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35 Comments

news

Rosie DiManno Libels the Dead Anyway

David Dewees
Photograph of David Dewees from the Toronto Police.

On Saturday morning, David Dewees killed himself. On October 1, two days before, Toronto Police had charged the Jarvis Collegiate teacher with two counts of invitation to sexual touching and two counts of luring. The police allege that “between July 2008 and July 2009, [Dewees] befriended two boys while working at the Ontario Pioneer Camp in Port Sydney, Ontario,” and that “he had inappropriate contact with them over the Internet.” (The photo at right, and those charges, are from the police press release.) As is often the case, the accusation made the news, including the Star, which misreported that Dewees was charged with sexual assault of the two boys.
And now Dewees is dead. Guessing the precise cause or causes for his suicide would not just be callous, but useless, since we can’t know whether he jumped in front of a train at High Park Station because he was guilty and knew his life was ruined, or because he wasn’t guilty and knew his life was ruined, or because of all the media attention, or because he had a history of suicidal thoughts, or because there was something els—oh, wait, the Star‘s Rosie DiManno has figured it out: Dewees was guilty!


DiManno—who we, as human beings, are not huge fans ofwrote this morning’s column about Dewees. It begins: “David Dewees died an innocent man.” Or did he?
Buckle up:

Our law affords no protection from libel to the dead. So we will assume by his actions, and for the purpose of exploring this awful event, that Dewees was guilty as charged; that the Grade 10 English and Latin teacher and volunteer camp counsellor did indeed invite sexual touching—as opposed to actual touching—from boys, luring them on the Internet. Police said he’d been removed from his counselling post at the Christian-based Ontario Pioneer Camp in Port Sydney, Ont., after the emails surfaced.

And:

His kink, a sexual attraction to boys, was the nub of the thing and it was out there in the public domain. His reputation was in ruins, even if many students still admired and respected the guy. In the way of these matters, that reputation would not have been resurrected either, in the event of acquittal.
A sexual compulsion for minors is hard-wired in the brain. There’s little Dewees could have done to alter his thoughts…

And:

If Dewees was aroused by boys, prudence demanded he put himself far from temptation, although there’s really no such thing as safe distance in an online universe. Yet he taught pubescent boys and volunteered at a youth camp. He was a figure of trust and authority. That was his betrayal.

And:

He was flirting with public exposure and disaster.
It must have both thrilled and sickened him.

On popular links sharing site Reddit, the column is one of the most discussed items, with many commenters emailing DiManno with various levels of decorum, and some claiming to have received emails back from her. One alleged response: “Don’t be daft. You know very well why Mr. Dewees killed himself.” Which, if DiManno said it—and if she didn’t, her column said the same thing for her—is a spectacularly and measurably wrong thing to assert.
But in the tidy world of Rosie DiManno, newspaper columnists can read minds, and suicide is a guilty plea. In the tidy world of Rosie DiManno, she is judge, jury, and executioner.
Thanks to readers David C and Michael Lawrie for the heads-up.

Comments

  • http://www.guesswork.ca Patrick Metzger

    The story is sad for all concerned, and it seems unlikely now that the full truth will ever be known. I can’t imagine what journalistic purpose Di Manno or the Star thought was being served with that column.

  • http://undefined Chris Charabaruk

    You forgot the DiManno Watch tag.

  • http://undefined Chris Charabaruk

    By the way, quite a few other redditors appear to be getting a stock response from DiManno:

    “Ah, yes, the pro-pedophilia constituency heard from. Your email is being forward [sic] to police.”

  • http://www.bitpicture.com Marc Lostracco

    There’s an irony in the sound DiManno must make as she coughs up chunks of nicotine-laced lung, flecking her keyboard with the malodorous offal as she works with tawny fingertips: “Hack, hack, hack!”

  • http://undefined Gauldar

    Guilty until proven innocent… it’s not an uncommon mind set. It won’t matter if the evidence comes in later about what actually happened; if proven wrong this columnist will just issue a blank-faced apology which everyone will ignore, and then life will go on from there.

  • http://undefined wesshepherd

    Wow, so much for an unbiased presentation of the facts. Or maybe those are just the facts as she sees them. I agree with the first comment—what purpose does a column which is almost pure speculation actually serve?

  • http://undefined woowah

    Toronto would be a better place if Rosie stopped writing.

