A Nova Scotia teenager who says he was wrongly named in the Rehtaeh Parsons case wants to clear his name.
Adam Barnes, 19, said he wasn’t at the party where Rehtaeh Parsons was allegedly sexually assaulted in 2011. However, he said some online posters are claiming he is involved and have distributed his picture.
According to Parsons' mother, four boys sexually assaulted her daughter when she was 15. Rehtaeh was then said to have been mocked by classmates, enduring relentless harassment and humiliation after a photo of the attack was circulated at her Cole Harbour, N.S. school and on social media.
On April 7, Rehtaeh was taken off life support after trying to take her own life a few days earlier. The 17-year-old was buried last Saturday.
Police investigated, but no charges were laid. Since Rehtaeh's death, the case has been reopened.
Barnes said being labelled falsely as a rapist has ruined his life.
“I've nothing to do with this case. I was not involved with anything with the police with this. My name got thrown out there because — actually I don't know why my name got thrown out there. I have a theory because I have pictures with the other boys ... I am friends with them. but right now this is bringing me into fear and worry because my life right now is falling apart because of this,” Barnes told CBC News.
Rehtaeh’s mother, Leah Parsons, has called on people not to name names while the criminal investigation is taking place. She has said there was a photo being spread around that pictured someone not involved. She did not specifically say if that person was Barnes.
“I would like to reiterate not to spread photos of the rapists around Facebook. This is harmful to our case and the photo being spread has someone in it that was not involved. All Facebook statuses posted on this page are made by me ... Rehtaeh’s Mom (Leah) Please respect our family wishes,” she said in a statement on Facebook.
Barnes said he’s always looking behind him, worried for his safety.
“It is really ruining my life because I had to deactivate my Facebook because of this. Going out in public and stuff, I always have to worry about who recognizes me ... I always have to look out, behind my back all the time,” he said.
Halifax privacy lawyer David Fraser said wrongfully naming someone is grounds for a defamation lawsuit.
“You do have the possibility of a real witch hunt. You do have the possibility where harm could happen to these individuals, whether they're suspects or not, whether they're appropriately named or not,” said Fraser.
Barnes said he understands the motivation for naming names, but said, “This is wrong. You don’t just put someone else’s name out there.”
CBC News agreed not to show a photo of Barnes for fear he would be targeted.
Police have urged people not to publicly accuse anyone in the case. They've also warned against any sort of vigilante action.
Group claiming to be Anonymous issues statement
A group claiming to be hacktivists Anonymous released a statement Friday saying members are not satisfied with the Nova Scotia government's handling of the case.
The group also said Rehtaeh's family has been harassed by posters being put up in their neighbourhood in support of the boys allegedly involved in the case.
"Rehtaeh's family continues to endure harassment and intimidation at the hands of these young men and their so-called supporters. And your inquiry omits critical pieces of the puzzle, all designed to safeguard your power. We call upon the public to speak loudly to this conduct and remind her family and the world that we are still here. What is being done is not yet enough," the statement read.
"Instead of seizing this chance to learn and educate, you have responded by dragging your feet, protecting your own interests, and acting with unrepentant cynicism. The independent inquiry you have ordered is but a shade of what is required to get to the bottom of this case. Rehtaeh was failed not only by the police, prosecutors, and school board. She was failed by her school, her hospital, her mental health care system, her community, and you."
The group listed new requirements they wish to have met including expanding the scope of the inquiry, that the inquiry be made public, and that Justice Minister Ross Landry issue a public apology for his failure to act on Rehtaeh's case until forced.