Innocent Until Proven Guilty: Anthony French

When police hold press conferences or give statements to the media to announce criminal charges
being pressed, it is customary to hear the accused's name, age, address and a list of criminal
charges that the accused faces.

It is
very unusual in that type of situation with the media for an arresting police officer to state
and emphasize,
"He is innocent until proven guilty."

While that statement is a natural given for the foundation of the American criminal court system,
"He is innocent until proven guilty" is something that these ears have never heard before by the
arresting police force in
any situation. This, indeed, was a genuine first.

Would it not imply that the police force arresting the man has its own doubts of the sincerity of
the alleged victim's statement? Possibly. Possibly not. It is just so odd to hear it stated at an
arrest. Police usually are quite confident that those they arrest are guilty.

But that is exactly what Connellsville Police Chief James Capitos said when he announced the
charges against Tony French, 45, of Connellsville, on Tuesday:
"He's innocent until proven guilty."

French, who is mentally retarded, was being charged with unlawful contact with a minor and
harassment, after a 12-year-old playing football with French four days earlier claimed that French
touched the boy in a sexually inappropriate way. Anyone who knows French knows that he has
limited social skills, with no real friends his own age, and that he excelled at Special Olympics
track and sports.

That French was already previously listed as a 10-year offender on Megan's List is enough
information in itself to prejudice the public against him. But it should be noted again that he is
mentally retarded, and that in that 2003 incident, he did not ever touch anyone. Ask him and he'll
tell you that kids were messing with him and he yelled something that was sexually offensive. Did
he even fully understand what was implied? Likely not, as you or I would.

That police this week found a house of horrors, with dead and starving animals galore, feces
throughout the home and deplorable conditions enough to post the home unsuitable for human
occupation, will lead to additional charges of animal cruelty being placed against the retarded man
and his mother, who lived there as well. The police and code enforcement officer were shocked to
find the French home in such squalor when police went to the home to charge him for reportedly
touching the boy four days earlier.

While mental health staff accompanied the retarded man to court last time to promise in home
supports to monitor him and keep him from needing incarceration, it is unknown what happened to
mental health supports since he had until 2013 to remain on Megan's List. It is believed that those
supports, at least on paper, continued, since as little ago as two weeks he was in the company of
someone he identified as his staff at a high school football game.

If charges are dropped next week against the retarded man or he does not face additional time in
jail, mental health services need to find him funds
somewhere to live in a supervised group home,
where it is clean and where someone will monitor him adequately. It is obvious that he cannot live
with his mom any longer and that mental health services,
pathetically, beyond a shadow of doubt,
failed him.

All county mental health/mental retardation case management monitoring forms, regardless of the
funding source, ask the basic question whether the consumer's home is clean and free of offensive
odors. Tony's clearly was not. And that was so
blatantly obvious, even from at least 150-200 feet
from the home's front door.

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