For your “wrongly accused of sex offenses” files, from the Kansas City Star:

Brodie Leap was 5 years old when he told what he now calls The Lie.

He says he knew it was a lie the second he said it. He is 31 now, living in Oakview in Clay County, and he has known his entire life that it wasn’t true.

“Have you been touched down there?” his mother asked him.

Leap insists he told the truth at first. “No,” he recalls repeating to his mother as she asked him time and again. The date was Dec. 1, 1989. Karen Leap, then 36, was asking her son about his father and her ex-husband, Earnest Leap.

The couple, separated for three years, had just ended their seven-year marriage that September. Despite their bitter parting, the parents received joint custody of Brodie and his toddler brother, Josh.

But Earnest Leap was eventually named the primary custodial parent. So Brodie says his mother continued to push.

“Have you been touched down there?”

The answer that Brodie Leap finally uttered, and which for the past eight years he has declared in affidavits he felt hounded to give, continues to haunt the life of his father, who both Leap brothers attest has been the most supportive and positive force in their lives.

“The only stable component of my childhood was the immutable presence of my father,” Josh Leap, 27, a computer data scientist in St. Louis, wrote in support of Earnest Leap.

Said Brodie Leap, “I live with the guilt of that lie every day of my life.”

A Navy veteran and one-time financial adviser, he recently came back to the Kansas City area and moved in with his dad, in part to take on the mission of his father’s exoneration and pardon.

At the very least, he hopes to get his father’s name erased from the rolls of Missouri’s registered sex offenders. By state statute, Earnest Leap is required to stay on the registry for life.

In many states, it’s next to impossible to get yourself removed from these lists, even in cases of mistaken identity. New residency restrictions for sex offenders in Missouri bar them from living within 1,000 feet of a school or daycare center, even if they’ve lived in their homes for decades.

According to the Star piece, Leap took an Alford plea, which allowed him to maintain his innocence, but had the effect of a conviction. He says he did it to spare his son the pain of having to testify against him. He was sentenced to three years. But that was before the creation of these sex offender lists, which were then applied retroactively. His life has been hell ever since.

The Leaps have for years been deeply involved in dog rescue. In late August, Natalie Leap received a two-sentence letter from a group for which they had volunteered.

“This weekend your husband’s criminal record was brought to our attention,” it stated. “Given the nature of his conviction and our involvement in the community (our group) can no longer continue our relationship with you or your family.”

It’s a miniscule example, Leap said, of what they experience.

“I’ve been harassed by police officers, co-workers, bosses, neighbors,” Leap said. To everyone who looks on the Internet, he said, he knows he’s seen as the area pervert.

I’ve recommended this movie before, but for a really moving account of what can happen when children are encouraged to make false accusations of sexual crimes, check out “Witch Hunt”, which documents the hysteria that erupted in Bakersfield, California in the 1990s. There too, children were corrupted into testifying against their own mothers and fathers, and have since spent their lives trying to clear their parents’ names.