Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The problem of a convicted sex offender using threats of lawsuits to prevent publicizing his activities

Yesterday we witnessed a convicted sex offender threatening me with a lawsuit if I didn't take down all mention about him. What he wanted taken down consisted mainly of newspaper accounts of his conviction as well as the fact that he is now living in Israel with his family. He mentioned that I was violating the privacy of his children by stating where he lives and that they exist. Information which is vital for the protection of neighborhood children and classmates who might end up going to his home. Strangely this same sex offender had given me permission to post material -such his psychological tests - last year. He is a careful reader of this blog and the material was posted lasted year - and yet he did not ask that the material be removed then.

Suddenly after 9 months of not even a new mention of his name on this blog, his lawyer demanded that I take down the posts mentioning him by the end of the day or else face the legal consequences. As you know I did in fact take down the posts.

This morning I received additional emails from the sex offender saying that he wants me to meet together with his lawyer next week to close the matter.

[ As a point of knowledge, Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz was also sued by the same sex offender in Israel and ended up having to pay a fine. Apparently that case has not resolved yet.]

This person has not threatened legal action against any of the other blogs who have discussed his case nor has he sued the newspapers or social agencies or the New York Police department - all of whom have reported his conviction as a sex offender, imprisonment and current listing on the sex offenders list. As far as I know it is just Rabbi Horowitz and myself who have incurred the wrath of this individual

So what is the significance of all of this?

A person who is a sex offender - especially one who is on the public list of offenders in America - is not someone that you should feel comfortable  being around children without supervision. The urge to molest children doesn't simply go away with time or punishment. As a basic principle of Torah of "Not standing idly by the blood of your fellow man" there is a need to make people aware of that potential danger.  In general in America it is accepted that public information which is true does not constitute slander. Thus publicizing newspaper articles or documentation relevant to this concern are totally legal and not susceptible to lawsuits. Even if the information is felt to be false by the person - as long as you are simply reporting what is in the newspapers or from social agencies - you are protected. Though the newspapers and social agencies that are the source of the information can be sued.

Intimidating others from publicizing information that is in the public domain is clearly harmful for the public welfare. This is not only for bloggers but it also works to prevent victims reporting their abusers for fear of being sued for slander - aside from being sexual abused. It is very important for the protection of society that this information be distributed in the public domain..

Bottom line - reporting this information is a Torah obligation. If the convicted sex abuser is convinced of his innocence then he should be directing his attention to the source of the information - the courts, newspapers and social agencies. Those who report this information should not be targeted and intimidated. Using lawsuits as a weapon of intimidation is harmful for society as well as being a violation of the Torah prohibition of mesira.

Until I get further clarification of the legal issues - I am not publishing the name of this sex offender nor will I allow it to be mentioned in comments. I am well aware that he is reading this post as well as the fact that he feels rejected, angry  and lonely as a result of his conviction and that he strongly wants to be accepted by others and not be viewed as a pariah. 

However striking out at the messenger does not aid his cause nor the welfare of his children. Bizarrely he is generating more negative publicity for himself and his family by threatening me - especially since his name has not been mentioned for 9 months here. He would have accomplished much more by simply making a quiet private request.

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