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Fathers DO have Civil Rights
As American as Motherhood and...
Given the general picture painted by the media, it is hard to believe that claims of sexual molestation could be over-reported or that hyper-zealous prosecutors would be unrelenting in pursuing false claims. Child molestation is a crime so offensive to humanity that most of us feel no sense of mercy for anyone convicted of this crime. To Americans, a convicted child molester is at least as bad as a murderer - nothing, it seems, is too good for him.
With that backdrop in mind, consider the case of Ted White.
Back in 1991, Ted and Tina White (now McKinley) were married and Ted attempted to adopt her two children from a previous marriage. Mr. White was trying to raise the children as his own, and loved them both dearly. By all accounts, he was a good step-father, and would have no trouble being accepted by the court or any agency as an adoptive parent.
The biological father's acquiescence came on the heels of a threat by Ms. White that she would soon file charges of child sexual molestation against him unless he consented to the adoption. Bear in mind here too, that Ms. White was unhappy with the amount of support she received from her first husband, and she knew that Ted White was far more inclined – and better funded – for support of the children if they were his own.
Too bad Ted didn't know about Tina’s threat.
Now, fifteen years down the road, a federal court of appeals has upheld a $16 Million verdict in favor of Ted against Tina and her (now third) former husband - a police officer at the time they met.. The verdict included $14 Million in compensatory damages.
So what happened in the intervening period?
Shortly after adopting the girls, the White’s marriage hit the skids when Tina found new love and romance in the arms of a Lee’s Summit police officer named Richard McKinley.
Among police departments around the country, it seems it’s common practice for an officer to commence a clandestine relationship with a married woman, and then devise charges the man cannot defend himself against – domestic assault with intent to do serious bodily harm, for example – or, in Ted White’s case, the charge happened to be sexual molestation.
Tina pressed charges of sexual molestation of her daughter, Jami, who recall, had been the threatened subject of identical charges against Tina’s first husband as well.
It gets better. The Lee’s Summit investigator on the case was none other than – you guessed it – Mom’s new boyfriend. Doing the thorough work one might expect from a man in his position, young Jami's diary was confiscated and then disappeared. Later it was learned that Jami had written of the gentle and caring nature of Ted White, and her feelings that her mother cared less about her than Ted.
Next, Mr. McKinley blocked the ordinary interview process conducted by the Center for Protection and Children charged with counseling children in these cases in Lee’s Summit.
Without having the benefit of important exculpatory evidence, White was convicted and sentenced to prison. He spent over five years thereafter in prison before successfully overturning his conviction.
In the meantime, he had discovered the hidden evidence and was granted a new trial. The new trial resulted in a hung jury voting 11-1 to acquit him. At his third trial, he was finally and fairly vindicated by an acquittal.
By then, however, Mr. White had lost more than six years of his life, his relationship with his adopted children, and the opportunity to rebuild and restore the life he had known before Richard McKinley had debauched his wife and family.
After sustaining extraordinary economic loss as well as unbearable pain, White sued Tina and McKinley. Lee’s Summit, prudently settled its liability with White out of court, and a jury then found Tina and McKinley had conspired to harm Ted White through the false allegations. Because McKinley served as a police officer, he was acting under color of state law, and under 28 U.S.C. Sec. 1983 - the federal law protecting individual civil rights against state and local governments and their employees.
Mr. White is quite unlikely ever to collect $16 Million from the pair of defendants – but there is hopefully a valuable cultural lesson here - false allegations are not legal! Prosecutors should be as willing and more to prosecute false claims made against innocent individuals as they are to pursue cases on charges that help them get elected. More important yet, perhaps Ted White and his daughters can become the poster family for good dads KEEPING their one chance – their RIGHT (and the children’s right) – to have a loving Dad!