What About The Other Side Of The Noirin Shirley Accusation?

This will not be an easy post to write. I’ve talked extensively this morning with Sara about this post and we both agree that something, perhaps nothing, but something doesn’t sit quite right.

Google Technical writer Noirin Shirley was allegedly sexually assualted by Florian Leibert from Twitter.

He brought me in to the snug, and sat up on a stool. He grabbed me, pulled me in to him, and kissed me. I tried to push him off, and told him I wasn’t interested (I may have been less eloquent, but I don’t think I was less clear). He responded by jamming his hand into my underwear and fumbling.

Contrary the uproar on Twitter about this I am actually going to go ahead and say allegedly.

As a man, I’m probably going to get slaughtered for this opinion, but I see very, very few people giving Florian Leibert the benefit of the doubt.

If Noirin was assaulted, as she claims, then, truely, this is a terrible thing and Florian should be brought before the authorities to answer for it.

The problem lies with the fact, that, at the time of writing there has been no mention of getting the authorities involved.

In fact, while Noirin Shirley claims he shoved his hand down her pants in the snug of a bar, she also claims… well, just read her post, as I said in a comment on her post, her description of her own behaviour that night is nothing short of a goldmine for a defense lawyer.

Far be it from me to suggest that flirtatious behavior is ever an excuse for people taking matters into their own hands without permission, I would never advocate that, yet something about all of this sits very poorly in my stomach.

First, Florian Leibert is currently undergoing a trail by internet. Not a trail by jury, or in front of a judge, but a trial by internet, where the only “facts” are those presented by someone who, as yet, has not gotten the authorities involved.

In fact, not only did she not get the authorities involved when this occured, she stayed at the bar, she went back to her room and slept there with other people without saying that it happened. In fact, the first mention of it didn’t arise until an email the next day, after which she went on stage and danced, and then traveled home and wrote a blog post publicly accusing and crucifiying a man without offering any reason for her claims to be taken as credible.

I’m sorry, but if you’ve been sexually assaulted, the first step is contacting the authorities. The second is probably your lawyer and unless your lawyer is a complete and utter tit, he’s going to recommend you don’t write about it online for fear of opening yourself up to a lawsuit for liable or defamation.

Again, let me reiterate, I’m not saying that Noirin Shirley is lying, but something doesn’t sit right with me and I feel like I have to broach that.

The reason I have to broach it that if she isn’t telling the truth, she has just destroyed the reputation and career of Florian Leibert.

Things like sexual assault accusations follow people throughout life. They never get left behind regardless of the validity of the claim. I’m also sure you’ll agree with me that the accusation against Florian Leibert is more public that most.

Which brings me to my next point: the accusation.

TechCrunch covered this story. I’m still at odds with whether or not they should have covered this story. A story that at this point in time, is little more than an unsubstantiated accusation without the authorities even being called. Yet despite my feeling that TechCrunch just relegated itself to the levels of a tabloid rag, the comments section of the post did raise an interesting point.

This is not Noirin Shirleys first time accusing someone of this.

First, in Noirin’s post, she say the following:

It’s not the first time something like this has happened to me, at all.

Yet, while she describes her flirtatious behavior, sitting on bunch of guys laps, lying on her bed in the party she threw in her bedroom, she also absolves herself of sending out the wrong signals.

I’m tired of people who think I should wear something different. I’m tired of people who think I should avoid having a beer in case my vigilance lapses for a moment. I’m tired of people who say that guys can’t read me right and I have to read them, and avoid giving the wrong impression.

But I don’t give the wrong impression, and it’s simply not true that guys can’t read me right.

Why on Earth would she be tired of these things? Why would people be repeatedly saying them to her, unless… Unless there was some sort of grounds.

Maybe being incredibly flirtatious is just her way, but just like people can’t always understand other peoples advances, motivations or intentions, can you expect everybody to understand that you being incredibly flirtatious means you are NOT coming on to somebody.

Again, I must stress that flirtatious behavior is never an excuse for people taking matters into their own hands without permission, I would never advocate that, but I’m trying to get to a larger picture here and that picture is that I don’t think I believe Noirin Shirley’s claims.

Reinforcing that belief in me is her claim that Florian Leibert’s alleged actions were little more than an annoyance to here:

it is the first time I’ve spoken out about it in this way, because I’m tired of the sense that some idiot can ruin my day and never have to answer for it.

Seriously, some random guy shoves his hand down your pants and starts fiddling with your crotch and it results in what can only be described as a blase response without calling the police? Most people would be screaming blue bloody murder!

To further my disbelief comes an anonymous comment on TechCrunch, and before you dismiss it for being anonymous, consider that Noirin Shirley hasn’t involved the authorites and her claims are unsubstantiated.

I used to move in the same circles as this woman and she is a bit of a Walter Mitty type. When she was at university she accused a man of raping her – and named him – on her university hosted blog. I believe her university threatened her with academic sanctions (or worse) if she didn’t remove the blog post. It was a long time ago so I don’t remember exactly but I don’t recall her filing any charges with police over that case. The fact that this is the second time she has done this sort of thing makes it difficult for me to believe the veracity of this story.

Trial by internet is NOT RIGHT. Go to the police, file charges and only then – if you are sure it’s legally ok to do so – name your attacker. I’m sorry to say this but this is exactly the sort of thing that makes it difficult for women who have been assaulted to bring their attacker to justice!

I know it might sound like I’m building a case against Noirin Shirley, I don’t mean to, it’s just that the handling of this entire thing is completely wrong.

Sexual assault is a criminal matter. It should be handled by the authorities. Only after the authorities have become involved should there be any thought of public accusation and the revealing of the names of those involved.

If she is lying, then regardless of his innocence, Florian Liebert’s reputation and career will be forever tainted. As such, he should be considering legal action and getting the authorities involved for liable and defamation. It might feel easier for him to just ignore it if she doesn’t bring charges, but if he does challenge it, he will at least have that vindication in court when it comes to his reputation.

If she is not lying, then I have to wonder why the authorities aren’t involved and why someone who is obviously as intelligent as she is would write a public blog post that would essentially destroy her chances of proving this in court?

Again, being a man, I know I’m going to get slaughtered for this approach. How dare I presume that their might be another side to the story that conflicts with the female “victim”?

Regardless, I’m happy with this post because, most people are overlooking the possibility that Florian Leibert may be the victim here and until the authorities are involved he deserves the benefit of the doubt.

UPDATE : Since writing this the story has disappeared from TechCrunch. It looks like they decided to pull it.

UPDATE November 7th 07:03 AM: Noirin Shirley has updated her post yesterday to add the following:

ETA: My heartfelt thanks to the Atlanta police for their sensitivity and professionalism.

No mention of if charges will be pressed, what is going to happen or how things will proceed from here.

I am glad to see that the authorities are finally involved in this, however, it still begs the question of why the post was published prior to contacting the Atlanta police.

UPDATE November 8th 2010: TechCrunch has a post explaining the reasoning behind their pulling of the post. I suggest you read it.


  1. says

    never mind trial by Internet as that is so 2001, now we have trial by Facebook and Twitter which let’s all of us see people being destroyed in real time. It more fun than feeding the Christians to the lions I guess.

    Of course Paul you know you have just walked up to a Social Media IED. Hopefully your balls will be in the same place after it explodes :)

    Personally this had no business showing up on a blog or Twitter until after the police had been brought in to investigate and the fact that they weren’t makes the whole thing highly questionable.

    • says

      Damn right about fearing for my balls mate. That is why this post was so difficult to write.

      It’s very hard to cut through the immediate empathy that occurs when someone claims to be a victim in a case like this and look at things from afar.

      • Mark says

        Being a woman, it gives an immediate advantage as peoples’ over-protective natures come out. The bigger problem lies in Law Enforcement, where the woman’s word is taken without any question. I’ve definitely taken the full brunt.

        A lot of people vilified me for posting the name of the nutjob who was harrassing me so badly. Claiming that I was giving her a “Trial by Internet.” Hell, for what was going on, I was having people come to me in public — and not to mention the constant harrassment by a large contingent of Internet junkies — accusing me of the things she’d said: I was a Murderer, I was a Serial Killer, I’d left a trail of bodies all the world, and she could prove it.

        The thing is with me, I generally don’t mention when things go awry. I keep my mouth shut and deal with it, until things are so bad it’s impossible NOT to say something. A lot of people see it as a bad move to stay silent, while others only attack my evntual defense. The fact is, you’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. The Internet is fickle, especially when given the kind of scrutiny I’ve been subject to the last couple of years.

        Amusingly, the stalker who’d been harrassing me with many of these claims made a bigger ass of herself in public than I ever did by naming her. She managed to talk herself right out of an argument, admitted that she’d “made it up” about dating me at all, and that nothing ever happened, but she’s still pissed that I put her name on the Internet. But ya know, she wasn’t public enough about that — nowhere near as public about her admission as she was about the accusations.

