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Stigma of sexual assault continues after charges dismissed

A Colorado real estate broker had four sexual assault charges dismissed against him more than a year ago, but this individual continues to fight to have the arrest and court records made confidential. The attention that comes along with being considered a "sex offender" generally outweighs any news that the individual was acquitted of the charged crimes.

The broker asserts that the sexual assault charges came about because of a child custody matter. Nevertheless, the trial court had denied his request to have the court records sealed, and, despite a dismissal of all charges, the District Attorney's Office maintains that the public has the right to know about the charges brought against him.

The problem with such a sentiment should be obvious to someone holding this position. The individual charged should be presumed innocent, and yet the stigma of the alleged crime remains because the records remain transparent.

The humiliation for the accused man related to the dropped charges will likely continue well into the future. The broker lost his job soon after his arrest, and he has had difficulty in finding employment for quite some time. He has also moved away from the neighborhood in which he lived due to adverse publicity.

Appealing the ruling not to seal the court records will be difficult unless an abuse of discretion is shown. Prosecutors may wish to keep these records open in case the broker was involved in another matter with similar allegations. Yet it should surprise no one that the accused broker should not want such information kept in public.

Source: Coloradoan.com, "The power of allegations: When innocent until proven guilty collides with public's right to know," by Robert Allen, Sep. 17, 2012

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