  • http://paul.kishimoto.name Paul Kishimoto

    I subscribe to the theory that she was sent forward to offer the lie, “There was no sensationalism,” because it would have been more blatantly false coming directly from the editorial staff.
    …or maybe she thinks she’s the Paedofinder General.

  • http://www.torontocitylife.com/ torontocitylife

    I don’t agree with the article; she’s certainly jumped far to get to the conclusions she comes to, but I’d like to point out two things:
    1) She’s a columnist, not a reporter (Wes, looking at you here). That means she writes her opinion; her own take on the news. It’s *meant* to be biased!
    2) If you (plural) hate her so much, why are you reading and commenting, in depth, even to the point of dedicating an entire Torontoist post to her article? I think someone’s got a crush! :D

  • http://undefined neuromonkey

    My response to Ms. DiManno was critical, but I did not resort to name-calling or logically indefensible accusations. Her response:
    “Ah yes, good to hear from the pro-pedophile constituency.”
    To which I replied:
    “I see. To further excuse your own journalistic irresponsibility and lack of professionalism you accuse me of being a pedophile sympathizer. Why not go all the way and accuse me of being a pedophile?
    Stay classy, Rosie. Please, do the world a service and find another line of work.”

  • http://undefined Lands Down

    Her reponse to the criticism is unbelievable. Let’s hope the Toronto Star censures her in the same way it did Zerbiasis.

  • http://undefined fritz33

    I e-mailed Ms. DiManno about her assumed role as judge and jury. Here was her response: “You are defending a pedophile. I seriously hope you are not a teacher.” Offensive – yes…surprising – no. I forwarded her e-mail to the editor and publisher of The Star and they have yet to address the contents of her response to me.

  • http://undefined Chris Charabaruk

    Perhaps it’s time to start hitting up on advertisers in the Star, letting them know that Rosie DiManno is losing the paper readers, readers who would otherwise see their ads.

  • http://www.bitpicture.com Marc Lostracco

    You’d think a journalist of DiManno’s upstanding, exceptional calibre would know the difference between pedophilia and hebephilia. Pedophilia is a sexual attraction to prepubescent children; hebephilia is a sexual attraction to pubescent ones. Ogressephilia, on the other hand, is a sexual attraction to…oh, I won’t say it.

  • http://undefined jabba52

    Well, just to encourage anyone to do the same, I stopped reading the Star because of DiManno. I’m a bit of a freak in that way I suppose. I used to like her, so I don’t quite know what’s been going on with her for the past few years. She seems really nuts now.

  • http://undefined Ellen_R

    This woman has so much hate inside her. I wonder why the Star provides a forum for such a sociopath.
    I don’t know if the dead man’s family will sue her and the Star. I wish them peace in this harrowing time they must be going through.
    I don’t think we, as readers, can do anything about this legally. But I will contact the Star to tell them how mean spirited, vindictive, and spiteful her column is. I will also call advertisers who buy ads in the Star and tell them that they are supporting the sale of slander and the lowest kind of tabloid journalism.

  • http://undefined jeeves

    What I want to know is when did we become a society that “shoots first and asks questions later”? Have we gone back to the Dark Ages where the justice system (i.e., innocence until proven guilty) did not exist?
    Having worked with and known Dewees I can attest and concur with the reports that he was an upstanding and upright citizen of society.
    Reports from a fellow camp staff member was that the memorial was highly attended (I was not able to attend due to prior obligations) by camp staff and Jarvis Collegiate staff. What also gets me is they say that he was “in contact with [these kids] through e-mail” and only reportedly in physical contact with them. Are we not aware of the fact that in this technologically savvy day and age that anyone can hack into anyone’s e-mail address (which the Toronto Sun’s Tamara Cherry [I believe the name was] posted by the way [apparently it's 'policy in case any other victims had been in contact with the accused'])?
    One thing I will say is that the camp in question enrolls campers from all walks of life (ranging from the standard family unit [i.e., both parents intact] to abused and behaviour-questionable children). When children are in question often the victims’ word is taken as bond vs. the accused. Any word, hug, pat on the back, etc. can be misconstrued in any way as an “assault on one’s person”. Even in the standard workplace these days one must mind their P’s and Q’s lest their words be misconstrued as harassment.
    The sad fact of the matter is that, as I aforementioned, Dewees was considered guilty as charged without even having a chance to plead his case. If he had been prone to assaults on young adults/children why wouldn’t something like this also occurred at his place of employment (a high school that happened to have the same demographic as the camp)?
    Sadly we will never know of his innocence as it’s evidently too late. I will say this much to the accusers “karma is a bitch and if this was just some sort of revenge and exploitation scheme it will come back to haunt you”.
    RIP David Dewees. A upstanding man gone too soon.

