to talk and say I did it when I didn’t.
“I asked to speak to a lawyer quite often and I felt that I wasn’t able to go talk to a lawyer,” she told reporters outside court.
The incident has harmed every aspect of her life. She doesn’t trust people, and worries about being arrested every time a police officer comes to her workplace.
Klassen also testified Tuesday about the problems she had with Michael Ross in her home.
He would sneak into the girls’ room at night and touch them, she said.
They bought a buzzer that would alert the family when he entered the girls’ room, and tried other measures, but he found ways around it.
She told the Department of Social Services to remove Michael from her home, partly because he threatened to kill her own newborn baby.
But it was nearly a year before Michael was removed.
Two other witnesses testified Tuesday. Both are plaintiffs in the suit but cannot be named because they were youths at the time of the charges.
The one woman said she was pressured by therapist Carol Bunko-Ruys to admit her parents abused her, even though they had not.
Bunko-Ruys, who is also named in the lawsuit, told the then girl she’d lose her job unless the girl admitted her parents abused her. The girl repeatedly denied the allegation.
Testimony continues today, and is expected to last several weeks.