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People falsely accused of sex crimes spend years rebuilding

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POSTED: October 30, 2008 5:00 a.m.
According to the Child Molestation Research & Prevention Institute, an estimated two out of every 10 girls and one out of every 10 boys are sexually abused by the end of their 13th year.
There are more than 13 child molestation cases pending in Liberty County Superior Court, including statutory rape, aggravated sexual sodomy, aggravated sexual battery and child molestation. The victims range from 3 to 15 years old.
In one case, a man charged with one count of aggravated child molestation and four counts of child molestation posted bond only to be arrested again and charged with five counts of statutory rape in an incident that allegedly occurred one month after he was released.
In another case, a man accused of molesting a family member posted a $60,000 bond and was released until investigators found enough credible evidence to charge him with two additional counts of rape, four counts of child molestation and four counts of aggravated child molestation. He is back in jail, and his new bond is set at $111,000.
Another case involves a former S.T.A.R. Instructor in Liberty County who currently faces one count of child molestation and one count of criminal attempt to commit child molestation. A woman in another case is accused of one count of child molestation with aggravated sodomy and two counts of child molestation.
These cases will either play out in court or will be handled through plea agreements.
The delicate nature of the charges and the emotional toll these ordeals take on families and victims are usually more than enough to convince concerned onlookers that suspects who are found guilty should receive and serve full sentences.
While it’s difficult to argue that child molestation is anything other than a horrific crime, law enforcement officials do maintain it’s important to review the nature of each case and the parties involved. A person who is falsely accused could spend years rebuilding a destroyed life even if the person is found innocent after a trial by jury.

The falsely accused
“Sometimes the community never forgets,” said Bess Walthour, assistant public defender of the Atlantic Judicial Circuit Public Defenders Office. “They may have to relocate, give up life as they know it in the community and try to find it elsewhere.”
Walthour said she didn’t think a person who was falsely accused is ever the same after the ordeal. “I don’t think they can ever return to normalcy as we know it,” she said. “I would imagine that being accused of something as horrendous as child molestation has to have a lasting and devastating effect on a person.”
Walthour said in cases  where false charges are filed, the situation often involves a domestic conflict or divorce. In these instances, false molestation charges are more likely to stem from a spouse’s or relatives’s anger, desire for revenge or other ulterior motive. The odds of false charges being filed are slimmer when the accused molester is  a stranger or a child’s teacher.
“I would say that sometimes in a domestic dispute like a divorce, parents sometimes accuse each other, most often the mother accusing the father of molesting the children so she could get a leg up in the judicial process of a divorce and custody,” she said.  “And sometimes they are just being mean spirited and just want to keep the children from the parent to spite the other parent. A lot of it is done out of spite. I would think that in some cases they (the accused) would give up and not even want to deal with their children as to not have any further conflict with the
mother.”
Even in cases where a suspect is a stranger or a child’s teacher, Walthour cautions people to not jump to conclusions. She said there have been cases where a student is angry and falsely accuses a teacher or other adult to get back at them.
“No one wants to see a child hurt in any way, but sometimes if you dig deeper it is revenge on one parent to the other usually the mother to the father,” she said. “So it’s not always guilty because the superficial way the charge looks and at face glance one would certainly feel abhorred by child molestation.”
Liberty County covers roughly 519 square miles of land and has an estimated population of 61,610 according to the 2000 Census. Within that population there are 80
registered sex offenders, of those only two are women, four are incarcerated and four have absconded. In Long County there are currently 29 registered sex offenders of whom four are incarcerated and one absconded. For now, or until caught, there is no way of knowing if there are more in the area who failed to register once they arrived in the county.
Part three of this series will details some of the upcoming court cases and the psychological characteristics a child molester may exhibit.
 

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