In December, Kevin Lindsey, a public school teacher and principal for thirty years, was arrested and “charged with two counts of child abuse, two counts of second-degree sex offense and one count of third-degree sex offense.” His name, and the allegations that he had abused two students in the late 1970s, made headlines in his community. Three weeks later, the charges were dropped because of a lack of evidence about the girls’ “recovered memories” and everything went back to normal for Mr. Lindsey. Right?
Not quite. Though he has been reinstated as the principal of his school after briefly being reassigned to the district office, one can only imagine the long-term damage done to his reputation. Now he has filed suit against the women, asking for $8 million for “malicious prosecution, defamation and invasion of privacy.” (Sara Neufeld, “Principal files lawsuit against accusers,” Baltimore Sun, Feb. 2).
I am no fan of using litigation as a weapon, as evidenced by my guesting on this website. However, I feel strongly that there must be some tool of compensation for those that have been falsely accused of heinous acts, especially sexual abuse and assault. Accusations are published on the front page of newspapers and make the local news; retractions are issued deep inside the paper and often get no airplay. The Baltimore Sun states in the article above that it does not publish the names of alleged victims of sexual assault. Even in this case, when the charges have been dropped, it does not print the names. While I understand the public policy rationale behind this, the paper had no trouble printing Mr. Lindsey’s name.
Lawsuits for damages are one way to try and compensate people like Mr. Lindsey, but perhaps there are others. I am in favor of punishing those that make false accusations. If it is proved, beyond a reasonable doubt, that a person intentionally falsely accused someone of a crime (see here, for example), why not give them the same punishment as if they had committed the crime? Yes, this is severe, but I cannot imagine the stigma of being accused of assaulting a nine year-old girl. I do not know for sure that Mr. Lindsey is innocent, but he has not been proven guilty. The civil suit may give him some compensation but will never fully clear his name. Why not give him the chance to prove his innocence once and for all?
I have enabled comments in the hopes of starting a discourse. Please share your thoughts (in a civilized way, of course).