        The other funny thing thing is how many police charges the corpse of the woman I killed is racking up these days. You’d think a woman I’d killed would stay dead, ya know? *rolls eyes*

        • says

          “The bigger problem lies in Law Enforcement, where the woman’s word is taken without any question. I’ve definitely taken the full brunt. ”

          This is. erm, not remotely true.

          Crimes of a sexual nature – particularly rape and sexual assault – have a spectacularly low conviction rate – I believe lower than any other type of crime. This is generally because they come down to ‘he said, she said’ and the word of the accused is overwhelmingly taken over that of the accuser.

          Just look up the stats. The rape conviction rate in all countries is incredibly low.

          • AJ_Syrinx says

            “…This is generally because they come down to ‘he said, she said’ and the word of the accused is overwhelmingly taken over that of the accuser.

            Just look up the stats. The rape conviction rate in all countries is incredibly low. ”

            I have to agree. Unless you have DNA evidence on your person, or other substantial evidence, it is indeed a “he said/she said” situation.

          • Bobby Newmark says

            “This is generally because they come down to ‘he said, she said’ and the word of the accused is overwhelmingly taken over that of the accuser.”

            In the US, evidence of a crime must be “beyond a reasonable doubt” for a conviction. A single witness to a crime (the victim) simply does not meet that threshold. This is an unfortunate fact about the nature of sexual assault, in that there is rarely physical evidence, but it is not proof of bias against the accuser in the justice system.

  2. says

    Have to agree with you, Paul. This has not been handled correctly at all, but when has that ever stopped the Social Media Lynch Mob? It’s “hang them first, and then ask questions” with everyone on Twitter these days.

    Your post is well thought out, and it asks all the right questions. You can not accept accusations such as these at face value. It does not damn her, or her alleged attacker, it merely goes through the process of asking, “Why?”

    Some will say going to the authorities is scary, and numerous assaults go unreported each year due to fear. Why then did she choose to blog it?

    There’s a whole lot here that just doesn’t make sense.

    • says

      That’s half of what set the alarm bells ringing with me Sean. If you’re capable of bringing something as public as the social media realm is, then why not bring it to the authorities?

      • Nick Burch says

        Noirin did take the matter to the police. However, this is not the first time that she has been sexually assaulted, and in at least one previous occasion the police behaved absolutely shockingly towards her.

        Noirin was assaulted at her own conference – a conference she was helping to run, and the conference of the open source foundation that she is a director of. Immediately afterwards, she was very shocked (see Greg’s postings for confirmation). The next morning, she was still very very upset by it. I believe the blog post came from the anger and frustration that came out of it. I don’t believe the blog post was supposed to be an “internet smash-hit”, it was a way for her to explain to those people not at the event what had happened, and why we need to work together as a tech community to prevent that sort of thing occurring again.

        As I understand it, Noirin is meeting with the Atlanta police again today, before she flies home. (The original complaint was made to regular Atlanta PD officers, today should be speaking with a dedicated sex-crimes detective). Florian did not turn up to the conference on the Friday, and he’s ignoring the press (I know many press people are trying to reach him). Surely if your thesis were correct, and things didn’t play out exactly as Noirin described them, he’d have spoken up by now? He hasn’t though, so it looks like he does realise quite how wrong what he did was.

        • says

          No, if my point is correct Florian Leibert wouldn’t be saying anything to anybody except the authorities. He would not want to say anything that could potentially harm his defense, be used against him, be made to look like he was attempting to discredit Noirin or be misconstrued.If he is smart he has contacted a lawyer and been told to say “nothing at all” to the press or public.


          He hasn’t though, so it looks like he does realise quite how wrong what he did was.

          Aren’t you judging the guy without any evidence? Isn’t that the courts job? See my point?

          • AJ_Syrinx says

            The worst of the worst lawyer would tell Leibert to avoid making statements. It’s like you said, Liebert has a goldmine defense if he’s formally charged and tried. Why ruin that by speaking publicly? Let the lawyers take care of that.

        • Foo says

          The last thing someone accused of a crime should do is hold a press conference. The first thing is to contact a lawyer, and the first thing the lawyer will tell you is to keep your mouth shut. Even if you are innocent. Especially if you are innocent.

        • A guest from Google says

          “The next morning, she was still very very upset by it”.

          If you take a look at her Twitter account (http://twitter.com/noirins) you’ll see how she felt the next morning:
          1) 10:55AM: Totally Awesome Science! http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-11684375
          (a video showing “How to make Big Ben’s clock strike 13″)
          2) 11:51AM: “Yet it was also Camelot” Yes! *This* is why I love Apache! (Apache knights at round tables, http://zd.net/ciXbSw ) #ApacheCon

          Why would you enjoy tweeting about knights at the conference when you have been assaulted by a conference attendee the night before???

  3. says

    You have your timeline wrong about the bar and dancing and traveling. When it happened, she *did* tell people about it. I was there. At the room party and at the bar. She left the bar, and her specific departing words were “creepy stuff happened” and Bill, et al, got her safely back to her room. Did she tell them more specifics? I can’t say, but Bill would not have stayed with her if he wasn’t aware that something was wrong, so I would guess she did.

    And sheesh… she did tell somebody the next morning. Who says it has to be NOW. Has it ever happened to you? Do you know that you’d be in proper mental shape to tell others? To plan a course of action? To decide how far you want to push it?

    You’re also very, very wrong to imply that she somehow brought this upon herself by her dress style, by her room party, or by anything else. Myself and a dozen other guys were perfectly respectable to her. And it sounds like one guy was NOT. So who is to blame here? Not her or the majority of men around her, but the one who violated her person.

    You should also know that she lives in Zurich, so “involving her lawyer” isn’t an easy thing from Atlanta.

    And lastly… the entire premise of your post seems to rely on her not contacting the authorities. Well, she was escorted by a couple of those “burly” guys who care for her, but respect her, to the police station to file her report.

    You have a right to question, but you should learn more facts before you do. And that is why your post is not simply “an unbiased other side of the accusation” but yet another senseless and insensitive portrayal of Noirin. And you are very much in the wrong by doing so.

    • says

      Greg: Thanks for speaking up and bringing another first-hand perspective to the conversation.

      Paul: If you follow the tech blogosphere, you’ve seen a lot of other first-hand accounts of real life events scroll by. If you’re like most of us, then you probably accept most of them without questioning. You’ve clearly taken a much more skeptical stance toward Noirin’s, and I wonder if you’ve interrogated yourself as to why that is. Why should she be subject to your judgement any more than the other people whose content you read every day?

      Can you imagine that you are reading an honest account of someone’s life, and have an honest reaction to that? What do you think it felt like to be in Noirin’s situation? To write about it publicly? Why does she, as a stranger to you, deserve less compassion than another stranger?

      It certainly shouldn’t “sit right” with you, but for an entirely different reason than the one you’ve described.

      • says

        It doesn’t sit right with me Matt because of the tone of the article. It didn’t sit right with my wife either (she actually brought the story to my attention because it didn’t sit right with her) but I was the one who ended up writing about it, but not before going over all of the details with her.I come across many stories online and when things don’t sit right with me, I question them. Just like I did extensively during the “TSA took my child” incident of last year.It’s not that Noirin deserves any less compassion than anybody else, but what about Florian Leibert? Doesn’t he deserve the benefit of the doubt until both sides of the story are aired?I’m not saying that Noirin is wrong, or that IF Florian Leibert did what she claims his actions were in any way justified. If he did it, then it is a criminal matter and should be treated as such. However, my experience of people, online and off, is that they are far too quick to judge before all of the facts have come out.I’d like to see all of the facts come out before Florian Leibert is publicly lynched. If he did it, punish him as he deserves, but if he didn’t.. well….

    • says

      Greg, I got the timeline from Noirins blog post. Incident at bar – back to room – on stage in short skirt with cycle shorts on for dancing, travelling. That is the timeline according to her post unless she has it communicated poorly.

      Also, she is your friend and I get that. I also get that you feel a need to protect your friend. However, you are asking me to take someones account at face value, someone who I don’t know, someone who’s account is a little too blase when it comes to discussing what happens and someone who is publicly slaughtering and crucifing someone else with no regard for how it affects their life, family, reputation.I’m sorry, but the questions I’ve asked have to be asked if for no other reason than their is another side to the story that has, as yet been untold.I don’t take any story at face value, something I’ve learned to do from bitter experience (remember the “TSA took my kid” incident of last year?).All I’m doing and saying, is until the full story comes out and we heae Florian Leiberts side of the story, he should be given the benefit of the doubt.And also, I did not imply that she brought this on by her dress style. She did that in her blog post. In fact, I TWICE said that no matter how flirtatious behavior is never an acceptable to take matters into your own hands.

