Man Considers Personal Injury Lawsuit against City
By: Gerri L. Elder
Few, if any, crimes carry the social stigma of sexual offenses. To be wrongly accused of a sex crime or mislabeled as a sex offender can have seriously devastating effects on a person's ability to function within a community. Known sex offenders are often treated with suspicion, and if possible, avoided. When an innocent person is pegged as a sex offender, their lives are unfairly altered in a way that cannot be readily fixed.
In Chandler, Arizona, a man says that the police listed his home as the residence of a sex offender after a real sex offender used his address to register. Chad Towe and the real convicted sex offender, Kurt Hamady, share similar physical characteristics which Towe says has led to him being thought of as a sex offender in the community.
Several months ago, Towe found a note from Chandler police on his door. The note was addressed to Kurt Hamady, so Towe thought that it must have been placed there in error and removed it and threw it away. It never dawned on him that police thought that Hamady actually lived at Towe's residence. Towe says that he knows Hamady, but that he has never lived at his house.
Although Towe was unaware that Hamady had used his address on the sex offender registry, the rest of the neighborhood became very aware when fliers were sent out to every home in the area to alert them that a convicted sex offender lived at Towe's address. Since Towe and Hamady look alike, Towe says that many of his neighbors assumed that he was the convicted sex offender and treated him as such. He has lived in his home for 12 years and although he has done nothing wrong, he suddenly felt like an outsider in his neighborhood and was humiliated and embarrassed when neighbors looked at him.
Towe says that it took the Chandler Police Department two weeks to send out a correction flier to all of the homes in his neighborhood to clear his name. During that time, he was looked upon by his neighbors as a convicted sex offender and his reputation was allegedly damaged. KMSB-TV News reported that he has asked the town to pay him $200,000 to settle out of court or he will file a personal injury lawsuit alleging defamation by the city of Chandler.
Injury to a person's character by defamation can be difficult to prove, especially in cases involving slander, or verbal statements or claims of fact. However, Towe's case involves libel, which means damaging false statements put forth as fact in a concrete medium such as writing, video or images. The sex offender warning flier notified residents of Towe's neighborhood that a male sex offender was living in his home when he was the only male that lived at the residence, thus giving Towe the basis of a personal injury claim against the city of Chandler, Arizona.