Being accused of a crime can sometimes have nearly as detrimental an effect on an individual's life as actually being convicted, especially when the crime is particularly heinous or socially stigmatized. Accusations come with a whole host of problems, such as ostracization in a community, defamation of a defendant's character, and issues with gaining or keeping employment. One person who understands this dynamic intimately is Ernie Simuro of Vermont, who has been fighting against charges for seven years.
In 2010, Simuro was accused of sexually assaulting his seven year old grandson who has a learning disability. Simuro and his wife had raised their grandson almost from birth due to the fact that the boy's mother, Simuro's daughter, was a heroin addict and unable to provide care for her child.
The charge of sexual assault ran on the front page of the newspaper in Simuro's small hometown and his character was publicly called into question. Simuro denied all charges, and fought for a year with his lawyer, Wayne Young, to get the charges dropped. Although the two were successful in fighting the charges, Simuro was forced to use all of his retirement savings to pay for his bail bonds and legal fees associated with the battle to clear his name.
Part of the reason that Simuro was charged with the crime was an alleged mischaracterization of information provided by the boy's mother. The unsubstantiated allegations were the basis of the case made by Police Sgt. Linda Shedd, who left the force in 2012.
In 2014, Simuro filed a federal lawsuit against both the town of Windsor and The Vermont Department for Children and Families (DCF) for malicious prosecution in violation of his civil rights. DCF settled with Simuro and his grandson out of court for $400,000. The city of Windsor, however, has continued to fight the lawsuit. In 2014, a federal jury awarded Simuro $300,000 from the city, but they are planning to fight the verdict by appealing it. The city seems set on denying Simuro's claims against Windsor's police force.
One commentator asserts that this failure to settle using city funds is due to the fact that “alleged victims of police wrongdoing rarely win in court. Cops enjoy what's called “qualified immunity,” which protects them from virtually all civil lawsuits.” It is notoriously difficult to convict law enforcement agents of any kind of crimes against citizens.
In the modern age, incendiary charges from assault to child abuse can follow an individual around, even after they are comprehensively and decisively dismissed. Now, with the accessibility of the internet and Google searches which pull up public information on any individual, it can be difficult to distance yourself from a scandal or public event. If you are fighting charges of any kind, it is important to stage an immediate and complete defense in order to protect your freedom, your image, and your future.