      • says

        “And also, I did not imply that she brought this on by her dress style. She did that in her blog post. In fact, I TWICE said that no matter how flirtatious behavior is never an acceptable to take matters into your own hands.”

        Actually… and I’m not trying to beat you up here… but you did. You did it through the ‘no offense’ or ‘I’m just saying’ method.

        “Maybe being incredibly flirtatious is just her way, but just like people can’t always understand other peoples advances, motivations or intentions, can you expect everybody to understand that you being incredibly flirtatious means you are NOT coming on to somebody.

        Again, I must stress that flirtatious behavior is never an excuse for people taking matters into their own hands without permission…”

        The first paragraph outlines how she could have instigated things [and therefore shares blame]. The second then seeks to absolve you from drawing that outline.

        Yes, Florian’s side needs to be heard (online, in court, wherever he wishes), but this post isn’t about fairness or the other side. It’s a deconstruction of her side of the story and a building of a straw man around her ‘virtue’.

        • says

          I wrote that not to insinuate that she was to blame but to question what she herself wrote. Why would she write that she is being repeatedly told these things. That calls it into question, it also, as I pointed out, is a jackpot statement for a defense lawyer. See my reply to you below.

          And yes it is a deconstruction of her side. It has to be, because at the moment it is the only side being presented and the only side making an accusation. Deconstruction doesn’t mean that she is wrong, or lying, but until we hear both sides, we have to ask why and take everything with a grain of salt.

          • says

            The quote you’re referring to is:
            “I’m tired of people who think I should wear something different. I’m tired of people who think I should avoid having a beer in case my vigilance lapses for a moment. I’m tired of people who say that guys can’t read me right and I have to read them, and avoid giving the wrong impression.”

            That’s not a jackpot statement unless the judge is a jackass. That’s a woman who moves in circles where this sort of thing happens more than it should and she’s tired of being told that SHE needs to change so that guys don’t behave poorly around her. Which is exactly what “… it is the first time I’ve spoken out about it in this way, because I’m tired of the sense that some idiot can ruin my day and never have to answer for it…” means. It means what it says. She’s tired of being told that the behavior that she and other women in these circles experience is something THEY need to fix, not the clouts who are doing it and who, because no one’s speaking out, think they can continue to do. She’s the first to get loud about it and, if she’s telling the truth, maybe it will do some good in the end (if she’s not, she’s done us all a disservice, not just Florian).

            As for the deconstruction, like I said only part of the post really has any meat. The rest is speculation based on incorrect assumptions. Maybe you should just update your post again so that people understand from the start that the whole police angle is moot and the speculations surrounding it is, therefore, flawed.

            FWIW, I think your intentions are clear and unpretentious, but I think you just really got it wrong and, given the visibility this post is getting, maybe you should try to mitigate any continued misunderstanding.

      • says

        You got the timeline wrong because you do not have the facts. Period. That paragraph about the drinks, skirt length, dancing, and flirting was a *recall* of the evening/night that led up to the situation at the bar. Not a “next step”.

        I never asked you to take her words at face value. I said you were wrong to assume Noirin was making things up, and that she somehow was to blame for the incident. Your post was not “without a police report, can we trust this blog post?” but instead a review of behavior with an implication that it led to the incident.

        Sure, you say “but I don’t condone that” only after you put all these elements together in an attempt to create an implication in reader’s minds. That is like telling somebody “damn, you’re ugly” and when they take offense, backpedaling with the “oh, I was only joking” excuse. It is a very transparent method of stating your thoughts but then attempting to distance yourself from them.

        If you really wanted to get people thinking about Florian’s side, then a simple “slow. stop. has anybody talked to Florian?” would have done the trick. Instead, you worked to debunk her post, to bring in comments from the Techcrunch article to discredit Noirin, and then questioned her timing of action. Those are actions against Noirin, rather than encouraging people to consider both sides.

        Thankfully, I have never been sexually assaulted. But I *have* been mugged. It absolutely changes your view of humanity. Your expectations of her behavior, and your *questioning* of why she didn’t perform actions according to *your* perceived plan are just incredible. I understand you may not believe her, but if you do accept that it is plausible… then you’ll realize just how wrong you are about those assumptions of action. After traumatic events, it takes a while for people to act normally. I had a very happy event a couple weeks after my mugging which fixed me. Not everybody is so lucky, and not all injustices can be so easily righted.

        You may disagree with her naming Florian in her post. Fine. But that wasn’t your discussion point. Why talk about any part of the evening in that case? But if the “outing” of such events in social media venues may discourage other predators in the future? … then by all means, it should happen, and I commend Noirin for the courage.

        • says

          Greg are you truly that naive?

          I got my information from the same place that every other person who has made a decision or had a thought about this event did – from Noirins post.

          That little piece of information makes it even more wrong that she posted Florian Leiberts name as it shows that, according to you at least, there is already ambiguity with regards to the events that occurred.

          And yes Greg, I have been mugged, and physically assaulted. I have a friend who was falsely accused of murder and I have seen the damage that can do to peoples lives.

          And yes, I do disagree with her naming Florian Leibert in her post. He is innocent until PROVEN guilty and until that date is entitled to the same protections as anyone else under the law – whether we like it or not.

          I know she is your friend, but I ask you this – What if you were in Florian Leiberts shoes and hadn’t done it?

          That is all I am saying. Like it or leave it. Now that Noirin has contacted the police the truth should come out one way or the other. Either Florian Leibert did it, or he did not, that is for the authorities to decide, not the internet and not people who are reacting emotionally.

          That is why judges get so well paid, because they are *supposed* to be able to look at things objectively and without the emotional bias of friendship.

          If Leibert is guily, great, punish him to the full extent of the law. If he is not, then that post could result in a pretty harrowing legal battle for Noirin Shirley and regardless, the destruction of reputation for 2 people.

          • says

            Greg, this is the one thing you’ve said I disagree with, because (although maybe this wasn’t your intent) it implies that because Florian hasn’t spoken out immediately, that implies he’s not innocent.

            Not all innocent people act the same. Maybe Florian’s first step was to speak to a lawyer, and if so, it’s very likely the lawyer’s first reaction was to strongly impress on Florian that no public statements can be made until the lawyer has gone through every bit of law with a fine-tooth comb and gone over all the options with Florian. (Something made more complex in this case because it potentially involves laws from more than one country.)

            Personally, I believe Noirin, because I’ve heard a hundred other stories very much like hers, and it seems credible to me. But even so, I don’t think it’s fair to imply that choosing to wait before issuing a statement suggest guilt. Innocent people sometimes listen to their lawyers; that doesn’t make them guilty, just smart.

          • Prescod says

            “And yes, I do disagree with her naming Florian Leibert in her post. He is innocent until PROVEN guilty and until that date is entitled to the same protections as anyone else under the law – whether we like it or not.”

            Innocent until proven guilty is an admonishment to third parties like the government and society. Florian and Noirin *know* whether he is guilty or not, already. So “innocent until proven guilty” does not apply to them, of course.

            Since it was Noirin doing the post, the admonishment that he is “innocent until proven guilty” makes no sense.

            If he did it, then she is within her rights, both legally and morally, to say what she knows. Unless she signed a non-disclosure agreement first.

            If he did not do it, then she’s libelled him, which is both illegal and immoral.

            But she cannot be criticized for KNOWING that he did it and yet announcing that fact. If she knows that he did it, then it is her right to say so.

          • says

            Yes it does apply actually. Because if the roles were reversed I’m sure Noirin, as you would, would want the opportunity to defend yourself in court rather than being tried by a mob! This kind of thing is part of the reason we have laws about things like liable, defamation and terms such as “character assassination”.

          • says

            You keep misspelling ‘libel’ as ‘liable’, btw. They’re not the same thing.

            Noirin has a perfect right to make her accusation. You are right that no-one should take it upon themselves to impose ‘justice’ on Florian solely as the result of that accusation, but it’s not Noirin’s responsibility if anyone does, and it shouldn’t stop her from making the accusation. If there is any vigilante-ism or mob justice then those who should be held responsible for it are those who *do* it, not the person who makes the accusation. If Noirin said “this guy sexually assaulted me, now I want a group of people to go and beat him up”, that’d be a different story.

          • says

            Whoops a spelling mistake .

            Your assuming a lot there Adam.

            You’re assuming that Leibert did it and you’re assuming that Noirin Shirley isn’t 100% aware of the impact of a blog post by someone with an online presence like hers.

            Don’t for a moment think that she is that naive, and don’t for a moment think that a judge, or jury, would think so either. She knew that post would have a major reverberations online.

