I, Jennifer Mattatall Cohen, affirm that the following statements are true and are firsthand knowledge to me, or based upon information and belief, as appropriate:
1. My name is Jennifer Mattatall Cohen and am the oldest daughter of Juan and Cindy Mattatall. I am 23 years old, born in 1974.
2. I lived in the Church Community in Island Pond, Vermont with my parents, Juan and Cindy Mattatall from the time I was two years old until I was almost eight. At this time, around 1982, my father left the Community because it was found that he had made sexual advances to more than one of the children there. This being absolutely unacceptable in our Community, he was confronted about it, but, not being willing to admit his transgressions or even confess that he needed help, he left, saying that he would return for us (his children) and he would destroy the Community however he could. Later, in Florida, he was charged with similar offenses against a young girl and he pled guilty to a reduced charge.
My father went to court in order to gain custody of us and take us from my mother, who remained in the Community at that time. In the course of his trying to get us back through the courts, my father told many lies about the Community and the people in the Community.
He went around the state of Vermont holding meetings, trying to defame the Community and gain public sympathy in his efforts to win custody of us. He publicly told many lies about what we do and what we believe. He generated much media attention and was largely responsible for stirring up a public hysteria that eventually led the state of Vermont to conduct an illegal raid in 1984 where the police seized 112 children because of fear of child abuse, but the Court found it a gross violation of the members' freedom of religion and constitutional protections. All the charges were dismissed for lack of evidence.
In his efforts, he associated with a group known as the Citizens' Freedom Foundation, which later grew into the Cult Awareness Network (C.A.N.) All of this he found necessary to gain custody of us, because my mother, due to her faith, refused to leave the Community, not wanting to take us from the loving environment we had been raised in so far. She did not want to leave with my father.
3. The courts, despite clear evidence against my father, awarded him custody of the five of us in 1982, largely due to lies and misrepresentations he made against the Church Community with the help of the Citizens' Freedom Foundation, specifically a man named Galen Kelly. During the eight years that followed my brother and sisters and I spent four in various foster homes and children's homes, often not seeing each other or our Dad for a month or more at a time. Our life was very insecure.
4. Our father, for years did not allow us to have anything to do with my mother, not letting us receive mail or calls from her, telling us that she didn't love us enough to write or call. I know that she wrote us because after my father's death I was going through some of his things and came across a file of letters from my mother and different friends from the Community. I don't really know why he saved them. They never made it to us.
Twice during the time we were with him in Florida he let us have a very short, very supervised visit with our mother but this only because she was there and we begged him to lot us see her. We all loved our mother very much and missed her, being very hurt by the lies we were told about her and the Church Community.
5. When I was 15 in April 1990 my father was shot dead by his own mother when she killed him and then herself to escape from "the grief that seemed destined to continue" due to his troubled life which "had been a non-stop series of problems with children and the law." My mother came down and after social services searched it out my mother was awarded custody of all five of us.
6. I returned to the Church Community in Vermont at 16 only to find the caring, loving atmosphere I remembered and had always longed for growing up in the chaotic, instability and insecurity I experienced in my father's custody in Florida. I chose to stay in the Vermont Church Community of my own free will and have now been back seven years. I am married and have three wonderful, healthy, happy children.
All of my siblings but one resides in a Church Community by their own choosing and the one is thinking about returning. Two of my sisters are in their twenties and married.
7. I know it to be true that in 1990 after 12 years battling truancy charges in the State of Vermont, all criminal charges were dropped after the Commissioner of Education himself visited our classes. I know that this man, Richard Mills, has, written to the German officials on our behalf. He is presently Commissioner of Education in the State of New York.
Since 1990, the state of Vermont has recognized us to train our children at home. We welcome them for a visit and to meet our children, but we do not and cannot surrender control of their lives to the state. We acknowledge the authority of the state to know that are children are being educated and that they are safe.
8. I believe that if my father, Juan Mattatall, were alive today he would be grieved at the damage his lies have caused and possibly would have tried to make it right. It is hard for me to believe that the lies my father told 15 years ago are still being circulated today by unscrupulous men around the world. How can something so unreliable as news clippings be considered evidence of truth?
9. I want to say that after experiencing both living in the community and out that the children in the Community live a stable, secure life with many friends and much positive input. They know they are loved. We do not believe in or practice child abuse. Our children are our foremost priority. I now live in the Community with my husband and 3 children.
Dated this 21st day of October, 1997,
County of Greene, State of New York.
[Signed] Jennifer Mattatall Cohen