The lead story on Pensacola television last night and in the Pensacola News Journal today was a lead story involving an elderly man who was accused of molesting two teenage girls while the girls worked on his ice cream truck two years ago. I represented this old fellow at trial in February of 2006 and the all female jury, after considering the actual evidence against him, cleared him of all charges relating to molesting either girl.
Unbeknown st to me, the elderly man, who has only a small social security pension on which to live, had recently joined with another elderly man and were selling ice cream in the same areas where he sold ice cream prior to the charges being brought against him two years ago. Apparently, someone or some people in the neighborhoods reported to the media, or reported to the Santa Rosa Sheriff’s Office who themselves reported to the media, that he had attempted to lure one of the children to get into the van to pick out their ice cream.
Now there is a media frenzy. I hope is stalls out. The paper included quotes by the prosecutor’s office head supervisor in Milton, who prosecuted the elderly man before, that his office was “actively interested” in investigating the old man’s activities. Such reporting by the media, in my opinion, without any confirmation of the sources of such information is reckless when the consequences of merely reporting this type of story about a citizen is horrendous. I guess reporters want hot stories; their careers depend on writing sensational articles that sell newspapers and get people to watch their news programs. But in cases involving sexual abuse mere allegations forever brand someone – many people will never believe he didn’t commit the crime even though he was found not guilty of such conduct before. Is this because we as human beings want to believe the worst in each other?