            Also, vigilantism is not just about physical violence, or threats. It’s also about character assassination and the long term damage that can be done to someones reputation, family, job prospects, etc..

        • says

          Also, with regards to your .. “if you wanted to just ask this, then why not that” – I’ll ask the same question of Noirins post.

          Why all the background information? Why all the talk of bars and laps and bringing up information that could be used to discredit her story? Why not cut to the chase and say – “I was at a bar and Floirin Leibert sexually assaulted me”?

          People work with the information they are presented Greg. It’s that simple.

          • Prescod says

            I believe that the point of all of the information about bars and laps was to get the whole truth out in one go, rather than have discrediting information

            “Oh…I heard she was drinking…she didn’t mention THAT in her post.”

            “Oh…I heard she was wearing sexy clothes. Funny how she forgot to mention that.”

            “Oh…I heard she was flirting with people. One more detail she ‘forgot’.”

          • says

            Except we haven’t heard the full truth. She never mentioned any other encounters with Leibert that night (if there were any). We’ll have to wait for the full truth to come out, if it ever does, as we have but one side of the story.

  4. Anon says

    I’m not saying this to be an asshole but it must be said…Florian is a good looking guy. Noirin is…not good looking at all. Either he goes for really goofy looking chicks or he was very, very drunk.

    And, given the fact she has made accusations of rape before and is known to have told some outlandish lies in her time, could it be possible that she made advances toward him, was knocked back and decided to take revenge, not realising how this could blow up in her face?

  5. says

    Sorry, but I just have to take exception with your entire argument.

    First, she did go to the police. I believe that’s where most, if not all, of your uneasiness stems from yes? Well, she did go to the Atlanta PD. She updated her post (once it recovered from the Slashdot effect) to thank them for their professionalism. So… yeah. Every argument/implication you make above that hinges on that is incorrect.

    Also, you ask what’s she’s tired. What she and many women in tech are tired of is a culture where women are either blamed (or dismissed, treated suspect, ignored) for a guy sticking his hand in their pants uninvited. Even if she was wearing a shirt that said “STICK YOUR HANDS IN MY PANTS” on it, that still wouldn’t make it OK. She’s tired of being expected to then just let it go.

    And her being intimate with your friends, how she dressed, all of that is none of your concern nor is it your place to make inferences based on her having fun (I’ve had guys sit on my lap… that didn’t get me thinking I should have sex with them). What you’re saying is “girls can’t be playful or in any way intimate because they might confuse poor hapless men into trying to have sex with them”. In her narrative she told Liebert no and he pressed on. That’s sexual assault.

    If you were nicely dressed, hanging out with friends smiling and hanging with friends in a gay bar, does that mean it’s OK for a guy to snug up to you and stick his tongue down your throat? Of course not.

    And it doesn’t matter whose lap she might have sat in or show she might have flirted with.Because it wasn’t Florian and he’s the one accused. Everything else is irrelevant.

    • says

      First off Maggie, when I wrote this and she wrote her post, there was NO mention of the Altanta PD – and secondly, she still shouldn’t have mentioned his name publicly until the police have had a chance to investigate.

      As long as as things like this and this are going on I will not take ANY unsubstantiated blog post as being the “gospel truth”.

      Also, read my post again and switch on because on a number of occasions I stress that NO amount of flirtatious behavior is justification for doing something like this. I commented that her post was a potential goldmine for a defense lawyer but I do not agree that flirtatious behavior or style of dress is acceptable reason to assault someone. There is no reason. Period.

      Again, all I have said, and am saying is to save the lynching until the FULL TRUTH is revealed!

      • says

        Whether she should have publicly named names is a certainly question that warrants discussion. But that really hinges on if it’s true or not. If it is true, she may have warned others and done a service, if it’s not and she’s lying… well, then it’s sort of a moot point because if she’s being histrionic everything else follows from that and she’ll have to answer for it.

        If your post had been missing the bits from “The problem lies with the fact…” and picking up again at “I know it might sound like I’m building a case…” (and without the “wonder why the authorities aren’t involved ” bit from the last part) it would be a clear commentary on how this may be out of hand/handled wrong. It’s the speculative bit in the middle that’s proved to be problematic.

        • says

          There is no “doing others a service”. Whether he did it or not, he is entitled to the same protections under the law that we all expect. He is innocent until proven guilty, something which not the the authorities are involved, I hope we will find out one way or the other.

          If he is innocent she has opened herself up to a world of trouble, and if he is not, then she has provided his defense lawyer with a goldmine, ranging from discrediting information coming from her own mouth to the ability to suggest a character assassination prior to brining the matter to the authorities.

          Again, it happened then Leibert should be punished, if it didn’t wel.. we know what comes next.

          I just can’t stand the way social media jumps on an obviously emotionally charged issue without even looking for the story from the otherside.

          At this point I assume that time will either prove Noirins story true or vindicate Leibert. Either way I’ll keep an eye on this as best I can to update this thread when the full truth is revealed :)

          • says

            It’s unlikely that time will prove anything. Assuming Leibert eventually denies her story is true, or just refuses to ever comment, it’s unlikely that this will ever wind up in a courtroom. Prosecutors don’t like to take cases if they don’t think there’s enough evidence for a conviction, so it’s unlikely that the police report is going to lead to an arrest. On the other side, lawyers don’t like to take lawsuits if they don’t think there’s enough evidence to win, so it’s unlikely that Leibert will sue for defamation (in order to win a defamation case, you have to prove that what was said was untrue).

            In real life, very often the “full truth” is never revealed.

          • says

            You’re dead right that, quite often, in real life the “full truth” is never revealed.In the case of a defamation case, and I’m not lawyer here, but it depends on where the burden of proof is placed. If Leibert brings the case all he has to do is deny the claim, it would be up to Noirin Shirley to then prove that it did.Can any lawyers in the thread shed some light on this?

      • Prescod says

        “Again, all I have said, and am saying is to save the lynching until the FULL TRUTH is revealed!”

        That sentence stands on its own. You actually don’t need a lot of other speculation around it. It fits in a tweet.

        “Florian is innocent until proven guilty. We haven’t heard his side of the story.” – 80 characters

        One does not need to role-play a defense lawyer in “slimeball mode” to get this very simple point across.

        • says

          Damn – if I did everything on Twitter what would be the point in having blog. And I’m sorry, but it’s hard to communicate in 140 characters why my wife felt there was something wrong with this story, brought it to me and I felt the same way.

          Besides, I’m sure you could come up with a similar statement about Noirins post. Or have we now entered the “how dare you question what someone writes?” era or blogging?

    • wikiwiki says

      “Even if she was wearing a shirt that said “STICK YOUR HANDS IN MY PANTS” on it, that still wouldn’t make it OK. ”

      Really???!!! Are you serious about this because, frankly, as a guy you are making me confused… There are situations when it is acceptable to stick you hands down someone’s pants aren’t there? And isn’t one of them when they ask you to do it in writing?

      And what is flirting? Isn’t the whole point of flirting to attract the opposite sex for the purpose of mating? Why would you flirt with someone if you don’t want to attract them to you?

        • Guest says

          The fact that she didn’t write whether she also flirted with the guy in question doesn’t mean anything. It could or could not have happened. The whole incident could have happened completely differently.

      • VK says

        “There are situations when it is acceptable to stick you hands down someone’s pants aren’t there? And isn’t one of them when they ask you to do it in writing?”

        If they are wearing a t-shirt saying “stick your hands in my pants”, then they haven’t asked *you* to do so – it’s a statement aimed at the entire public and so clearly not aimed at a particular person. And even if you had a reasonable belief that it was aimed at you, you still shouldn’t stick your hands in if the person in question is saying no and pushing you away.

        Honestly, how is consent and female agency is so hard to understand.