  • mister j

    I’m not at all surprised by Dimanno’s article – the paper’s love to print sensationalism because that’s what sells the paper (this article is still the ‘most read’ on the Star’s website).
    But I hope that people reading Torontoist’s critique here and the sensible comments will see this “charged=guilty” logic elsewhere. So much ‘breaking news’ is about someone being ‘charged by police’ and yet the rest of the story assumes the person’s guilt. It’s the same with police propaganda about ‘weekend blitzes,’ the ‘revolving door of the justice system’ and police demanding more power.

  • http://undefined EastAnon

    Sending emails to Rosie DiManno will only validate the Star.
    The only way to make clear that this behaviour is not acceptable is to email the advertisers in the Star. Make it hurt.

  • http://undefined wesshepherd

    Point taken, torontocitylife.
    So presumably, by extension, she can take any group of circumstances and twist them to suit her own viewpoint without proof or supporting evidence, have it published and walk away without taking any responsibility for her statements. Interesting.

  • http://undefined JMcCormick
  • http://undefined Robsonian

    I spoke with a friend of mine about Rosie’s article yesterday. He told me not to read it if I could help it, because it would only make me mad. He was right.
    I’m glad Torontoist took the opportunity to skewer her absurdly irresponsible writing style yet again. Keep it up.
    I knew David, a little bit. It’s important to me that his life – one of high achievement, unending intellectual curiosity and a career as a teacher that was, by all accounts, both highly rewarding to him and his students – NOT be muddled up with the tragic circumstances of his last 48 hours.
    The Globe ran an article about the difficulty that his friends, colleagues and students were having coming to terms with his arrest and sudden death. That’s an article worth reading. It operates on the level of fact. So to, do most opinion columns worth reading. Opinion isn’t a licence to print fiction.
    It isn’t just the fact that the man was charged, not convicted which is important here. He was a person, well loved and respected by a great many people. His death was extremely untimely and very sad. We should not be ashamed to mourn his passing under any circumstances.

  • http://undefined fischerville

    Most people seem not to get it: “innocent until proven guilty” is very strictly a law and justice thing and has no bearing whatsoever on comment or opinion or newspapers.

    Rosie has done crime reporting long enough to know that when charges such as these are brought, it’s not a frivolous thing, and the evidence is not circumstantial.

    I think it’s awful that the Star mis-reported the charges, and simply tragic if that was Mr. Dewees’ tipping point. And personally, i don’t like the tone of the column. However, if you find yourself protesting “he wasn’t even convicted!!”, you’re missing the point.

  • http://undefined piccola

    Wes, she can’t make stuff up, and in most situations, she wouldn’t be able to write this kind of opinion. But the law’s on her side, in the sense that libel doesn’t cover dead people.
    Curious to see how the Star will react to the way she responded to readers, though.

