No perhaps you should not give his name as a reference
February 28, 2011 8:12 AM   Subscribe

Why, exactly, would it be terrible to announce that he is a child molester?

A friend of mine has a boss that is a child molester. This is legit; in Illinois, sex offenders are listed online. Now, my friend sometimes daydreams about quitting while announcing to all the customers that the reason is because he can no longer work for such a man. Now, you are not his lawyer, and you may not be a lawyer, but perhaps you know why, exactly, this would be a terrible plan. The sex offender website says "Anyone who uses this information to commit a criminal act against another person is subject to criminal prosecution," but would he be committing a criminal act? I was reading wikipedia on defamation, and I am guessing that it would not be considered slander- since it would be spoken- because it could cause harm, but on the other hand, it would be true and researched, one needs all three to count it seems.

Now, I don't think he would do this, nor would his coworkers, but we can't really decide if it would illegal rather than merely a terrible and cruel idea.

Possible relevant, but maybe not:
1. This seems to be an open secret; his boss knows, his employees know. At least one customer asked his boss about this, having stumbled onto the information online
2. The business is not aimed at children, but children go in there all the time
3. Illinois publishes the information online.

So, illegal? Or merely unethical? Is the fantasy of telling him off and announcing his crimes that different from the state publishing the information where his underlings can find it?
posted by jenlovesponies to Law & Government (32 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
If it's public knowledge I doubt it's illegal, but it's dropping a major turd in the punch bowl. There is no public safety need to yap about this, because it's already known.

Your friend should find another job if he doesn't want to work for the man (I would agree with doing that), but to make some kind of announcement about this lessens his dignity and would cause me to question his judgement.
posted by randomkeystrike at 8:16 AM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I don't think he'd be prosecuted for that behavior, but his employer might respond by suing for tortious interference or under some other theory.
posted by RichardP at 8:19 AM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Are you sure you know what you think you know? I know someone who will forever be listed on his state's offender list for dating a 16 year old when he was 20.
posted by the jam at 8:23 AM on February 28, 2011 [22 favorites]

Best answer: There is a certain nuance of meaning that you are not considering here. To say that someone IS a child molester is not the same as saying that someone has a past history of child molestation. A person who has been convicted for that crime, and has gone to jail, has done his time, and has been released, may in theory have given up child molestation (probably because he doesn't want to go back to jail) and he would therefore be more accurately described as a former child molester. Of course, we don't know that for sure. Such a person might have resumed molesting children upon his release from jail, but we cannot simply assume that he has, unless we have proof. And if we do have proof, then of course we should take that proof to the police.

So yes, you can reveal that someone has a history of child molestation. But don't say that he is a child molester unless you have evidence that he is still molesting children.
posted by grizzled at 8:23 AM on February 28, 2011 [8 favorites]

I would say unethical because it blurs the man's past misbehavior with your friend's work-related dislike. If the business were aimed at children or he were using it to groom children, by all means.

Also, there is something unsavory about this question because it also blurs the man's character with his actions. I'm not saying he's probably a great guy, but there is a difference between saying "He is a child molester" and "He has been convicted of [sex crime]." Remember also that many different kinds of actions can fit under criminal statutes -- did he pee in public? Feel up a sixteen-year-old when he was eighteen? Plead guilty under an immense amount of stress to something inappropriate but innocuous?

This is a can of worms your friend shouldn't open.
posted by motsque at 8:23 AM on February 28, 2011 [6 favorites]

Just to nitpick: Is he a (generic) sex offender or specifically a child molester? There are lots of ways to get on the sex offender list that aren't child molestation.
posted by rmd1023 at 8:24 AM on February 28, 2011 [11 favorites]

Why would this be a terrible plan? I think the question is, is there any way at all that this would be a good plan? It's pointless because everyone knows, and it would make your friend look like a jerk.
posted by BibiRose at 8:25 AM on February 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

Sex offenders are, quite obviously, pretty universally loathed, and your friend's concerns can't be uncommon. However, he or she should consider the fact that criminal justice system passed judgement on their boss, and they have obviously now been considered either rehabilitated or appropriately punished (your personal bias toward the penal system will dictate which of these you side with). Sex offenses carry a higher than usual rate of reoffending, but clearly your friend's boss has been judged fit to reenter society.

