As criminal defense attorneys who have handled countless sex abuse cases, we found this story particularly compelling and the timing interesting considering that March Madness Mania is in full effect.
Last week a jury acquitted a former Washington state high school basketball coach of communicating with a minor for immoral sexual purposes, a misdemeanor. The jury reached its verdict within five minutes of the conclusion of the trial: almost unheard of in a criminal defense case.
Based on media reports, a 16-year-old girl accused Barry Johnson of making several inappropriate sexual comments to her which prompted the charge. While Johnson denied any wrongdoing, he ultimately resigned from his position,presumably because of pressure from the school district. At trial the defense introduced countless inconsistencies and contradictions in the girl’s story.
As both the mother of a young child, and a criminal defense lawyer, I am often conflicted about issues concerning allegations of child sex abuse to be.
Admittedly, I would never hire a male babysitter. As irrational as that sounds, the reality is that I’m entitled to be irrational when it comes to my kid.
On the other hand, I know that for a variety of reasons, innocent individuals are routinely accused of sex crimes against children. Despite the presumption of innocence our laws mandate, once someone is accused of this type of conduct, regardless of the outcome in a criminal case, game over. Their reputation is ruined.
My guess is that Mr. Johnson will never again be able to work with children and will probably have a tough time finding any type of employment.
And he’s one of the lucky ones. The jury did the right thing. He wasn’t convicted. He won’t spend decades in prison for a crime he didn’tcommit.
Yes the safety of our children should be our number priority.
But let’s make sure we get it right every time.