  • http://undefined the false confession

    by Ray Collingham
    So much can be said about the circumstances surrounding Mr. David Dewees’ suicide. Was he guilty and felt depressed over his actions or was he innocent and could not face his peers, family, friends and students after the media labelled him a sex offender?
    Should ones identity be made public when faced with an allegation of a sexual crime? On one hand, yes, the public should be made aware that if there is a previously convicted sexual predator out on bail or roaming the streets, as a parent I am sure you would want to be informed. On the other hand, what about those people who are not guilty and have never been previously charged. False accusations are real and are becoming more frequent as people realize that nothing happens to you after falsely accusing someone. Once accused of a sexual crime you are stigmatized, possibly for life. Contrary to Canadian law, you are immediately labelled and at least, suspected of being guilty. The realism that you might be innocent rarely crosses your mind as you read titles in the newspaper like “accused pedophile” or “Acclaimed Sex offender”. But the truth is that false allegations are very real and are extremely destructive to the person accused and to his/her family members and friends.
    When I was arrested in July of 2007, my name and picture were publicized throughout the Canadian news. I was front page news in many cities. Headlines with words such as ‘pedophile’, ‘sex offender’, and ‘child predator’ have all been associated with my name and my picture. I had no history of sexual assault, I had no complaints of sexual misconduct, there was no reason to make my identity known. The police will tell you that the public needs to know if there was other ‘victims’. They needed to inform the public so other children, if any, could come forward.
    Having said that, there is a time and a place for everything. The time to make some one’s identity known to the public, in some circumstances, should only be made if there is an admission of guilt or the court have found the accused guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Once this decision is made, only then should pictures and names become available. Then the time for other victims may come forward.
    Publishing an accused person’s identity, when there is no history and only one complainant, is an injustice, not only to the accused but to the accused person’s family, friends and peers. My family was devastated. I was ‘fired’ publicly. The organizations I was involved in all suspended my memberships publicly. Facing everyone I knew was very difficult. I was embarrassed, humiliated and depressed. I lost my career, as did my partner. I lost my life savings, everything I owned. I lost the innocence I had with working with children. My actions were/are almost always analyzed. Did I stare to long, where was I looking, should I hug my nephew, how long should I hug him, it was terrible.
    I was acquitted in July 2009. I thought after my acquittal I would feel some sort of mental relief, in some aspects I do. The uncertainty of not knowing whether or not I was going to be spending the next few years in prison was relieving, but the feelings of wondering what people still really think, the feelings of mistrusting people and their motives all remain. The after math psychologically has had a tremendous effect on not only myself, but all of the people closest to me.
    For Mr. Dewees, we will never know if he is innocent or guilty. But if we believe in our system of justice he must remain innocent. It is his family that will now have to face all the feelings of humiliation and the wonderment of what happened or didn’t happen.
    Did David Dewees commit suicide because his identity was made public? Could he face his students, his co-workers and friends, knowing the stigma attached to being accused of a sexual crime? We will never know but I can sure tell you I had thought about ending it all. Following through with it may be a different story, but I can sympathize with Mr. Dewees in his feelings.
    Our laws need to reflect the sensitivity of sexual crimes against children and the person accused. Guilty or innocent, this crime is life altering. Society has a role in protecting the innocent against further injustices.

  • http://undefined Alogon

    No, you are missing the point.
    The reason that “innocent until proven guilty” exists as a law is not only for one’s treatment under the legal system but also a matter of social policy. By your reasining it is acceptable to try someone is a court of public opinion – without fact. You say DiManno has enough experience to know that “when charges such as these are brought, it’s not a frivolous thing, and the evidence is not circumstantial” but she has no evidence that is not known to everyone else – and that is next to nothing. All we know is the police say he wrote suspicious emails, the police say that victims have given credible stories. Well, the police don’t find fact, a court does.
    Look, the point is very clearly, in a case that is so sensitive as one involving allegations involving sexual misconduct with children it is a social death to be found guilty but no less so to merely be publicly accused. Even with acquittal, ihs job working with children would be done. No parent would forgive or “take the chance”. It is incumbent on the justice system and anyone who claims a “moral responsibility” of reporting news for public good to make absolutely sure of the facts prior to release. DiManno knows nothing more than any of us and yet condemns a man who no longer has a voice. Based on what? Her own bias and ignorance, that is what.
    You would sing a different tune if you were in the unenviable position that this dead man. Would you feel ok with the newspapers not only skewering you but misreporting the facts and making the allegations even more heinous? Sure, your family and friends would understand though about the whole situation and guilty vs. innocent and what not, right? Don’t count on it. We have seen before what lazy and bias reporting can do.
    No, innocent until proven guilty is fundamental to our being as a nation, it can’t stop at the court room door.

  • http://www.torontocitylife.com/ torontocitylife

    Basically, yes.
    Again, I’m not siding with her, but if it’s legal and if the Star’s standing behind her, then she’s actually doing her job.
    I’m going to suggest that your problem isn’t with Rosie DiManno but with the law and, to a lesser degree, the Star. If she were just some crazy woman screaming on the street corner, you might raise an eyebrow. But the fact that she has her own column in the Star and she’s allowed to go off half-cocked (quarter-cocked even), that’s really bothersome. Am I right?
    Look, clearly people are able to make up their own minds on this case. For anyone who reads Ms. DiManno’s column as exclusive gospel truth, it doesn’t matter what you have to say about it. For the rest of us, who cares?
    And let’s have a look at the Torontoist reaction to all of this … comment city! If the DiManno article was sensationalism then this post is the slug that feeds on it. The way to put an end to both is simply to ignore it and trust that others have enough brain cells to do the same. If Rosie ain’t selling papers, I’m sure she’ll eventually get the pink slip. There’s lots of stuff you can do if you want to speed up the process, but I suspect that Torontoist isn’t your best vehicle for most of these things. You’re preaching to the choir.
    As for me, I enjoy a little ranting and raving and think that we don’t have nearly enough in our local news. Everyone tries to pretend to be objective but that’s just a wholesale myth. To me, “objective journalism” is far more of an insidious twisting of facts than columns. Even the order of sentences in a standard news report is an editorial choice (not to mention the choice of words, etc.) The newspaper column is therefore more honest than a standard news report–no pretense of impartiality.
    And in regards to your statement about twisting facts, etc., etc. I like to think I’m both intelligent enough and critical enough to judge for myself. To fear that inaccurate reporting will somehow irreparably affect the reader, affect the outcome of law cases, etc. suggests you don’t think very highly of the Star audience’s ability to do this (or does she simply require corporal punishment for her views?). Rosie DiManno comes across as a kook, but as an avid Star reader, I’m feeling a bit insulted by the implications of your statements.