I don't want to pass too harsh a judgement on your friend's motivations for doing this, since this is an extremely emotive issue. However, it does seem like your friend has imagined a scenario out of a Hollywood movie where they stand on a soapbox berating their loathed boss to the delight and applause of the whole office. Simply put, it's not that many rungs down the ladder from a lynch mob, and regardless of legality I would question whether it's really appropriate to berate someone who, presumably, is repentant (since I imagine he would be unlikely to have been released if he wasn't).
posted by jaffacakerhubarb at 8:27 AM on February 28, 2011 [6 favorites]

I understand the lure of daydreams. Lord knows I've had my crazy share. However, if I were in the crowd during your friend's departure, I would view your friend as dramatic and spiteful rather than thinking ill of the boss as s/he would be standing there with a WTF look.
posted by spec80 at 8:28 AM on February 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

Just to nitpick: Is he a (generic) sex offender or specifically a child molester? There are lots of ways to get on the sex offender list that aren't child molestation.

There's no such thing as a "generic" sex offender on the Illinois list. Each entry in the database clearly spells out what crime they were convicted of, how old they were at the time, and how old the victim was.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:31 AM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Is the fantasy of telling him off and announcing his crimes that different from the state publishing the information where his underlings can find it?

Yes, because it can backfire on your friend very easily. In my opinion it doesn't matter what your friend is planning to announce, true or not. Making any kind of proclamation like that falls under the category of burning bridges. Even if he never works with that boss again, he might have the opportunity to work with one of those customers again. He could lose out on those opportunities if the customer thinks he's petty and spiteful. I certainly would think so.
posted by cabingirl at 8:36 AM on February 28, 2011

Making any kind of proclamation like that falls under the category of burning bridges. Even if he never works with that boss again, he might have the opportunity to work with one of those customers again. He could lose out on those opportunities if the customer thinks he's petty and spiteful. I certainly would think so.

If I heard that someone did this, I would not under any circumstances hire them. I would rather hire a child molester quite frankly, on the grounds that my work involves tact but does not involve children.
posted by atrazine at 8:39 AM on February 28, 2011 [9 favorites]

You friend could open himself up to a slander suit if he announces that the guy IS a child molester. False statements which are made maliciously, in other words, those generated with the state of mind arising from ill-will or hatred, are more often to be held by the courts to be defamatory than false statements which are not malicious. If he's not sure exactly what crime the guy was convicted of, he should shut up. Personally, I think he's a putz for needing to make a big dramatic scene--if your pal is that offended, just quit.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:40 AM on February 28, 2011


What is to be gained by making this other person's life more difficult? What does your "friend" know about his past (other than this listing), the nuances of the event in question, and the changes that might have happened since then.

Your "friend" is not a the judge, nor the jury in this situation, your "friend" has no standing in impacting on this aspect of that individual's life.

At this point in time, I would be more concerned about having your "friend" in my life than the boss.
posted by tomswift at 8:42 AM on February 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

What, exactly, is your friend hoping to achieve?
posted by mkultra at 8:43 AM on February 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

I do not think its Illegal but the boss could SUE him.
posted by majortom1981 at 8:45 AM on February 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

Just picture the scenario. Imagine you're visiting a business as a customer. Out of nowhere, one of the employees suddenly raises his voice to say, "I have an announcement, everyone! I'm quitting because the boss is a child molester and I can no longer work for such an evil being!" And then the employee rips off his apron / vest / nametag, flings it down, and flounces out.

Would your first thought be, "Oh, a child molester? How awful! I'm never spending money here again!"

Maybe. But I think most people's reaction would be more like, "Wow, that was AWKWARD. What a kook. Well, now that he's out the door, I guess I can complete my purchase."

In other words, besides the legal issues that other posters have pointed out, I think your friend's announcement would not have the effect he wants. It's likely to make him look bad for making a melodramatic scene, and given his obviously vengeful intent, people might not take the accusation against his boss seriously.

Your friend should quit in a normal, dignified manner, then have a few friends over to drink cocktails and watch Nine to Five together while regaling each other with tales of their worst bosses.
posted by Orinda at 8:57 AM on February 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

I don't know if you know the particulars of this guy's offense or not. In WI a few years back there was a 18 year old who got his 16 year old girlfriend pregnant and now has to register as a sex offender. The governor even refused to pardon him because of the message that it would send.