  6. Jacinta says

    I think you’ve misread the timeline. Perhaps she communicated it poorly, heck I probably would too if I were in her position writing this blog the next day. So she danced, had a party, got assaulted, slept, gave a keynote. And her blog does say she’s taken it to the authorities, so get that right too.There’s one very important fact that you have completely overlooked. In general women don’t make this shit up. Neither do men. Statistics say that 3% of men will be raped, and 16% of women will be raped or sexually assaulted. Yet the vast majority of these never get reported to authorities, nor even possibly to friends. 1 in 6 women. How many women do you know? Do you know which of those have been assaulted or raped? 3 in 100 men, surely you know 100 men; do you know which 3 of those have been raped as an adult? Noirin is a public figure in the tech world, and she’s seen how the internet reacts to discussions of sexism (oh so many), death threats (eg Kathy Sierra) and all the other shit that the IT world dishes out to women. I applaud her bravery for going on record about what has happened, and saying this is not okay. It isn’t okay. Not when it happens to her, not when it’s happened to me, and not if it ever happens to you. Before you suggest she’s trying to ruin his reputation, you should consider for a moment, why she’d put her reputation on the line to do it.Yes Florian might have been under the influence of alcohol. Yes he might have seen Noirin flirting all night; heck maybe she even flirted with him (I can’t tell from what she wrote, but I suspect she might have mentioned it if there was something of specific importance). Maybe he felt there was a special interest there because their eyes had met a few times… I don’t know. Clearly at the least he felt he had some right for his behaviour.But in whose world is it okay to ask someone “Can I talk to you for a moment?”, pull them into the toilet and try to kiss them? Okay, perhaps if you have an intimate relationship with someone, “Can I talk to you for a moment?” might mean “I want to get you on your own for some nookie”, but as a conference acquaintance? If he thought that behaviour was okay, surely he’d have made his pass at her in front of everyone else.So he might have been drunk and he might have felt there was something mutual going on. But she turned his kiss down. At that point, drunk or not, mistaken or not, the correct response is something along the lines of “Oh shit! I’m sorry”, or “What’s wrong? I thought you were into me?”. The kiss would have been bad enough. But to follow up with a forced fondle when you’ve been turned down is just plain wrong.Of course you’re clamouring for his point of view, but what can he say? He could say “Nah, mate I was never there.” He could say “I don’t know what she’s talking about, I spoke to her for a few minutes and that was it”. He could say “She was coming on to me all night long, waving her butt in my face, and touching me, and she invited me into the bathroom, and she was totally into my kiss, but then got frigid and ran out”. What he probably won’t say is “I tried to kiss her, she said no, but I thought I’d cop a feel anyway”. Would you say that in his situation? Publicly? It’d be stupid, especially since she has gone to the police. So really, you’re not going to get his side of the story. If it happened exactly as Noirin said, then he should have nothing to gain and everything to lose by telling the truth. If Noirin has omitted key facts but it still happened much as she said he should still have nothing to gain and everything to lose by telling the truth. If Noirin were outright lying, then a denial would have value, but it’s not like she told noone straight after it happened. She told her friends that “creepy stuff” happened, and left the party, had someone stay over the night for comfort, made arrangements so she felt safe giving her keynote and went to the police the next day. That suggests something quite significant happened. I recommend that you read “How not to be an arsehole – A guide for men” ( http://www.myleftwing.com/showDiary.do?diaryId=16014 ) Not because I think that’s what you’re being, but because it very effectively discusses the issues with attempting to be dispassionate about some of these issues.Noirin is tired of having to be careful at conferences, and watch out for guys who can’t keep their hands to themselves – for the simple fact that there are guys at conferences who can’t keep their hands to themselves. Not because of her behaviour, not because of what she wears, not because of her flirting; but because along with people with poor social skills our community has people with poor women skills; and that’s not actually okay. Such behaviour should be condemned, just as men saying “wow, your work is so awesome it makes me want to fuck you” should be condemned for being sexist pigs.

    • says

      I’m sorry but statistics prove nothing. They are just that statistics and not pertinent to the case in hand. They prove neither guilt nor innocence and can’t tell you to which percentile Leibert, Noirin or I belong to.

      And as I’ve said many times, there is no excuse for such behavior if it happened. There is also no excuse for publicly lynching someone without proof.

  7. Your Mom says

    Would just like to pop in with a response to “most people would be screaming bloody murder.” Maybe men, with the testosterone fight impulse might. Most women, myself included, who have had this happen are in a state of shock. “Did what just happen really happen” “He put his hand in my clothes without me even the slightest bit interested? Really?” And thoughts of “Ew, gross, that guy put his hand in my pants.” She is very lucky that she had people around her who helped her do the right thing and go to the police. Most people want to just forget it happened or don’t go to the police if they are in a slightly different field and want to keep their career going. http://www.frumforum.com/the-prowl-getting-groped-in-the-district

    • says

      People who want to forget about it, and don’t want the weight of public opinion brought to bear don’t post it publicly on the internet.

      And very mature there “your mom”.

  8. Rich Bowen says

    Accusing Noirin of making this up simply proves that you don’t know Noirin. Being attractive is *not* justification for sexual assault. Neither is being drunk. Those of us who know Noirin know that she wouldn’t lie about something like this. We also know that if she said that she wasn’t interested, it would have been very clear what she meant. Noirin is hardly shy about stating her mind.

    It’s also clear that you have the timeline wrong. The dancing on stage was Thursday night. The party was Friday night. The fact is that you misunderstood the timeline. We were there. You weren’t.

    I simply can’t fathom the number of people jumping to the defense of a criminal.

    • says

      No I don’t know Noirin, and neither do the 1000’s of people who now think Florian Leibert sexually assaulted her BEFORE the the authorities have had an opportunity to investigate and decide his guilt or for him to tell his side of the story in court.

    • Jeff Schader says

      Hold on a second. “Criminal”? I wasn’t aware he was tried and convicted yet. Speedy trial apparently. Or could it be you’re doing the same thing you’re accusing other people of Rich, you’re rushing to judgment?

    • Friend of Florian's says

      And those of us who know Flo know that he wouldn’t act in a malicious way EVER. Flo is a good guy, kind, smart, funny – would never hurt anyone. In my opinion Noirin is the criminal accusing someone of something like this is beyond damaging to a person. This will follow Flo for the rest of his life. I just hope that Flo’s meetings with lawyers turn out in his favor.

  9. Foo says

    Noirin updated her blog with the Atlanta police reference on the 6th. Early US time by my recollection. Yes she should not have posted it at all, but you’re fanning the flames with number of your points.

    TechCrunch pulled their article, what makes you think you are different and can leave yours up?

    • says

      TechCrunch is a tech blog, this is an opinion blog. Also, I am questioning the accusation, TechCrunch didn’t really do that. Like most people they pretty much took it at the word of an unsubstantiated blog post.

  10. Blaze says

    It doesn’t really matter. There are thousands of girls and women who have violence done around them and to them to force sexual relations. It is these ‘lost girls’ that we should be concerned with. Not with a come-on done by an idiot. Bad kissing decisions do not a sexual assault make.

    It was probably creepy and weird. I agree. But if someone comes on to you, which can included touching, and you say no, and then they go away; That is NOT sexual assault. That is a horribly rude and fumbling come-on. If there was no violence e. g. she says no then gets shoved up against a wall, then there was no assault.
    This kind of stupidity is what gives a bad name to those who have been violated. This is a message to all women. If a guy is touching you and you don’t want it. . .KICK HIM IN THE BALLS. Believe me he deserves it. If you say thank you but i’m not interested. . .and then they guy goes away, that is normal human behaviour.

    • Jeff Schader says

      @Blaze. Okay you’re completely wrong.

      Battery: Touching the person of someone is defined as including not only contacts with the body, but also with anything closely connected with the body, such as clothing or an item carried in the person’s hand. For example, a battery may be committed by intentionally knocking a hat off someone’s head or knocking a glass out of some-one’s hand.


      I could flick you in the head and that would be considered battery. Someone “groping” you could easily be considered sexual battery.

  11. notfluffy says

    Here is how your post looked to me (I went ahead and included implications):I am about to say some sexist stuff, and that scares me because there are women out there who stand up for themselves when people say sexist stuff, and women standing up for themselves is an act of violence against me.I would like to point out that I have a supportive wife, which absolves me of all sexism. By the way, if anyone at any point ever accuses me of racism, I would like to pre-emptively deflect the accusation by pointing out that I have friends who are Black.After someone is sexually assaulted, it is relevant to detail what the victim was wearing and who she flirted with. I’m sure that any time a woman sees a man take off his shirt, or sees him drunk, or gets invited to sit on his lap, it would be equally impossible for her to not rape him. By the way, I don’t actually think what I just said, but I thought it important to spell it all out anyway.Being accused of rape can ruin a person’s life. I am going to focus on that instead of the far, far more common incident of actually being raped, since that is a minor inconvenience on about the same level as biting one side of the sandwich and having the fillings all spill out the other end. Being accused of lying after speaking out about being raped is about as annoying as getting squirted with soda when you open a can, so I’m not even going to mention it.

    Now I’m going to write a whole bunch of paragraphs about how a person exhibited symptoms of trauma. She exhibited symptoms of trauma instead of morphing into Lara Croft and backflipping out of the sexual assault, landing gracefully in the police station and cooly announcing all the details of the traumatizing situation with a refined air of confidence and absolute faith and trust that the police would handle the matter in a way that did not exacerbate the trauma. Therefore, I do not believe she was assaulted. Until she learns to be traumatized the right way, she can’t expect me to believe she was traumatized.Finally, this has happened to her before and women are only allowed to get assaulted once in their lives. She really should have thought that through before getting assaulted this time.

    • says

      And your argument boils down to this : “How could anyone every question the word of a woman? They are so soft and innocent, never lie, and men are just evil bastards”.

