September 30, 2018

Rob Lauer Political Reporter

The Salem witch trials were public prosecutions of people accused without any evidence of witchcraft in Massachusetts between February 1692 and May 1693. More than 200 people were accused, nineteen of whom were found guilty and executed by hanging including five men. One man was pressed to death for refusing to plead guilty, and at least five people died in jail.

As we watching the modern day witch trials play out in the media in which numerous MEN accused by either anonymous women, or in Judge Kavanaugh’s case, a woman without any physical evidence, or corroborating facts, like the address of the house and the month in which the alleged assault occurred, demonstrates the need to strengthen slander and libel laws. Today, no man is safe from false, baseless charges. The Me Too movement has turned into a political weapon used to destroy political opponents and causing every man now to live in fear for his life. Any accusation today can destroy a man’s life without a trial or even a single piece of evidence to back it up.

Our country and our society has a tradition of innocent until proven guilty going back 500 years in British Common law. It’s time we apply that standard to public non judicial charges as well. I believe we need to change the standards of proof in libel and slander laws so that no one can be accused of a criminal act without meeting the burden of proof required at least to obtain a grand jury indictment, which is still a very low standard but at least one which can be quantified in a court of law.

Some may argue that such a standard would violate the 1st Amendment clause. And I believe all the amendments are absolute without exception until your rights cross over and harm someone else which then violate their right to life and liberty. False accusations or unproveable ones in Kavanaugh’s case have caused real damage to his life, his pursuit of happiness and to his family. The purposed change in the law will not harm the person making the accusations because they cannot (as in Kavanaugh’s case) obtain criminal or civil remedies. So their actions have only one purpose and that is to damage the reputation of the accused and as such violate his/her rights. Any such laws would shift the burden to the person making the accusation to prove up their public charges. To demonstrate the damage such accusations can cause, Fox News Commentator Eric Bolling’s son committed suicide following his  public accusations against his father resulting in his firing from Fox News.

Under current defamation laws, famous people have a higher burden to meet in order to sue for defamation. That needs change as well because it’s famous powerful people who are the ones usually the subject of such false accusations and potential extortion. When a simple accusation without evidence can cause a man to lose his job, every man is subject to extortion and blackmail. That means every man in power is subject to blackmail including by foreign agents. This is a national crisis threatening national security at the highest levels of our government. Many people are puzzled at this point so let me provide an example.

Let’s say a high ranking U.S. General is approached by a Russian spy and threaten with false accusations by an unnamed woman if he doesn’t provide technical data for the latest weapon system. All the spy needs to do is find a woman in his past willing to take enough cash to make a false public charge and his career is over. Pretty simple. And that applies to anyone running for office or in office today. It also applies to any man in a position of power in corporate America and the media as we’ve seen over the past year and a half.

Women have a lawful course of action available to protect them and bring them justice if they are the victims of sexual assault. They can file a police report immediately, not months or years later when they feel like it. That is the only way both the accused and accuser can obtain justice, thru immediate action which preserves evidence and possible witnesses. Waiting weeks or months to report such a claim only robs both parties of justice. And to be fair, most of these claims even when made immediately come down to she said/ he said situations. So its a tough situation.

Before we burn another man at the stake, let’s do what they did in Salem. In January 1693, the new Superior Court of Judicature, in Salem, Essex County held jury trials in which the accused were allowed to defend themselves in a court of law against the public charges. The accused were found not guilty ending the year of hysteria and executions. Every person is entitled to their day in court before a jury of their peers to prove their innocence. And stronger defamation laws would provide a place to litigate accusations of sexual misconduct which would protect all the parties. Shouldn’t we have a higher standard today than the witch trials of 1693?


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