Impounded files and sex victims’ names

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. 
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I was attempting to get an affidavit filed against a local man charged with sexual child abuse. 
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At the time, those types of criminal cases were impounded and completely off limits to the public and the media. 
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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. 
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As in similar investigations, after determining the internet user was soliciting sex with a minor, the trooper/girl made arrangements to meet him somewhere. 
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When the guy arrived at the designated spot, he, of course, was arrested. 
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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.
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Anyone who remembers Judge Erb knows I lost the argument. 
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I learned to go after the Internet sting cases before they got to the courthouse and were impounded. 
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The concern, of course, then and now, is the protection of the identity of the child victim. 
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Adult victims do not get that court protection. Their names are listed in public court documents.
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Still, historically, the local media does not print, publish or broadcast a sex crime victim’s name. 
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At the Record, we limit identification to an age and a street or a township. 
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After writing a story, again some years ago, about a man convicted of raping a woman, the rape victim called me. 
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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. 
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All I could do was apologize. And promise to try and not make a similar mistake again. 
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About Rick Lee

Rick Lee is a veteran courthouse reporter for the York Daily Record/Sunday News. Contact him at rlee@ydr.com or call 495-1782.
This entry was posted in Criminal court and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Impounded files and sex victims’ names

  1. Dianne Mulligan says:

    Your concern for real victims is commendable, however there are other
    victims in these cases who have thier names out there for all the world to see.
    It’s the men who have been falsly accused of sex crimes, usually by ex-wives who are looking for revenge, or money. For the fortunate few who are
    granted the option to take a polygraph, found to be not guilty and the accuser is polygraphed, found to be lying and recants the story. How do you un-ring that bell? It’s happened, but those stories are ignored by the media.
    The damage lasts for years, even 28 years later because the liars
    do not get punished as they should.

  2. Karol A. Feeser says:

    A friend is now and has been in prison since 1999, for a crime he did not commit. The victim lied, she wanted him out of her life, sure did work. This man had 3 trials with intimanated testimoney, witnesses, perjured test.
    Ecidence that was not presented, I could go on. the victim sent him love letters in prison, now remember she claimed she was raped by him, they lived 3yrs together, she wanted to run with friends and do drugs, She told me
    it was consentueal sex, not rape. The arresting dect. would not let her change her story , she wanted to drop charges, he said she can not. later she agreed to do a recant, at an att. office, the arresting dect. came in and pointed his finger at her face, and said you do this and I’ll be the first to put the cuffs on you, out the door she went,no recant, I wittnessed that so did the asst. DA
    whom came with the dect. This man is sitting in priosn and has been for 12 yrs
    How would you like to sit in prison that long for a crime you did not do ?????
    He has filed many , many petitions with the courts, Federal,supream, superior, courts. Has had att., they were also intiminated and droped the case.
    Tell me this is GOOD york county court, this also includes judges, who where
    also just wanting to put this man away.
    I would appreciate you not publishing my name. Thank-you

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