I had an argument, about as much of an argument you can have with a judge, many, many years ago with the late Joseph E. Erb, then president judge of York County Common Pleas Court.
I was attempting to get an affidavit filed against a local man charged with sexual child abuse.
At the time, those types of criminal cases were impounded and completely off limits to the public and the media.
My argument was that there was no real victim in this particular case. It was one of the early Pennsylvania State Police internet stings where a trooper played the role of an underage girl in a chat room.
As in similar investigations, after determining the internet user was soliciting sex with a minor, the trooper/girl made arrangements to meet him somewhere.
When the guy arrived at the designated spot, he, of course, was arrested.
The problem was no one who had authority over the documents had read the complaint. Just the charge. And they were under a strict mandate – based on the charge alone – to impound the file.
Anyone who remembers Judge Erb knows I lost the argument.
I learned to go after the Internet sting cases before they got to the courthouse and were impounded.
The concern, of course, then and now, is the protection of the identity of the child victim.
Adult victims do not get that court protection. Their names are listed in public court documents.
Still, historically, the local media does not print, publish or broadcast a sex crime victim’s name.
At the Record, we limit identification to an age and a street or a township.
After writing a story, again some years ago, about a man convicted of raping a woman, the rape victim called me.
She told me that the street where she lived — the street I had used in an attempt to give her some identity without identifying her — was a block long and had four houses.
All I could do was apologize. And promise to try and not make a similar mistake again.
About this blogVeteran courthouse reporter Rick Lee gives some updates and insight into the York County criminal and civil court systems.
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