Quite recently a lawyer who's a close friend of mine won a very important case. Here's the back story: A guy, let's call him...oh, I don't know, how about Mr. Scummy? Mr. Scummy was convicted of the crime of stalking his ex-girlfriend. He had bugged every room of her house and her phone. As if that wasn't bad enough he had made videos of them having sex when they were together and then when she broke it off with him he sent those videos TO HER EMPLOYER.
But Mr. Scummy wasn't interested in dealing with the lasting consequences of his actions. He let a period of time pass after his fairly mild sentence and then he hired himself an excellent lawyer and got his conviction expunged. That is to say that while the court didn't dispute the fact that he did the crime they decided that he was repentant enough to give him another chance. Now, when asked on a job application if he has ever been convicted of a felony he can legally say no which is exactly what he did when he applied to a temp agency. The temp agency hired him and placed him in the probation department of a certain Northern California county. Mr. Scummy happens to be a computer expert and he now had access to the very computers that held his victims records.
Fortunately one of the probation officers recognized him and went directly to the person who was overseeing Mr. Scummy's work. The supervisor called the temp agency and asked if a background check had been done on this guy and the temp agency admitted that no, they hadn't done that. The supervisor then explained that Mr. Scummy had been recognized by a probabtion officer (he didn't say for what crime) and that the temp agency needed to do a background check on him and ANY employee they wanted to place within the probation department. So the Temp agency did the background check and while the conviction did come up the expungement did not. Mr. Scummy was indignant. He said that the information was wrong and so on and so forth and the temp agency told him that if he was able to clear it up they'd happily take him back and place him somewhere else.
So does he do that? No. What he does is hire another crackerjack lawyer and sues the county for giving discriminatory information to the temp agency which led to his "wrongful termination." Furthermore he decided to seek punitive damages. So in other words, after sending videos of his ex-girlfriend having sex to her boss he felt that he deserved to be compensated for the emotional trauma HE suffered when his crimes had a negative affect on his employment. The nice word for that would be chuztpah.
It seems like an open and shut case, right? Not so much. Because the judge wanted to ensure that the jury didn't put too much weight on a crime that had not only been previously tried but also expunged he forbid my friend to use the word "stalking," in court. And since California doesn't consider stalking to be a violent crime all my friend was allowed to tell the jury was that Mr. Scummy had been expunged of a crime that was perpetrated against another and that having access to the victim's records could have possibly lead to a repeat offense.
The language was more than a little weak. To make matters worse while my friend was able to prove through legal precedent that expungement IS a matter of public record and that Mr. Scummy didn't have a right-to-privacy case (as he lawyer had wanted to argue) the judge REFUSED to instruct the jury that this was the case so while Mr. Scummy's lawyer wasn't able to use the words "right to privacy" she certainly was able to argue the case as if that's what it was about.
So basically my friend had to convince the jury that Mr. Scummy was full of shit without telling them WHY he was full of shit. In the meantime Mr. Scummy was putting on quite a performance, telling the Jury how excited he had been to land the county job (keep in mind he NEVER landed a county job, he was working for a temp agency, a point that seems to have been lost on him) that he was a hard working man trying to support his disabled wife (that would be the wife who he cheated on in order to have an affair with the woman whose life he would later make a living hell) and he's really just a good family man, looking for a fresh start only to be victimized by his employer.
And for a while it looked like Mr. Scummy might win. He came this close to actually being able to use his crimes to legally extort money from the county. And what would that have meant for the future? If the county had been forced to hand over a fistful of money to Mr. Scummy what are the chances that they would turn away another employee who was discovered to be in a position to get information on a victim from their past?
But it didn't come to that. My friend won his case and in doing so scored a victory for both the county and women all over this country. I'm incredibly proud of him and, as a woman, not just a little grateful to him. Now he's going to represent the county in their quest to sue Mr. Scummy for all their legal expenses and personally I hope they take him for all he's worth.
But there's an important lesson to be learned from all this. The reality is that if Mr. Scummy doesn't have to pay the county's legal expenses he really won't have had to pay ANY price for his crime. The very fact that he brought this last case to court shows that he's not repentant. I can't even imagine why anyone would have granted this man an expungement (my friend practices city and civil law and wasn't involved in Mr. Scummy's criminal case). If I had to take a guess one of the reasons he got off so easy is because while it is absolutely illegal to bug someone's house, the law in regards to the video tapes (HE SENT 8 OF THEM) is murky at best. If you allow pictures or videos to be taken of you those pictures and videos belong to whoever took them, not you (assuming you don't have some kind of contract drawn up beforehand). There is a website called Ex-Girlfriend Pictures that is set up specifically for men who want to post naked pictures and videos of their ex-girlfriend for the sake of revenge. There's nothing illegal about that...it's creepy, awful and more than a little pathetic but it's not illegal. I'm hoping that none of you are involved with men who would ever try to exploit you like that regardless of how your relationship turns out. I honestly believe that most men aren't that pathetically insecure (let's face it, if you have to distribute naked pictures of your ex in order to feel like a man you're not much of a man at all and are probably compensating for something...small). But while men who would go to such lengths for revenge are probably in the extreme minority, men who would casually share a naked picture of an ex with his buddies are probably a little easier to find. And if you're into sexting (naked pictures sent through your cell phone) keep in mind that if your boyfriend ever loses his cell or even if one of his friends picks it up while he's in the next room and starts scanning pictures your private moments won't be private anymore.
I'm not saying that you can't ever take sexy pictures for your man. It's a form of sexual play that frequently occurs between people who are married or in a serious relationship. But think twice before you do it for someone you are only casually involved with and I strongly recommend you always keep your face out of the photos no matter what the nature of your relationship is.
You need to protect yourself because the sad truth is that the law won't.
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