      Forgive me for not bending over and allowing every story on the internet to rape me in the ass with it’s “truth” without questioning it’s validity first.

      • says

        Wow. Way to totally misinterpret the argument! Nice going, Paul!

        What notfluffy is saying is that, if there was a “Clichéd Apologist Reactions To Rape Accusations” bingo card, you’ve already covered enough squares to win a prize. Let’s detail some of them directly:

        * Assuming you can take the curse off what you’re about to say by invoking that you’ve talked about it with an actual woman
        * Saying that the Internet is no place for trial by accusation due to the lack of evidence, while at the same time accusing her of lying (based on even less).
        * Assuming you can make your own accusations about her flirtatious behaviour being the cause, if you bracket such accusations by pretending you’re not making them. (You wrote several paragraphs about it because you think it’s relevant to the accusation. In other words, you’re saying she may have partially brought it on herself.)
        * In fact, bracketing every other suggestion by saying “Of course I’m not suggesting that…” If you’re not suggesting it, why is it relevant at all? Make your mind up, and stop being such a coward about it.
        * Making a big deal of how serious it is to make an accusation like this, and that it can ruin a person’s career, as if that’s much more important than someone having been sexually assaulted.
        * Saying that because she’s been assaulted multiple times, it’s evidence that there’s something wrong in what she’s doing, rather than seeing it as yet another one on the massive existing pile of data points about the endemic nature of sexual assault in our society
        * Most absurdly, calling her out for both not acting sensibly while also not being traumatised enough.
        * Acting as if you’re a lone warrior for justice by raising the possibility that there are two sides to this argument, when that’s what most of the comments on Reddit, HN etc. are doing (after all, it’s so much easier than dealing with the possibility that a fellow male geek actually did sexually assault someone, isn’t it?)
        * And finally, trying to shield yourself from any just criticism of this post by pre-emptively claiming that it’s because you’re a man. No, it’s because you’re talking bollocks. Again, stop being a coward about it.

        Most sexual assaults go unreported because the victims guess, correctly, that after having to deal with the trauma of the assault itself, they will then have to deal with being called a liar, or a slut, or spending hours on masturbatory abstract arguments about the nature of truth, or whatever. Everything that most men will do to avoid dealing with the idea that sexual assault is endemic and needs fixing.

        Because this is what our society currently does.

        As you have.

        So thank you, Paul, for so emphatically proving that.

        • says

          No body said it doesn’t need fixing but public lynchings based on unsubstantiated blog posts are NOT the solution.

          Also, it doesn’t matter what I write because people like you will always take the accusation at face value and run with it.

          It doesn’t matter that I mentioned I had discussed this with my wife in order to show that my opinion was not alone, that it was not just a misogynistic male attitude, or that unlike most people who have gotten involved in this I actually thought long and hard about the post instead of just spewing forth whatever emotional response was evoked at the time.

          The simple truth is that no matter what I wrote, as long as it dared to question or to see if there was another side to the story, as long as it suggested that Noirin may have acted in anyway incorrectly (ie: posting Leiberts name), as long as it didn’t reduce itself to “OMFG how terrible for you, what a bastard”, then I would be lumped in to the league of evil male bastards that are just trying to stick together and pass it off.

          I’m okay with that personally – that’s why this blogs tag line is “Brain to mouth filter removed”.

          What I am not okay is how you can people like yourself can justify ruining jumping on the “he did it” bandwagon, without any proof. Then again, I suspect that’s the same ilk of people who believed the mommy blogger during the “TSA took my kid” thing lost year, even after they posted multiple videos showing it never happened.

          You want to think I’m a bastard or a misogynist, that’s fine. If I have to be those things in order to go through life without blindly believing everything I hear and read, then that’s fine to me. Ignorance may be bliss but I prefer reality.

          • says

            “The simple truth is that no matter what I wrote…”

            No, Paul, the simple truth is that yet a-bloody-gain you’re failing to address specific points raised, choosing instead to march under a banner. Which is kind of funny, or rather hypocritical, given that it’s exactly what you accuse your critics of doing.

            It’s not misogynist to question. It is, however, wildly hypocritical to go on about how one shouldn’t make accusations in public without evidence, and in the same breath accuse Noirin of lying.

            I choose to believe the testimony of a person in good standing, based on her direct experience, with no contradictory evidence, with no visible motive for her to lie, and a little thing called Occam’s Razor. It’s not much, but it’s considerably more than you have. And that makes me question your motivation for making such a fuss about this with so little basis.

          • says

            I haven’t accused her of lying. I said that something doesn’t sit right with me and that I don’t think I believe her. My gut reaction to her story doesn’t mean she is lying.

            There is no explicit proof that she is lying. But then again, my understanding is that at this moment, there is no proof that Leibert did it either. There is just an accusation and as much as we don’t like to admit it, accusations are NOT proof.

            There is a profound difference between not believing someone and accusing them of lying.

            I may not believe Noirin, but I have to give her the benefit of the doubt, which is exactly the same thing I am doing for Leibert. The only difference is I have written a post that highlights his side of the “benefit of the doubt” while practically everybody else has written believing Noirin without question.

            Unfortunately, the mob, which you appear to be a part of, feels that the statement of one person is enough to crucify someone for. (I’m reminded of the public stoning skit from Monty Pythons Holy Grail for some reason.)

            That is exactly why courts exist, because the mob is so often wrong, and because people who are so often seen as being in good standing, lie and manipulate, for their own reasons. Reasons which are often not apparent to the rest of us.

            So call me a hypocrite if you want. I’m fine with that.

            I’m fine with taking lumps for pointing out how I feel and that there may be another side to this. I’ve said it many times in the comments, if Leibert did what he is being accused of should be punished, but to put it simply, I will not condemn someone based on an unsubstantiated statement.

            Far too often unsubstantiated statements have caused harm to the innocent and far too often otherwise rational thinking people have latched on the the emotional side of an argument and used that as an excuse to cause great harm.

            I will not apologize for questioning, challenging, exploring or using my rational mind instead of jumping in with an emotional reaction.

            As someone who suggests Occam’s Razor to me, I would suspect you know a little of scientific theory. In that case you will understand why, despite things being accepted facts, we call them theories (which causes the creationists no end of confusion). All theories and hypothesis are subject to question and challenge.

            Right now, we have one hypothesis, with no questioning, proof or challenge.

            When that proof comes, more evidence is presented or we have another side to the story, things, as always may be subject to change.

            Until then you are beating a dead horse. I will not hang a person out to dry based on an unsubstantiated post.

            If I were the one being accused I would hope people would do the same for me and give me the benefit of the doubt until the truth came out one way or the other.

          • Crowgoddess says

            Just a brief comment about this response – you mention you discussed it with your wife “in order to show that my opinion was not alone, that it was not just a misogynistic male attitude,”: women can be misogynistic as well. “hatred, dislike, or mistrust of women” or even “certain types of women” is not strictly a male trait.

            What I really want to address though, is this:

            “Again, let me reiterate, I’m not saying that Noirin Shirley is lying, but something doesn’t sit right with me and I feel like I have to broach that.

            The reason I have to broach it that if she isn’t telling the truth, she has just destroyed the reputation and career of Florian Leibert.”

            You are trying to make Shirley responsible for the behavior of every single individual who reads her personal blogs. Saying she shouldn’t have named the guy because “those intertards can’t think fairly and can’t help their horrific responses” is like saying a girl shouldn’t dress attractively because “those men can’t control their hormones around a purty girl and will misbehave!”

            This isn’t about whether Noirin is a liar or Florian can’t take no from a pretty girl when he’s been drinking. It’s not about whether Noirin is setting herself up for a libel suit or potentially damaging her sexual assault case by posting the blog while emotionally charged and naming a name. This is really an unfocused social commentary about how unfair, uneducated and uncontrollable the general populace can be, and how you think this woman should be held partially responsible for that and adjust her behavior accordingly. On her personal blog – the one that’s not meant to be a detailed police report but a personal venting space. But it’s okay if your Brain to Mouth Filter comes off in your OWN blog?

          • says

            Except that you miss the point where a blog has an audience. It is a broadcast medium. Her blog is not private, locked off, it is accessible to other people or search engines. It is public. Just because something is personal does not mean it is not a matter of public record and does not absolve you of any responsibilities.And Noirin, above the general populace, should be acutely aware of the longevity, searchablitily (is that even a word?) and social responsibility that comes with posting in a public forum (which is what her blog is) online.Noirin is not responsible for the behavior of others, but , and there is always this but, there is a reason why you don’t feed the trolls. She, nor you, are naive enough to believe that an inflammatory post by someone with a considerable audience wouldn’t be picked up by the mob.With regards to my blog – Yes, my filter comes off on this blog, but I don’t post accusations, I comment on matters that are already out there or share my opinions (mostly on technology), opinions on stuff that is already a matter of public record.

