Is there action we can take regarding possible defamation?
Question Details: While walking our dog recently, a neighbor thought she saw my adult disabled son doing something to her mailbox. She ran after him, taking pictures. He asked her to stop but she didn't, so he knocked the phone from her hand. She continued taking pictures all the way to our house and then called police. She accused him of tampering with her mailbox and knocking her phone to the ground causing the case to break. The police took her report than came to my son for his side of the story. He said the mail box door was wide open and he looked inside. He never even touched the mailbox and there was no mail in the box. The mailman was still a few houses away from delivering her mail. The charge was assault and battery for making her drop the phone. My son offered to pay for the broken case, which she declined but she also declined to press charges. As far as the mailboxes, the police just advised him to not even look at an open mailbox. Later that day there was a post on the neighborhood network on line used by many in this area. Her husband posted that there was a mail thief living in the neighborhood and that he had gone through several mailboxes and taken mail. He also gave his description, including the part about him walking the dog and named the street where we live (not a very long street). Now we feel as though our son is being victimized and judged unfairly. There was no charge having to do with the mail - his or anyone else's. It's like having been convicted and a sign hung around his neck saying, "thief". What action can we take? We just bought this house about 3 months ago and now my husband wants to move so that our son is not judged by all the neighbors who read the post. I want a lawyer to send a letter to this couple advising them that they can't publicize untrue and unproven crimes and have them post a retraction or have them face legal recourse, if there is one. Maybe defamation of character or something? What can we do?
Is your son legally competent to manage his own affairs or not? That will determine whether he (if he is legally competent) or you (if he is not, and you are still his legal guardian[s] even though he is an adult) have a potential defamation claim.
Defamation is the making of false factual statements which damage someone's reputation. Posting that your son as stolen mail when he did not is defamation, since it is such a false factual claim that damages a person's reputation. Based on what you write, you could potentially sue your neighbors for defamation; you should be able to at a minimum send them in good faith a letter stating that you will sue them for defamation unless they post a retraction, explaining that they were mistaken in what they posted, and do not again post or say orally that your son is stealing mail.