Back in May of 2011, I wrote a post lamenting the fact that a person with the same name as me has been arrested in Des Moines:
Great. Someone who shares my name has been arrested and booked at the Polk Country Jail in Des Moines, Iowa for failure to pay child support.
You’d think my name is difficult enough without guys like this further besmirching it.
Recently, my namesake's girlfriend contacted me, asking me to remove the post. I initially balked at the request. The man’s mug shot is available online on desmoinesmugshots.com. Removing it from my blog wouldn’t remove it from the Internet entirely, and it wasn’t like that post, written more than three years ago, was garnering any traffic.
Then it occurred to me:
I have a mug shot as well. I’ve never seen it, and because it was taken in 1992, it’s unlikely to ever appear on the Internet. But in some police database, a photograph of me exists, alongside the charges of grand larceny and embezzlement.
I was not guilty of those crimes, and I was eventually exonerated at the end of a lengthy and expensive trial, but had I been arrested two decades later, I might be in this man’s same position. My mug shot might be posted on the Internet.
Elysha might be as upset as this man’s girlfriend clearly is.
Truthfully, I don’t even know if this man was guilty of a crime. Like me, perhaps he was falsely accused. There’s no more ardent supporter of the concept of “innocent until proven guilty” than me.
Wasn’t placing his mug shot on my blog antithetical to that position?
Had it been my image posted on the Internet, I might want my mug shot to appear in as few places as possible, too.
And having been the victim of a widespread, illegal smear campaign later in my life, I understand the pain associated with someone attempting to destroy your reputation.
So I deleted the post. Honestly, I felt bad that I ever posted it in the first place. A Google Alert on my name had probably brought it to my attention, and finding it both coincidental and amusing, I decided to post it to my blog.
But had I thought about how much more that this man and I might have in common beyond just our name, I probably would’ve never posted it to begin with.