Man Falsely Accused of Kidnapping Labeled as Child Predator Online

Posted by Josh Valentine | Jul 12, 2017

Anyone who has access to the internet and media news outlets has heard horror stories that involve innocent, law abiding citizens who are accused of crimes they didn't commit. In some cases, these unlucky individuals are arrested, convicted and jailed for these offenses, without any substantial evidence of them committing a crime. This miscarriage of justice plagues large numbers of people every year, resulting in hundreds of exonerations each year. According to the National Registry of Exonerations, 2016 set a record high for exonerations in the United States. The summary concluded that nearly 166 innocent people had been exonerated for crimes they didn't commit in the country. And these weren't just petty crimes that resulted in minimal jail time, there were cases involving homicide, sexual assault, kidnapping and violent crimes.

Even in cases when a person is not punished by the criminal justice for false accusations, there are dire consequences. Reputations are tainted and people are unable to go about their daily lives without being associated with a crime they did not commit. A man in Florida experienced this reality when he attempted to help a toddler find her parents. The innocent man, who understandably does not wish to disclose his identity, was falsely labeled as a kidnapper all over social media and misidentified by local law enforcement authorities.

According to Florida police, the man was visiting his friends at a softball game when he noticed a 2-year-old girl by herself. In the police statement, the man stated that he believed she was lost, and “walked with her in hopes she could point them out.” Several witnesses confirmed that the man was concerned about where the child's parents were. As the two walked towards the playground, the toddler's father and two of his acquaintances approached the pair from behind. One man grabbed the girl, while the child's father proceeded to punch the man multiple times. He thought the man was attempting to kidnap his daughter. When the man tried to explain that he was merely looking for the child's parents, the parents weren't buying it.

Soon after the incident, family members, friends, media outlets and even police went on social media and shared the man's photo, his personal Facebook profile and his place of employment. Many of the comments on the postings called the man a “child predator” and a “kidnapper.” However, after a thorough investigation and several witness accounts, the police concluded that he was genuinely trying to find the child's parents. Authorities even labeled the man a “good Samaritan” in their statement. They claim that only person out of the many that shared the posts called the department to obtain the correct information. One Facebook user says they regret sharing a post with false information.

“I was one of those who shared the post thinking it was helpful, now I feel awful that it was clearly not! Definitely teaches me to double check sources before spreading,” they said.

But unfortunately, the damage was already done. The false accusations propelled the man to leave town with his family for their safety. And even though the father's actions technically constitute libel, he has decided not to press charges against him.

Experienced Criminal Defense Attorneys

If you have been falsely accused of a crime, you should immediately consult with an attorney. Contact Caulder & Valentine today for a consultation

About the Author

Josh Valentine

You could say Josh has a God-given ability for sustaining long-term relationships. He and his wife first met in elementary school and went to Gardner Webb University (GWU) together, where they tied for number 1 in their class. Then, they both started law school on the same day of their graduation and got married during their first semester. He has also known his law partner Blake Caulder since Kindergarten. Theirs is the perfect partnership. “He’s the brake; I am the accelerator,” Josh says. Both Josh and his wife attended an innovative program at Charlotte Law School that allowed them to complete law school in two years instead of the typical three. His wife graduated and passed the North Carolina bar at age 20, becoming one of the youngest attorneys in the state. He readily admits she’s smarter than him. Of course, Josh went on to pass the North Carolina State Bar himself and later the South Carolina State Bar. While in school, he was Associate Editor of the Law Review and received accolades like Phi Delta Phi International Legal Honor Society membership, Order of the Crown, Pro Bono Honors, CALI Awards (highest grade). In his career as a lawyer, he has been admitted to the United States Federal Court for the Western District of North Carolina, is a member of the American Association of Premier DUI Attorneys, and completed training for DWI Detection & Standardized Field Sobriety Testing. Josh has also been named to the Top 40 Under 40 for Criminal Defense by The National Trial Lawyers, the Business North Carolina 2019 Legal Elite for Criminal Defense, and the 10 Best Attorneys for Client Satisfaction by the American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys three years in a row (2016, 2017, and 2018). Community involvement has been important to Josh all his life. In high school, he participated in building a Holocaust museum that has become internationally regarded. He and his wife are actively engaged in animal rescue, which currently means seven cats and two kittens. He served in prison ministry and assisted with fundraiser banquets there, and he provides pro bono and reduced fee legal services to those in need. As if all of that weren’t enough, Josh also mentors high risk youth and helps with his church’s youth group. He participates in other community volunteer projects involving construction, remodeling, drywall, painting, and landscaping. He’s an active student of the Bible and has traveled to Israel, Brazil, and Europe for mission work. No one can say Josh isn’t a well-rounded individual. In his spare time, he likes to play softball, basketball, and tennis, and he can play the piano and trombone. Sometimes on weekends, believe it or not, he enjoys pouring and finishing concrete with friends who own a concrete and grading business. In his law practice, Josh has made it a point to develop positive relationships with officers, clerks, and district attorneys, which has proven invaluable in delivering positive results for his clients. It’s important to him to both listen to his clients and fight for them. Law enforcement officers have important responsibilities to keep our communities safe and uphold the law, but one of the responsibilities of attorneys is to make sure officers do their job correctly. Josh considers it his job to hold them accountable for their actions. Josh is a person of deep faith. He knows that the established order of our universe and strength of America’s Judeo-Christian influenced court system is built on God’s word. His passion to serve each client with innovation, excellence and integrity is a byproduct of his faith. When asked why he became a lawyer, Josh says, “All through my life, I have personally witnessed family members and very close friends endure divorce, child custody battles, bankruptcy, civil lawsuits, and even fraudulent criminal accusations. I both saw and experienced the stress such events can place on an individual, and I realized that everyone, at some point in their life, needs hope, comfort, and encouragement. In each one of those situations, the person who was best situated to provide that vital support was their lawyer. So that’s why I became an attorney. I understand what you are going through, and I’m here to help you. Our office is focused on meeting your needs and guiding you through what may be the most difficult time of your life.” Education: Charlotte School of Law J.D., Magna Cum Laude Class Rank – 21 of 328 Associate Editor of Charlotte School of Law Law Review Certification and Concentration in Employment Law Phi Delta Phi International Legal Honor Society Order of the Crown Pro Bono Honors CALI Awards (Highest Grade)—Lawyering Process I and Contracts I Full Scholarship Gardner-Webb University B.S. in Accounting, Summa Cum Laude Distinguished Senior Student Award – Highest GPA Alpha Sigma Lambda National Honorary Society Bar Admissions: North Carolina State Bar