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Curley v NAMBLA

By Wendy Kaminer

        Finally.  Robert and Barbara Curley have dropped their 8 year old
wrongful death action against 18 alleged members of the North American Man Boy Love Association (NAMBLA.)  The crime that provoked this lawsuit was horrendous: the murder of the Curley's 10 year old son, Jeffrey.  But there was never the slightest bit of evidence, or even a reason to suspect, that the defendants in this case had anything to do with it.  Jeffrey’s killers, who acted alone, are serving life sentences for murder. 

        What was the basis for the case against NAMBLA?  One of his killers, Charles Jaynes, had been a member of it; he possessed some NAMBLA literature and had allegedly viewed a NAMBLA website before the murder.  But the Curleys could point to no particular NAMBLA publication or statement that allegedly incited Jeffrey’s murder, not surprisingly. NAMBLA’s literature, some of which I’ve seen, included non-violent, soft core porn, and its website, (which I viewed shortly before it was taken down as a result of this case,) consisted largely of traditional political advocacy opposing “arbitrary” age of consent laws, while condemning sexual abuse and coercion.  All this speech was constitutionally protected and did not qualify as illegal incitement to violence.  (As I've noted previously, all in all, the NAMBLA website seemed less incendiary than many pasages in the Bible.)
 
        So, the Curley’s relied on the most tenuous and speculative of claims: they asserted, quite implausibly, that Jaynes had been a heterosexual before joining NAMBLA (which, even if coincidentally true, would have been irrelevant,) and they cited “the totality of the child-sex environment.”  You might as well sue an anti-abortion group, or the Catholic Church, for promoting the view that abortion is murder and creating an “environment” that encourages violence against abortion providers.

        Of course, it’s easy to understand why Jeffrey's grieving parents would hold NAMBLA indirectly responsible for his death.  But reason and respect for the law, not grief, are supposed to prevail in court.  Any lawyer of above average intelligence who stayed awake during a first year constitutional law class would know that there was absolutely no merit to the Curley’s wrongful death action.  They seem to have been badly advised by their lawyer, Larry Frisoli, badly used by the Thomas More Law Center, a conservative advocacy group that assisted in the case, and badly misled by Judge George O’Toole who allowed the wrongful death action to continue for 8 years (allowing the names of NAMBLA’s members to be disclosed,) despite the obvious and utter lack of legal merit to the case.

        This was a case based on emotion, not law, and it tested our commitment to civil liberty.  Thanks to the American’s Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts (on the board of which I serve) for ably and bravely representing the speech and associational rights of NAMBLA defendants; in doing so, it represented your rights too.

CORRECTION:  I originally and mistakenly wrote that the case against NAMBLA had been dismissed; it was dropped by the plaintiffs; and I mistakenly referred to the rape and murder of Jeffrey Curley, when there was no clear evidence of rape in the case.  Thanks to Carol Rose, Executive Director of the ACLU of Massachusetts for correcting me.
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