Child abuse charges dropped for educators; New Fla. law could erase records

Two Hillsborough educators cleared of child abuse charges: Is there anything that can be done to deal with false accusations?

Tampa, Fla. (WTSP) -- A false accusation against a Tampa middle school principal and his wife could follow them for the rest of their lives.

Monday, Coleman Middle School principal Michael Hoskinson, 53 and his wife Kimberly Hoskinson, 49 a teacher at Plant High school were exonerated of child abuse charges according to the State Attorney’s office.

In a statement, the Hillsborough County School District said it is, “sensitive to everything the Hoskinson’s have gone through and says they will get their jobs back", although it wasn’t specified if they’ll be working in the same capacities.

The full statement from the school district:

Mike and Kim Hoskinson have been reinstated as employees of Hillsborough County Public Schools. The district is sensitive to everything the Hoskinsons have gone through. Their positions with the district have not been determined at this time. Superintendent Eakins will be meeting with the Hoskinsons in the next few days to discuss their future.

The Hoskinson’s were accused of child abuse and arrested on November 13, 2017.

Monday, the state attorney's office said it found a key witness in the case fabricated and manipulated evidence.

Tampa police say they arrested the Hoskinsons to protect the victim. Many people came out to defend the couple, saying there is no way they could have done what they were accused of.

So, what's next? Dropping the charges doesn't change the fact that the Hoskinsons were arrested, but this week in Tallahassee, lawmakers are going to debate bills that could potentially expunge arrest records in certain cases.

Several of those bills are Senate Bills 1142, 690, and 692. Each has their own set of language, that in short proposes more protections for people found not guilty, acquitted during the trial, or has charges dropped or dismissed. In theory, it could potentially help with keeping mug shots and charges from popping up all over the internet when someone Google’s their name.

While one may think this is a good idea, many people are against such a law like the First Amendment Foundation and attorney Jim McGuire. 

He’s also provided legal consulting for 10 news. He says there are many reasons why that information needs to remain public. Let’s say you’re a parent hiring a baby sister, or a school district hiring a teacher and you don’t have that information, “I think that’s dangerous,” McGuire said. “I think you have the right to know that, then you can decide whether it matters that the person was acquitted and you could interview them. 

You could ask them about that but if you don’t even have the information, you can’t even inform yourself,” he said.

When it comes to the proposed law impacted anyone acquitted, McGuire makes an interesting point.

“O.J. Simpson was acquitted, Casey Anthony was acquitted, George Zimmerman was acquitted. There are all sorts of people who are acquitted and maybe they’re innocent or maybe they’re not. We don’t know for sure, and I think this assumption that simply because you’re acquitted at trial the world shouldn’t be able to know about what happened there shouldn’t be a record of it at the government level, it strikes me as a very bad solution,” McGuire said.

Traffic and Criminal defense attorney Ryan Sulte sees both sides, but supports parts of the proposed laws saying most of his clients are often left at a disadvantage because of the stigma of past charges that have been dropped. 

“They have to go and explain that every time and that can lead to other problems. Sometimes people have a hard time being able to rent an apartment because it comes up, oh you have a felony arrest. No matter what it is, they automatically exclude you,” Sulte said.

Sulte says as soon as a felony or an arrest is seen on his clients' records, they’ve told him experiences of having a tough time finding a job and even trying to get a loan. 

The Tampa Police Department left the following statement on the issue: 

The Tampa Police Department made arrests in the Hoskinson case based on probable cause and in the interest of protecting a victim. As is standard in such cases, the investigation continued after the arrest. As a result of that thorough investigation, new information came to light, which resulted in the actions announced by the State Attorneys Office today.

With Florida’s legislative session kicking off Tuesday, there’s no timeline on when they’ll be heard. If by chance they are voted into law, one could go into effect as early as July 1st.

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