By: Joe Strupp
An attorney for a former school board member who killed himself this week amid child molestation charges said news coverage in the Naples (Fla.) Daily News has been balanced, but blasted its editorial page.
“I think the news stories were fair,” attorney Mike McDonnell told the paper in a story published Thursday. “I do think whoever writes the editorials, the editorial board, has an incredible ignorance of the legal process and a self-righteousness you can smell all the way to Immokalee.”
McDonnell would not elaborate when contacted by E&P or cite specific editorials, but a review of Daily News archives indicates the paper ran three editorials on the deceased suspect, Nelson Faerber, since his arrest April 29 on charges that he had molested a 12-year-old boy he reportedly met through his son’s Little League team. Faerber was found dead in a local park Tuesday with an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
One of the editorials, published May 1, said that Faerber, who was also a well-known local defense attorney, should be glad that he was using the same court system he had put so much faith in as an attorney. “Faerber, who has proclaimed his innocence and vowed he would never harm a child, should be as relieved as the public that justice will be given a chance in a public forum.”
The other editorials argued that Faerber should not be let out on bond after he had tried to contact the alleged victim’s family and attempted suicide.
Editorial Page Editor Jeff Lytle could not be reached for comment because he is on vacation and Editor Phil Lewis did not return calls Thursday afternoon. On Wednesday, Lewis stood behind both the paper’s news stories and editorials in Thursday’s paper, stating, “I defend our news coverage and our editorials about a case that’s very important to the community.”
Investigators told the paper that Faerber had left behind several notes prior to his death, including one that attacked the paper, according to Lewis. He said the notes were not released by police, but Faerber’s attorney faxed one of them to the paper. “It is a page and a half long, but only about a quarter of it mentions the paper,” Lewis said. “The rest take shots at other people in the community.”
The portion that mentioned the Daily News had said: “It is sad that in our society, and especially in a fairly educated community, simply the accusation of sexual misconduct is enough to destroy an individual. Though I was fortunate enough in my career to successfully defend many people who were falsely accused of molestation, I never saw a single one of these individuals fully recover, from a psychological standpoint.”
The note continued, saying, “it is even more disturbing when an irresponsible press causes the families of the accused to suffer so much hurt and humiliation — all in the name of selling newspapers and advertisement.”
The Daily News had withheld a related story nearly four years ago when a former Naples man had filed a civil suit accusing Faerber of sexually assaulting him in the 1980s when the man was in high school. Lewis said the paper had a story set to go, but chose not to run it after the man withdrew the lawsuit just hours after filing it.