Warning: venting ahead.
The bottom line is that there’s no longer any such concept as “innocent until proven guilty” in this country.
A couple of weeks ago, a man who lives in one of the communities near me was arrested. I’m not going to say anything about his race or the specifics of the crime because they’re irrelevant to the point I’m trying to make.
A report of his arrest was posted on Fugitive Watch. Mind you, he’s not a fugitive. He’s in custody, and as far as I can tell, he never tried to evade arrest. I’m not sure how reporting his arrest will help “solve crimes, apprehend wanted fugitives and provide education and crime prevention information” (as Fugitive Watch’s mission statement suggests). But I suppose we’ve reached the point where “It’s related to a crime” is sufficient excuse to ensure that the site always has new stories showing up.
But I digress.
I found out about the case when somebody posted a brief mention on social media, and included the statement that “I hope the authorities closed this ‘[type of business deleted]’ for good.” The business in question provides social and psychological services. The news story specifically says that the alleged offense has nothing to do with the business. Nor can I find any indication that there’s ever been a complaint about the company. But the poster included those quotes to suggest that it’s a fraudulent operation.
So, yeah. In Aaron Hernandez, we had a situation where an arrest was presumed equivalent to guilt. In this case, not only is the presumption of guilt, but it’s extended to include everyone who worked for the alleged offender.
In fairness, bail in the case is high, indicating the severity of the alleged offense and, presumably, that the judge believes he’s a flight risk.
Never the less, I find it immensely disturbing that an accusation against a business owner–again, accusation, not conviction–now leads to immediate calls to shut down his business, throwing the employees out of work*, and depriving the accused of the resources he needs to defend himself. And it’s worth noting that as of when I wrote this post, the company’s website was down.
* Per Glassdoor, it’s a fairly sizable business, too: 51-200 employees.
Regardless of the outcome of the case, the accused man’s life is effectively over. He’s not just “guilty until proved innocent,” he’s “guilty in the court of public opinion.” Even if he’s acquitted–even if the accuser recants and the case is dropped–the mere fact that he was once accused will follow him forever.
And that’s just wrong.
Yes, the public has the right to know about arrests in their community. Secret arrests and secret trials are not a direction we want to go.
But that necessary transparency leads directly to this sort of situation.
I don’t have an answer. Just indignation.