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