Public case, private pain

Ongoing Scott Dean case a private tragedy on the public stage

It’s the case of a former public official, tried in a public courtroom, involving alleged salacious acts that shock the public’s conscience.

The 2011 child molestation conviction and 20-year sentence of former Columbia County Commissioner and Harlem Mayor Scott Dean, and the post-trial roller-coaster his supporters have been on ever since – his accuser has recanted, but he was denied a new trial on Thursday – makes for repeated news and heated opinions.

But the truth is, at bottom this is a private tragedy played out on a public stage – and very few of us are privy to the script.

And much more remains to be played out.

We don’t envy the courts’ task of sorting this out on appeal. Which to believe? The accusation and subsequent damning trial testimony, or the now-19-year-old adopted daughter’s recantation?

We can understand the courts’ hesitation to have a
retrial every time a witness recants testimony. Why would a recantation – which might be motivated by regret or guilt – be anymore credible than one’s sworn testimony at trial?

In addition, apparently the law requires the recanting witness to be convicted of perjury before a new trial can be had.

On the other hand, Dean’s supporters understandably can’t fathom how someone can be in prison when an alleged victim claims the offense never occurred. Moreover, they wonder how the girl’s recantation, issued in July 2012, got so evidently lost in the labyrinth of the state social work bureaucracy. Have they just seen this drama before?

We’re in the opinion business, but if the courts themselves are having this much of a difficulty sorting things out, how can folks who didn’t sit through the trial and subsequent hearings possibly know the truth?

Perhaps the best we can do is to pray for justice – whatever that may be – and for healing for all those involved.

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