Gunther Fiek was born in Peru in 1970, and came with his family to the United States in 1989. The Fiek family settled in Marietta, Georgia in 1991. Gunther began learning martial arts when he was 12, and has black belts in Taekwondo, Karate, and Judo. Gunther attended Kennesaw State University and studied business administration. In 1993 he became a Martial Arts instructor and a soccer coach in 1994.
In the fall of 1994, Gunther began attending the Eastside Baptist Church, and became an active member in January, 1996. He became involved with the youth and singles ministries, and taught Sunday school for 5th to 8th grade students. In 1995, he became chief instructor and Director of Taekwondo at the Christian Activity Center, the multipurpose recreation and activity building belonging to the church. During the 1997-1998 school year, he coached boys and girls’ soccer for the Eastside Christian School, another ministry of the church. The school serves kindergarten through the 8th grade.
Since 1995, Gunther has worked with about 2,000 kids, including 400 Taekwondo students. His classes were very popular, and there was often a waiting list to get into them. His Taekwondo classes were offered twice a week, and the sessions lasted 50 minutes. Class size ranged from 8 to 23 students, between 4 and 11 years old. (He also taught classes for teenagers and adults.) There was never an accusation of any sort of impropriety made against Gunther Fiek, a gifted and dedicated teacher.
The doors to Gunther’s classroom were solid, but windows were installed so that people in the hallway could see into the room. The doors were never locked, and were often propped open. There were mirrors on three of the classroom walls. Children and parents came and went in and out of the classroom while classes were going on. Some parents watched while sitting on chairs inside the room. Others would watch through the windows.
On May 20, 2000 Gunther Fiek got married. Life was good. But six months later, a panic-driven witchhunt would devastate his promising young life and the lives of those he loves.
The Trouble Begins
On Sunday night, December 3, 2000, Gunther was lying on the couch with his wife, watching a movie, when he received a phone call from a Mr. Lodge, the father of one of his students. [The names of all accusing children and their parents have been changed at this web site.] Lodge told Gunther that he needed to see him immediately and they agreed to meet at about 10 PM in the church parking lot. When he arrived, Mr. Lodge accused Gunther of molesting his son and, after interrupting Gunther a couple of times, attacked him and his car with a baseball bat. Very badly shaken, Gunther drove to the mountains, where he sometimes went to seek refuge when he had problems. At a rest stop, he fell asleep in his car. When he woke, he checked his cell phone for messages.
One message was from Detective Riemens. When Gunther returned the call, Riemens asked him if he wanted to press charges against Lodge. Gunther said that he did not. But Gunther knew something terrible was going on. He drove some more. Later in the day, he discovered that the police were looking for him. He checked into a hotel to try to figure out what to do. He called his sister, who told him that the FBI was looking for him as well. On Tuesday he asked his father to get a lawyer and on Wednesday he worked out a plan with his father on how to turn himself in – which he did the following day.
What Had Happened
On the previous Friday, December 1, the sister of one of Gunther’s students complained to her mother that her brother had improperly touched her. The mother – who I will call Mrs. Phelps – interrogated her son until he made an accusation against Gunther. Phelps then took the boy to the Safe Path Children’s Advocacy Center, where an untrained and inexperienced interviewer, Monika Merrifield, questioned the boy and told the mother that he had definitely been molested by Gunther.
Mrs. Phelps went home and immediately got on the phone, spreading panic among other parents in the school. These parents called their friends. The hysteria spread like wildfire. Parents started to interrogate their kids, and some of them elicited accusations of Gunther improperly touching their kids during Taekwondo classes. On Monday morning – the day after Lodge attacked Gunther with a baseball bat – the church got into the act, calling parents, inviting them all to a meeting at the school the following night. This was the first of three meetings that would take place within the week. Parents were told that Gunther had been accused of molesting children and that he had fled. A therapist named Michael Brissette “provided comfort and guidance for [the families] in this time of grief.” He told them to question their children about abuse by Mr. Fiek.
Jeannie Borders, the school’s principal, also prepared a letter that was read to the entire school and sent home to parents. The letter contained prayers, including one calling for Gunther to admit guilt. The letter also directed parents to question their children about Gunther “to find out if you need to take any action.” No one involved ever considered the possibility that Gunther Fiek might be innocent. Parents took their children to the police, telling them what to say on the way, telling them that Gunther had molested other children and had fled or was in jail. At the police station the children were interviewed by “experts” – experts who had no training in child development or credibility and reliability of children. The videotapes of these interviews reveal an ignorance of all of the scientific literature on the subject. The interviewers elicited and accepted only stories consistent with their a priori beliefs in Gunther’s guilt.
The Trial And Conviction of Gunther Fiek
At trial, the state’s experts – Jinger Robbins, director of Safe Path, and Karen Nash, it’s clinical coordinator – presented made-up faux-scientific claims unsupported and contradicted by scientific research. Robbins insisted she had read the leading textbook in the field – Jeopardy in the Courtroom by Ceci and Bruck – but all of the studies in that book disprove Robbins’ claims. Robbins said that “selective reinforcement” is not suggestive. She said, “peer pressure has not been studied.” Robbins claimed that repeated questions and interviews are of no concern. And Robbins claimed that suggestion is not an issue with older children. All of the research refutes all of her claims. (See, for example, some of the articles in the NCRJ reading room, such as the protocols adopted by the state of Michigan.)
The state played the videotapes of the interviews of the 22 accusers. But the defense was barred from even mentioning the 41 other students who were videotaped but did not accuse and who contradicted the testimony of the accusers. The jury was not allowed to know that these students even existed. The state also permitted parents to testify, injecting massive amounts of hearsay into the trial. Several children revealed that they had been told what to say at trial.
On September 6, 2001, Gunther Fiek was found guilty of 18 counts of Child Molestation and 3 of Aggravated Child Molestation. On October 21, 2001, he was sentenced to serve 90 years in prison without possibility of parole.
Gunther’s conviction is a chimera cast by influence and suggestion, unsupported by common sense. As a result a fine young man – innocent of wrongdoing – may be doomed to spend the rest of his life in prison. A new-trial motion has been filed. But we need your help.