Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Teacher falsely accused of molesting girl

Washington Post

A Fairfax County jury needed only 47 minutes Thursday to find a popular schoolteacher not guilty of molesting a 12-year-old girl in their school gym this year.

Sean Lanigan, 43, smiled and tears flowed among his dozens of supporters in the courtroom as the verdicts were read clearing Lanigan of charges of aggravated sexual battery and abduction. The case against him hinged on the testimony of two sixth-grade girls at Centre Ridge Elementary School in Centreville, who said Lanigan had scooped up one of the girls in the middle of the school gym, carried her into an equipment room, laid her down on a mat and massaged her shoulders, groping her in the process. [...]
Rav Eliashiv(Kovetz Teshuvos 3:231): … Question: If someone is sexually abusing a boy a girl in circumstances which we don’t have the means to stop him from continuing his evil deeds – is it permissible to notify the government authorities? Answer: [Yes] … However, it is permitted to notify the government authorities only in the case which it is certain that the accused has been sexually abusing children. Informing the authorities in such a case is clearly something for the well being of the society (tikun olam). However in a case where there is no proof that this activity is happening but it is merely a conjecture or suspicion, if we permit the calling of the authorities - not only would it not be an improvement (tikun olam) - but it would destroy society. That is because it is possible that allegations are being made solely because of some bitterness the student has against his teacher or because of some unfounded fantasy. As a result of these false allegations the accused will be placed in a situation for which death is better than life – even though he is innocent. Therefore I do not see any justification for calling the authorities in such circumstances.


  1. Kovetz Teshuvos is unauthorized book most of it was taked from the geniza by a family member and it is not reliable makor.

    However in a case where there is no proof that this activity is happening but it is merely a conjecture or suspicion, if we permit the calling of the authorities - not only would it not be an improvement (tikun olam) - but it would destroy society.

    R’ Elyashiv is arguing from ignorance http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_ignorance

    And forgetting that "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence". In most cases of molestion there is not proof such as two witnesses and is is usually the kid who tells someone that he was molested.

    Not sure what proof r’ Elyashiv is looking for

  2. Rav Elyashiv is completely right: You should denounce child molesters and you should not libel innocent people as child molesters.

    However, he fails to address the key question: how do you make the distinction?

  3. ChP, GP-

    Does Rav Eliyashiv have to posqan common sense for you? He said 'certain'. There's obviously no formula for establishing certainty generally. You don't know when you're certain?! How on earth do you even make any decisions, then?

    Look, in the std case of a child accusing, it would be a simple weighing of basic factors:
    (1) Is the child's story consistent with falsifiable facts?
    (2) Does it change in essentials under questioning? Can he answer regarding details?
    (3) If there are more than one accusers, are they coordinated or independent?
    ...and a bunch of other natural questions neither you nor anyone needs me to belabor. I refer to the basic investigative questions anyone thoughtful & cautious would address, and which, when pursued, yes can often lead us to a fair degree of certainty. (Not to mention that habitual predators can, with sufficient work & luck, even be trapped sometimes.) And if circumstances don't provide us that certainty, well then, says the pesak posted here, so be it Hashem's will.

    And, Chief Penguin, please give the bad logic a rest. Rav Eliyashiv, shlita, is NOT arguing from absence of evidence or from ignorance. The fallacy you cite would be when we conclude some factual claim about the world (positive or negative) based on a lack of evidence, like "Since there's no hard evidence, he must be innocent." Which is not at all tantamount to refraining from rash action because you don't yet know enough. "Since there's no hard evidence, even though he may be guilty we can't imprison him."
    Obviously, these two are enormously different.

    Please think matters through more carefully before misattributing to gedolim the most elementary of mistakes!

  4. False accusations of molestation is very commonplace.

  5. This tshuva does not solve anything. Short of a 3rd party witness to the event, surveillance and forensic evidence regarding body fluids, what do we do with 99 percent of all cases?

  6. Also what does the Rav mean by proof?
    Are we talking about halachic proof? That would be two kosher witnesses.

  7. I have an idea for how you all could make good use of your time: Go sit in the back of some classroom somewhere & blow spitballs. Does Rav Eliyashiv have to spend his exalted energies answering moronic questions like these? Can't wait for him to address that oh-so-pressing shaiyloh as to how you to exercise your common sense.

  8. Well, many people made mistakes exercising their common sense in this realm.

    That's why so many cries of victims went unanswered or were even met with repression.

  9. I take back my questions, I did not read the teshuva carefully enough the first time.

  10. Well, GP, you're describing people no teshuva would help anyway.

    It's a poseq's job to bring down the relevant halakhic principles and show us where they fall, not act as our crossing guard.

    Whether to report to authorities a certain child molester is indeed a question. And Rav Eliyashiv answered it. Given that answer, it's a question whether to do so for only suspected molester. And he also answered that. The poseq hador did his job in this case. Why should that be so hard to accept?

  11. Knock,

    You are confusing proof with evidence, what you are bringing up are evidences, r’ Elayashiv does not mention evidences (ראיה) , he demands proof (הוכחה). If he was mentioning which types of evidences are acceptable for reporting to the authorities he will make more sense,
    He states the obvious by implying that we should not persecute the innocents, no one is trying to do so.

    Many of his teshuvos are all over the place and lucking in focus, that probably the reason they were sent to geniza.

    Try to compare his teshuvot with igrot moshe.

  12. I didn't know that the dictates of "Daas Toyrah" included any such notion as "use your common sense." Certainly those who claim to obey the modern conception of "Daas Toyrah" assert to me that exercising one's common sense without explicit instruction from the rav/source of Daas Torah wisdom, is definitely assur. So... who's right? Or do those of us encouraging the use of common sense simply not hold of the same definition for "daas Toyrah" as other peoples might these days.


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