  12. Jeff Schader says

    I actually spent the night debating the same thing with Greg (Hi Greg).

    We had this debate on this blog: http://amptoons.com/debate/index.php/2010/11/07/blogging-about-a-sexual-assault-that-can%E2%80%99t-be-proven/#comment-542

    I agree with you on a lot of points Paul. Namely the point that she has no right to name him. Here’s what i wrote as my retort.

    He hasn’t been found guilty of a crime. All we have is one side of a story where the person states very clearly there are no witnesses. This means that her “story” will never be corroborated by anyone but her. And yet this guy is receiving threats of violence on Twitter. Are you telling me it’s a responsible action for people to go around and name people of an alleged crime? How did that work out for the Duke University Lacrosse team who were accused of raping that stripper? How were those students treated during the course of the investigation? As criminals. What was the outcome? She lied to the authorities. Now that doesn’t mean I think all women who claim to be sexually assaulted or lying. It doesn’t even mean I think she’s lying. This point has always been about whether or not people should name a person in an alleged crime. I just don’t think that’s right. If someone is found guilty of a crime, then all bets are off.


    I believe in people being innocent until proven guilty. Our criminal justice system is based on this philosophy. So my “lack of concern” as you call it, is simply an embrace of the American justice system. I’m sorry, but just because she says something on a blog, doesn’t mean it’s true and the accused has a right to be protected until the point he’s found guilty by our laws, not by the court of public opinion on the internet.

    The burden of proof ultimately falls on the accuser – not the accused. It falls on the government to prove the crime. If she is telling the truth, then it’s a shame it happened. If she’s lying, then it’s a shame it happened. All i know is she can’t prove anything she’s said and a guy’s reputation is shattered and we’ll never know if it’s actually justified. I’m sorry, but I won’t crucify someone based on an accusation with zero evidence.

    This whole thing sets a dangerous precedence in my opinion. How easy is it now to ruin someone’s reputation by falsely accusing them of a crime thanks to blogs and the internet? It’s super convenient to say on a blog “so and so did this crime, but there are no witnesses”. Maybe they had an argument and she wants to get back at him. Maybe this is all a malicious lie designed to ruin a reputation. Or worse, maybe it’s true. Either way, he hasn’t had his day in court yet the verdict is for a lot of people is GUILTY.

    Don’t believe me? Let’s see what people are saying:

    1. “I’m really sorry (and angry) this happened to you. I’ve been harassed, hit upon, touched way too familiarly and such at tech events; but never anything like this. I applaud your honesty, your courage and your commitment. Good on you for naming names. Protecting his reputation isn’t your responsibility!”

    There’s 1 guilty verdict based on her one-sided “testimony”. Of course she’s projecting her own hurt onto the situation.

    2. “I applaud you for your courage. I was in your shoes, and I was unable to be as brave as you are. You’re a credit to our gender, there are a lot of people, not just women, who are behind you 100%. It is never okay to invade someone’s personal space, and I say it’s about time we fought back.”

    Guilty again. This person is again projecting their own experiences onto this one. Doesn’t matter that she doesn’t know if the incident really happened or not.

    3. “I am sorry that this happened to you. What a shocking thing to have occur.” and they go on to say “I had to boggle at the comment in which someone said you were wrong for subjecting your attacker to ‘a public lynching’ in the comment thread when to my eye, at least, it’s you who are besieged by an angry mob spewing criticism of the nastiest misogynistic kind.”

    Why is it “misogynistic” to follow the founding principle of American Law? This has nothing to do with being “misogynistic”. If this situation could be reversed with a man accusing a woman of a crime, i’d feel exactly the same. There’s no proof this happened and yet people are absolutely sure this woman is telling the truth.

    Women (and men) are raped every day. It’s a terrible crime. I’m not liberal when it comes to violent or sexual crimes. But i believe every one deserves their day in court before they are found guilty.

      • says

        Oh feh. You are wringing your hands because people are commenting on her post saying “eww, how awful” and “I hope you are okay”.

        Meanwhile, she’s been called a liar, stupid, ugly and a slut and attacked and criticised in the most scathing terms.

        I could go to the threads about the topic and harvest some of the most impressive specimens of vitriol against her and we can compare them to the things commenters have said about him.

        How do you think that would balance out, eh?

    • says

      Sorry, but he didn’t.

      The founding principles of American law (or whatever) apply to the legal system. More specifically, they apply to certain actors.

      If someone runs up to me and takes my cellphone, I am perfectly justified in telling passers-by “that guy just stole my cellphone! Help me stop him!”

      I don’t have to have my accusation legally substantiated in a court of law before I accuse him of the crime. My accusation must be legally substantiated in a court of law *before the criminal can be legally punished*, but these are two entirely different matters.

      If someone commits a crime against you you’re entirely entitled to allege this to anyone you like, in any way you like. The obligation to treat the allegation as unproven until it’s been through due legal process is an obligation on the legal system, not an obligation on the accuser.

    • says

      I said (and yes, it was me) that it is misogynistic for someone to accuse a victim of sexual assault of being morally wrong for exposing the perpetrator to a “lynching” in a comment thread by posting about it in her blog. You want to talk about American law? I’m not American and neither is the woman in question. I think if we want to talk about basic fairness and human decency, we can do that without reference to sovereignty, however. Innocent until proven guilty? Absolutely. How about her critics try granting *her* that privilege, because the outrage I see demonstrates the assumption that is being made all up and down the internet: that she is a lying slut who is, due to malice or insanity, trashing both his reputation and her own. On the topic of truth, can you moot a motivation for her to make up a story like this which survives Occam’s Razor? You can take that as a challenge, if you like. There is so much wrong with the cries of “onoz, naming him is teh meen”, not the least part being that the comment thread was so densely populated by people upbraiding *her* for naming someone who she remembers sticking his hands down her pants after she’d made it clear that she wanted him to back off. A couple of thought experiments for you:If a guy had done some non-sexual form of harm which left no incontrovertible physical proof, and the victim named him in her blog as the culprit based on her own experiences, would people be in such an uproar? No, the furore is happening because this is about sex-crime. If we take the scenario under examination and substitute a straight guy in the role of the victim, there might still be people hand-wringing about the possibility that he might get sued, but most of the comments attacking the victim for being a lying slut would just go away. I’d say this demonstrates cultural bias when it comes to sex crimes against women, in which women are seen as inherently base sluts and liars. How is that not cultural misogyny?There is something wrong when it is suggested that we have to give (indefinite) benefit of the doubt to the man accused of assaulting her and ignore the trauma she is going through if he did do it, but can feel free to be preemptively outraged at the terrible damage that she is doing to his reputation if her account is not true.To my knowledge, there is no way to prove what happened beyond a reasonable doubt. People say she should have hastened to the police station to make her report, but seriously, what were they going to do? Fingerprint her pubes? Jeez! And the bar security? People suggest that the bar security should have been informed. What were they going to do? Pin the guy down until the cops arrived, took him for a forensic exam and scraped under his fingernails? I have never yet met a bouncer who would do that. And you know, if some guy had raped her and left semen inside her, she would still face a bristling wall of snarling disbelief and condemnation which sounds just like her comment thread: “She might be lying about consent”, “She deserved it”, “stupid woman should know men cannot resist women who look purdy. durr hurr hormones ug!” Nothing misogynistic about that at all, right? Especially balanced against the respectful silence with which we are told we must await the “other side of the story” which may never come. Here is a test for you; tell me what is misogynistic about a society in which there is no way for a woman who *has* been sexually assaulted to avoid running the judgment gauntlet in which she is blamed, called a slut, told she is stupid not to know that she was so attractive that of course the attacker cannot be blamed *and* so ugly that the attacker must have been induced to touch her by her slutty behaviour/beer goggles. She will be told it is unforgivable not to respect the privacy of her attacker. She will be told that she is bringing her family and employer and social group into disrepute for speaking up.Unless she stays silent. Well meaning people who want to protect her interests will tell her that, true or false, her allegation devalues her. She will get the message that her own subjective experience counts for nought. She will be encouraged to let it go for the sake of not rocking the boat. She will be told to put on her big girl panties and get over it. And that’s by the people who believe her, love her and want the best for her. And it’s like that because the culture is misogynistic. With a culture like this, it is no wonder that women are still keeping the dirty secrets of men in order to protect themselves. And because “decent people” don’t talk about it, “decent society” doesn’t realise that it really is a pervasive problem. And the victims are mostly unaware that by not speaking up, therefore protecting their abusers, they are perpetuating a culture in which men get away with sexual assault all the damn time*. *figure of speech, I hope

  13. says

    “Why on Earth would she be tired of these things? Why would people be repeatedly saying them to her, unless… Unless there was some sort of grounds.”

