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Neighbors spread rumor about man being a registered sex offender

In the public eye, a sex crime accusation can be as incriminating as the actual conviction, and even an acquittal in a court of law does not always restore the harm to one’s reputation. People may suspect that the accused was guilty, regardless of whether prosecutors were able to prove it. For all of these reasons, anyone facing a sex crime charge might benefit from an early consultation with a criminal defense lawyer who specializes in the defense of sex crimes.

Today’s story is living proof of the public condemnation that can accompany a sex crime accusation -- even if later found to be untrue. According to the lawsuit, a man claimed that members of his condominium association wrongfully accused him of being a registered sex offender, despite knowing the claim to be baseless. Their behavior may have been motivated out of revenge for the man’s reported failure to timely pay monthly dues and to make voluntary contributions to the common property upkeep. 

The members passed around a photograph of an actual offender on the registry with the man’s last name and a similar physical appearance, and even called the bank where the man had taken out a mortgage. What’s most disturbing, however, is that several of the man’s friends and acquaintances recognized that the photograph was of a different individual, and attempted to correct the misunderstanding. The association members allegedly refused to listen.

The man’s plight did catch the ears of a recent jury, however. They awarded him damages of $550,000. To send an extra message to the association members, the jury also awarded $340,000 in punitive damages. 

Source: Herald Online, “SC man awarded $890K for false sex offender claim,” John Monk, Dec. 13, 2013

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