It's worth noting, too that being busted for public urination or having sex in a park can also require you register as sex offender.

Point is, if you want to discuss what he actually did, that's one thing. But if all you have is speculation into the nature of the offense, you should realize that you could be very wrong about your assumptions.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:03 AM on February 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

Just to clarify for the OP and commenters, the OP is referring to the page you get when you look up sex offenders in Illinois, but here is the relevant listing of things one would have to do to get listed:

Of note, this list does include numerous things that are not, strictly speaking, child molestation.

Please also note that the registry itself spells out three "requirements" for listing:
(a) A conviction for the commission of the offense or attempt to commit the offense,
(b) A finding of not guilty by reason of insanity of committing the offense or attempting to commit the offense, or
(c) A finding not resulting in an acquittal at a hearing for the alleged commission or attempted commission of the offense.
posted by juniperesque at 9:22 AM on February 28, 2011

It is never wise to burn a bridge.

Why end the relationship with venom and hate - isn't it just smarter to walk away like a mature adult. Your friend sounds like a childish fool.
posted by Flood at 10:19 AM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Keep in mind that no one knows exactly what happened.

What does it say he was charged with?

I know people who are sex offenders for life who urinated in public, slept with their high school girlfriend, someone who was walking around naked in front of a child, wrongfully accused by a mentally ill woman who was later charged with tampering with a state witness ... but the exoneration would cost thousands of dollars.
posted by KogeLiz at 10:28 AM on February 28, 2011

also, one of those people is my father.
And he hasn't been able to get a job in 6 years because of this. He was also harassed by neighbors, put in jail (because you have to have a verified address to live it - which he didn't) He has also been homeless because of the restrictions on where sex offenders can live. He currently lives in a broken down shack in the middle of New Mexico that a woman is paying him to fix up.
It's really sad how judgmental people are... and how fuck up someone could be to falsely accuse someone of such a crime... and then to admit that they falsely accused them. And ridiculous the laws are that unless you have lots of money, you can't even get off the sex offender lists.

So. Tell your friend to keep that in mind.
posted by KogeLiz at 10:33 AM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think it would be cruel and spiteful of your friend to do this, and it speaks more about your friend than it does about his boss.

I am friendly with a man who is also a registered sex offender. I know some of the details of his case, which is similar to one mentioned by the jam upthread: he was 21 and dating a girl who had told him she was 17, but she was actually 15. Her mother was the one who called the cops when she found out about the relationship. Technically, my friend is a "child molester" too.

This man, your friend's boss, has served a sentence for whatever his crime was, and has been legally judged to have paid his debt to society. He has no doubt been through some sort of rehabilitation and counseling. He is gainfully employed, and he is also listed as a sex offender for life. Do you doubt his ability to redeem himself?

One of England's most famous soap actors is also a convicted murderer. He was open about it when his acting career first took off. Nobody is following him around, pointing fingers and waiting for him to commit another murder.
posted by vickyverky at 10:36 AM on February 28, 2011

I'm not sure how to read this:

"Now, my friend sometimes daydreams about quitting while announcing to all the customers that the reason is because he can no longer work for such a man."

Two possibilities: (1) your friend's moral sensibilities are such that he cannot in good conscience work for a child molester; (2) your friend is frustrated with his boss for other (presumably more generic) reasons, and enjoys the thought of getting back at him by exposing his criminal past.

I wouldn't recommend that your friend call out his boss for either reason; but acting on (2) strikes me as much more egregious.
posted by Maxa at 10:48 AM on February 28, 2011

I know a young man who is a registered sex offender because he urinated against a wall and a cop just happened to come around the corner and catch him at it.

Regardless of the boss's alleged crime he has paid his dues, served his time, publicly atoned. Your friend appears to think that the punishment his boss has already received is not enough and your friend wants to punish him some more. Maybe your friend was sexually abused and is not comfortable yet talking about it. would your friend feel the same way if the boss had committed some other sort of crime?

Perhaps your friend should talk with a therapist.
posted by mareli at 11:02 AM on February 28, 2011

Also, if your friend did this, is there a risk that someone could get all vigilante on the boss and beat him up or worse? Because that would be wrong. And possibly leave your friend open to being sued.
posted by plonkee at 11:12 AM on February 28, 2011

"Now, my friend sometimes daydreams about quitting while announcing to all the customers that the reason is because he can no longer work for such a man."

