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North Carolina sexual assault suspect cleared of charges

People who are accused of violent crimes often have their images splashed across newspapers and media websites, regardless of whether they're guilty or innocent. Names and mug shots of people implicated in heinous crimes tend to attract attention and many news consumers assume a suspect is guilty long before anyone is convicted. Follow-up stories that exonerate the suspect usually don't get the same attention, which puts them at a disadvantage.

A North Carolina man who was accused of sexually assaulting three women in one day has been cleared of all charges against him, four weeks after he was first arrested. Police picked him up on the suspicion that he held two women at gunpoint in a hotel in mid-December. They questioned him, but didn't have sufficient evidence to hold him.

Hours after his release, he was arrested again and accused of attacking a third woman. Police charged him with armed robbery, kidnapping and sexual assault, among other crimes, and the man was held in the county jail for four weeks.

But the evidence against him still wasn't sufficient, prosecutors said, due to complications with the case. The victims' statements about what happened were inconsistent and they refused to allow rape kits to be done at the hospital, and the DNA evidence on a weapon was inconclusive.

Although his charges were dropped, he appeared on every TV station and newspaper in town, and people may not forget his name or face. He may have been legally cleared, but his reputation has been damaged and it could affect his future. If you're charged with a violent crime, contacting a criminal defense attorney as soon as you're accused may lessen the damage to your case and your reputation.

Source: WBTV.com, "Charges dropped against accused sexual assault suspect," Sharon Smith, Jan. 31, 2012

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