In the 1950s, one of my close relatives was charged with rape in a major American city, but he had an ironclad alibi. A jury acquitted him.
The story played out on the local newspaper's front page, complete with photos.
Even after being cleared, he was known as the guy accused of rape. He couldn't shed that stigma, so he left the city, never to return. He figured he could shake the rapist label – and he succeeded.
He lived a normal life, having kids and becoming a copier salesman.
Back then, there was no Internet. No Google. You could pick up and start a new life.
This past spring, the Catholic Church announced that the Rev. John Gow of Dixon's St. Patrick Parish had been removed while police investigated his computer use.
Last week, the bishop in Rockford said Gow had been cleared. Dixon police said they fully investigated Gow's computer use and found nothing illegal.
As a result, the church assigned Gow, ordained in 2008, as the new associate pastor at St. John Neumann Parish in St. Charles.
Unfortunately, Gow didn't get to escape the stigma, as my relative did. All one has to do is Google Gow's name and find out about the investigation.
We wrote a story when the church announced Gow's removal in March, which was the lead story that day. It's news when the head of a local Catholic church, as a community leader, is investigated.
We did another story when the police cleared Gow – also a Page 1 story, with an equally big headline.
Did we handle the story properly? Yes, but reasonable people can differ.
I don't feel good that a man was tarnished, even though police found he did nothing wrong. I can't help but wonder who accused Gow of improper computer use – and why.
David Giuliani is a reporter for Sauk Valley Media. He can be reached at dgiuliani@saukvalley or at 800-798-4085, ext. 525.