  • http://www.torontocitylife.com/ torontocitylife

    Haha! You did it too!
    To paraphrase: Didn’t wanna read it, was warned it would make me mad, but I did it anyway and now I’m seething with rage!
    Seriously, the opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s indifference. If you read her column, that means you’re another pair of eyes on the Star’s website (or paper … or however you read it) — you’re supporting them and by proxy, her! It’s kinda like that Perez Hilton fellow (used loosely); people really seem to dislike him and yet he’s got an absurd following. I’d bet half of that comes from the “hater” crowd, but website traffic is website traffic.
    I’m not suggesting that people don’t take it up with the Star, and organizing an effort is a good way to get through, but reading the article and then coming here to complain isn’t awfully productive. I basically agree that she took a few too many liberties, and so do most of the commenters here, it seems. But unless you’re handing out lit torches around here, this mob is isn’t gonna go very far.

  • http://www.torontocitylife.com/ torontocitylife

    Exactly. The bottom line for newspapers is … the bottom line. Money. Cash. Subscribers. Readership. I’m certain that you’re not the only one to read the article critically (everyone here did, didn’t they?), which goes to show that Rosie DiManno really doesn’t have that much power over our opinions.
    I believe that’s a check, and I move the knight there … and that’s a mate! Or QED, or whatever you crazy college kids are using to end your arguments these days.

  • http://paul.kishimoto.name Paul Kishimoto

    Thanks for the link. The Iacobucci letter is particularly good.

  • http://undefined Robsonian

    a-ha to you, sir -
    I didn’t read Rosie’s article. I did read the highlighted passages reproduced here, and I trust that the author of this article captured the essence of her column accurately.
    And, I like the Toronto Star. I don’t believe the newspaper should be boycotted, or anything like that. I do believe that there is a wide, deep chasm between writing an opinion column based on facts and writing a piece of quasi-fantasy/fiction riddled with phrases like: “It must have both thrilled him and sickened him.”
    Rosie starts by assuming David’s guilt, but that’s only the first in a long stream of assumptions. We clearly have no concept, whatever, of whether or not David was thrilled, sickened or indifferent towards his plight.

  • http://undefined Dan Gouge

    If I still had a subscription to the Star, I would have cancelled it over this. Anyone who works with kids will tell you that an accusation, and even JUST an accusation usually ends your career. Even if there is never a conviction or any kind of disciplinary action, almost no teacher ends up returning to the classroom after something like this. I cannot imagine that an innocent person in the teaching profession would feel any more sanguine over these kinds of charges than a guilty one.

  • http://undefined wesshepherd

    Sorry, I don’t see why you should feel insulted. You decided to educate me on the difference between a journalist and a columnist, fair enough. I merely attempted to expand on your logic. Nowhere in my reply did I ever say that her readers were dense enough to actually believe or agree with her tripe.

  • http://undefined cranked21

    From torontocitylife:
    “For anyone who reads Ms. DiManno’s column as exclusive gospel truth, it doesn’t matter what you have to say about it. For the rest of us, who cares?emphasis added
    True enough. Far be it for any of us to, you know, actually care about DiManno’s omnipresent brand of irresponsibility, or to know that most people can see her utter gutter nonsense for the tower of reckless stupidity it is, and to know said readers have the ability to file it where it belongs. But I think it’s more than fair to rail against her bully pulpit.
    You’ve got a really nice high horse there, TCL, but for everyone’s sake, put on some clothes. And find a chess set without a malevolently egocentric tilt.

  • joe

    Dimano sounds like a bitch