When you send a digital message you must be very careful exactly what you state. Every word may end up being utilized against you in court. Significant civil or criminal monetary consequences and/or prison time may be tied to what you may have thought were innocuous emails or texts when created.
A recent example as to why its important to be very careful about what you put in a digital message is the troubling circumstances surrounding former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky and his illegal behavior. In 2012, Sandusky was convicted on 45 of 48 counts for sexually assaulting 10 boys over a 15 years period.
Earlier today, former Penn State President Graham Spanier was found guilty of one misdemeanor count for his handling of allegations against Sandusky. Spanier faces up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine for not taking stronger action against Sandusky when he allegedly had reason to believe Sandusky was molesting boys on Penn State’s campus.
Several weeks ago, former Penn State Athletic Director Tim Curley along with former senior vice president Gary Schultz plead guilty to endangering the welfare of a child which arose out of the same case. Curley and Schultz face the same punishment as Spanier. If former Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno was still alive its possible he may have also been prosecuted for the same offenses.
Email evidence that was more than 15 years old appears to have been instrumental in Spanier’s guilty verdict and Shultz and Curley’s guilty pleas. Regardless of whether Spanier, Curley, Schultz, and others at Penn State had first hand knowledge about Sandusky’s horrible illegal behavior, the digital evidence utilized against them did not help their defense. The emails appear to demonstrate they turned a blind eye to Sandusky’s behavior in an effort to protect the football program and university from a child molestation scandal.
If you believe someone is raping or molesting children you should contact law enforcement. If you have a legal obligation to report the alleged illegal behavior and do not you may be prosecuted for your lack of action. Absent the digital evidence, I believe the prosecution would not have obtained a guilty verdict for Spanier nor received guilty pleas from Curley or Schultz. Its very hard to mount a successful defense when your own digital communications are utilized against you.