Presumed guilty? False charges can leave a permanent stain

Our last post discussed the welcome news that a trial judge tossed out all of the charges against a prominent college football coach after deciding that family videos on his phone did not constitute child pornography. This post will look more at some of the ways in which cases like this can cause serious harm for defendants right from the outset - regardless of whether a crime actually occurred.

To start with, this exonerated coach's first public statement about the false allegations sums up an experience with which many Texas defendants are familiar. The coach told reporters that "the last 102 days have been long, painful and a nightmare my wife and I have had to endure. . . . Our lives have been turned upside down. We have suffered considerable mental, physical and emotional hardship."

In the wake of the dismissed charges, criticism is focusing on two common sources of reputational damage. One of the government investigators may have made an incorrect description of small details in the video in order to receive a search warrant.

Other observers, including a local newspaper, are discussing criticism of the local prosecutor. The coach's legal team agrees, saying that the prosecution took the videos out of context to keep the high-profile case moving.

Now that this coach has been exonerated of these charges, he and his family can start to put their lives back together. However, the allegations may cast a long shadow over their lives for years to come. One big problem is that sensational allegations tend to easily grab national headlines. The facts that ultimately exonerate many defendants are not as suited for media spotlights and so many people will never hear that "that coach" actually did not commit a crime.

This case underscores the need to consult with an experienced Texas criminal defense attorney as soon as allegations appear.

Source: Mankato Free Press, "Hoffner: Child porn charges turned life into a nightmare," Dan Nienaber, Nov. 30, 2012

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