Quitting because one cannot, personally, work with someone with such a record is one thing.

Taking the further, extremely unnecessary step and making sure that all the company's customers know the person's criminal record lunges headlong into a purposeful attempt to sabotage the company. Or, worse, it could invite violence against the guy. I mean, what possible need is there to expose someone's dirty laundry like that? Such a move would seem to be highly actionable, to me.

As has been already noted, having been convicted of a past molestation, does not mean someone is now a molester. And, we have no idea what the circumstances were. There's a whole range of seemingly innocuous stuff a person could have done that could get you convicted of molestation. Obviously, the guy isn't some serial offender, otherwise he'd probably still be locked-up.

The whole public sex-offender registry thing is a dicey subject for me. I see what it is attempting to accomplish. But, I see it being used to basically hound people, who have paid their debt and done their time, until the day they die.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:53 AM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I don't know what specifically he was convicted of- I don't know his name- but I know the age gap was substantial- a man in his twenties and a victim (not sure what gender) in middle school. My friend made the case that everyone at work who knows finds it disgusting (and as a few people pointed out, in Illinois the exact crime is listed online) and terrible, so I assume it worse than public urination or some Romeo-and-Juliet minor age gap.

As for the language, everyone is absolutely correct; I have no reason to think he still is molesting kids. Sorry for that; and I will try to keep that in mind when I write things in the future.

As for my friend, I am under the impression his boss is a jerk anyway, and that he seems to be disliked by most of his employees. I don't want to give the impression he is going to actually do any of this; I think Orinda and jaffacakerhubarb hit the nail on the head that is more a movie moment than an actual plan, by any means. It came up over drinks and I started wondering if it would actually be illegal, and if it was illegal, what the actual reason would be, since it didn't seem to be slander, per se, and since it didn't seem to be substantially different from, say, a law that allows the information to be posted online, which seems a little hinky but is legal.
posted by jenlovesponies at 12:48 PM on February 28, 2011

You also don't know the circumstances for his prosecution. This may be a surprise to many but people can be convicted and be in jail for many years on false accusations. Men have been convicted for having consensual sex with their underaged girlfriend when they were underaged. Granted this may not be the case but perhaps your friend gave you misinformation based on his assumption?
posted by JJ86 at 1:19 PM on February 28, 2011

Sex offender registries are mostly useless because they don't necessarily reflect actual guilt, offer very little ability to the public to discern the truly dangerous from the merely unfortunate and criminally stupid, and sometimes require registration for acts that most people don't consider to be "sex crimes" at all, e.g., high school aged teens trying to get consensual nookie after prom but before they're 18, etc.

Frankly, this would say more about your friend's lack of professionalism than anything else. He should quit with grace, rather than to try to punish someone who has basically already discharged his debt to society. Also, assuming this guy actually did hurt a kid: what if he owes restitution to the victim and then can't pay because your friend screws up this guy's ability to earn money? How is this a good result?

If his hatred of his employer is due to the professional relationship and it's justified, he should consult an employment attorney and deal with it that way, rather than the sleazy tactic he's contemplating now.
posted by Hylas at 1:52 PM on February 28, 2011

Your "friend" has the luxury of not having his shameful deeds catalogued by Google. He should consider what might be like to have them announced to his peers.

Tell your friend: don't be a dick.
posted by DWRoelands at 2:15 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I agree this screams bad idea all around-though totally appreciate the daydream! However, I'm gonna apparently be the lone voice on this thread pointing out that many registered sex offenders convicted of child molestation are actually, well, child molesters. Being in your twenties having sex with someone in middle school is pretty egregious-very different than the statutory rape and public indecency examples everyone is quoting here.

And lots of child molesters I work with tell their friends and loved ones they were convicted because "she told me she was 17" or "I was naked in a locker room and a boy saw me"....The truth when you read the police report or court records or interview the child often is very, very different. The majority of the folks I've encountered on the sex offender registry in my state probably should be there. Also remember that there is no guarantee that some professional has decided that someone is now safe to be around kids-often it's just that they are no longer on parole and so their PO has no authority over them anymore.
posted by purenitrous at 2:15 PM on February 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

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