    Please, please if you do anything else PLEASE do some reading here (http://www.metafilter.com/85667/Hi-Whatcha-reading) and learn that women being sexually assaulted/harassed in society is the _norm_ and not the exception. The amount of people responding to this entire incident with “She must’ve done something to cause this” is making me sick to my stomach. It’s horrible to learn that this sort of thing happens to women all the time due to no fault of their own, and it’s understandable that you try to resort to any other explanation (“She dressed wrong” “She acted wrong” “Men don’t behave like this unless provoked”) but holding the _incorrect_ attitude that you currently do only perpetuates the environment where sexual assault can happen.

    Please, if you do nothing else, educate yourself.

    • says

      I haven’t said that she brought this on herself, I’ve simply asked a question based on the information she provided.

      If this incident occurred I DO NOT condone it in any way.

      However, that is the problem I have, which is that the story doesn’t sit right with me. I am having a hard time believing that it did occur, or if it did that it has a happened the way it has been portrayed. I’ve go into my reason for this in the post and in the comments.

      I’m just waiting to see what happens and not blaming anyone, with the exception of naming the accused prior to the authorities being involved.

  14. Emmanonymous says

    At a guess, the reason there’s no mention of charges is because there’s no way in hell that Hebert will ever be charged with sexual assault.

    It’s a common misconception that a victim can “file charges”. In fact, the only thing that the alleged victim of any crime can do is to call the police and make a report, and provide any corroborating evidence After that, the case is handed to a prosecutor, who reviews it and decides whether there is enough evidence even to ask a grand jury for an indictment. The grand jury reviews the evidence and votes whether there’s a reasonable suspicion that a crime has in fact occurred, and only if the grand jury returns an indictment is the alleged perpetrator actually arrested and charged.

    In this case, there are no witnesses, no video, no DNA, and no other evidence of any kind. Even if the situation happened exactly as Shirley says, it’s functionally impossible for a prosecutor to get an indictment. A victim’s allegation is not usually considered “reasonable suspicion”, because as you point out above, people say all sorts of things for all sorts of reasons. There is nothing here to provide a reasonable suspicion that a crime occurred, let alone proof that would rise to the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard required for a jury to convict Hebert.Unless there’s material evidence beyond Shirley’s statement, this “case” is not going anywhere at all. I’m sure what the Atlanta police sensitively and professionally told her is that they’re really sorry it happened, but that there’s not much they can do.

    This may not have ever really occurred to you, because men don’t usually have to think about sexual assault, but functionally speaking, this kind of “minor” sexual assault isn’t really a crime that can be prosecuted. If you’re female, any guy who’s so inclined can stick his hand down your pants with no legal repercussions, as long as he’s not stupid enough to do it in front of witnesses or on video. If this happened to your wife or daughter, and it very easily could, you would have no legal recourse whatsoever.

    If you assume that there’s no way this can be handled through the court system, does it change your view of the fairness of Shirley’s actions?

    • says

      If it can’t go through the court system then it’s all the more important that public allegations of this nature be dissected and questioned, if they are not then anybody can, for whatever reason, make allegations and destroy the lives and careers of people, without there being a shred of truth to the matter.

      This is why it has to go through the authorities first and allow them to determine if there is a case first.

      • Emmanonymous says

        For the sake of argument, let’s say that Shirley went to the PD over the weekend and filed a report, and the officers told her on the spot that they aren’t going to present it to the prosecutor, let alone pursue it to the grand jury stage.

        At that point, the legal process is finished. Shirley doesn’t have any other way to pursue the matter in the court system. What, then, is the proper action for her to take? Do you think she’s obligated to keep silent about the whole thing because Liebert hasn’t been and will never be proven guilty?

        • says

          I would say that she would have to talk to her lawyer before potentially exposing herself to a liable or defamation lawsuit.

          Also, I’m not a lawyer, and I may be wrong on this, but there could also be the option of her perusing a civil case rather than a criminal case.

          Either way, it will be up to her, but either way, in this case, Leibert shouldn’t have been named before legal avenues have been explored and after that, she will have to weigh her convictions and the seriousness of his actions against the potential legal ramifications for herself.

          The problem is that it may not go to court, he could sue her for naming him and she could lose. Which makes her out to be a liar and all the other consequences that would come with losing such a legal battle.

          I’m going to stick with working with the information I have, rather than delving in to the “what if” events of a hypothetical future.

          • AJ_Syrinx says

            Exactly! If I’m not mistaken, in a civil case, you present “clear and convincing evidence”, which is just below “beyond reasonable doubt.” I know the “clear and convincing evidence” would still be difficult for the accuser, but as long as the jury ends up believing her…

          • Emmanonymous says

            It’s perfectly reasonable to assume that this is not a “hypothetical future” but the state of things at this present moment. I think this is the part you’re not understanding: there is not a court case, and there will never be a court case, and all of the parties involved already know this as of right now. There will never be a civil case for the same reason, because you need evidence to win a lawsuit, or even to get to the point of presenting your case in front of a jury. Without evidence, the defense lawyer just files a motion to dismiss (and for recovery of the defendant’s court costs), and that’s the end of it. The “information you have” ought to be able to lead you to that conclusion. All you need to know is that there is no physical evidence or witnesses, and the rest inexorably follows from what you learned in high-school civics.

            I think you’re coming from the right place to believe that this type of sexual assault ought to be illegal, but it seems to me like you can’t really wrap your head around the fact that there really is no way to punish it. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that there should NOT be legal recourse, because a basic principle of American jurisprudence is that you shouldn’t be able to get anyone else arrested for anything simply on your own say-so. The law protects you from false accusations by requiring that the accuser present evidence at all points of the process. Shirley doesn’t have any evidence against Liebert, so he should NOT be arrested or charged, even if he did just what she says he did. The law applies to creeps too, and Liebert ought to be protected from unprovable accusations just like you should be. Unfortunately, that means there’s no way to prosecute a legitimate-but-undocumented assault, and Shirley doesn’t have a case. Liebert is 100% innocent from a legal perspective, regardless of what he actually did.

            Which brings us right back to my original question: once you’ve fully explored the legal avenues and come up empty-handed, are you obligated to keep silent? I’m not talking about potential liability for libel/slander, but whether you think it’s morally right to go public with this kind of career-destroying but unprovable accusation. Let’s say it happened to your wife, and your legal options fizzled out. Would you be upset if your wife wrote a blog post describing what happened to her, and stated the man’s name publicly? Would you be as concerned for protecting the guy’s reputation?

          • says

            At this point in time we do not know WHAT will happen in this case. We can guess and assume but we do not KNOW.

            And yes there could very well be a civil case. Leibert could bring one against Noirin Shirley. Also, the burden of proof in a civil case is far far lower and as such ,neither you no I have all of the details of what Leibert, Shirley, the bars security cameras or other unknowns can present with regards to the event and the events surrounding it.

            I’m not going to get drawn into this hypothetical argument simply because the outcome you are pushing for is one of vigilantism and that, as has been demonstrated many times throughout history, results in a lot of people being falsely accused and punished for crimes they did not commit.

            The phrase “burn the witch” jumps horribly to mind when it comes to that kind of vigilantism.

  15. Moudou says

    This is truly is excellent investigative work. Is your real name Officer Dibble, by any chance? Don’t bother to answer, I’m a troll.

  16. says

    “In fact, while Noirin Shirley claims he shoved his hand down her pants in the snug of a bar, she also claims… well, just read her post, as I said in a comment on her post, her description of her own behaviour that night is nothing short of a goldmine for a defense lawyer.

    Far be it from me to suggest that flirtatious behavior is ever an excuse for people taking matters into their own hands without permission, I would never advocate that, yet something about all of this sits very poorly in my stomach.”

    Sorry, but by bringing it up at all (and talking about gold mines for defense lawyers), you implicitly suggest that it *may* be an excuse.

    “however, it still begs the question of why the post was published prior to contacting the Atlanta police.”

    You assume that this is the case, however you have no evidence at all to this effect – and when someone who was actually there at the time posts in the first comment that your interpretation of the sequence of events is not in fact correct, instead of changing your post, you argue with the person *who was there and involved with the events* on the basis of having read an incomplete blog summary of the same events. That just seems absurd. Noirin never said that her blog post was a complete minute by minute, blow by blow recap of events, yet you seem to assume that it was and dismiss someone who was actually there telling you that it isn’t.

    “I’m sorry, but if you’ve been sexually assaulted, the first step is contacting the authorities. ”

    *I’m* sorry, but I’m going to step out on a limb here and guess you have no practical experience with sexual assault. The first step after being sexually assaulted is generally severe trauma, confusion and fear. Contacting the authorities comes quite a long way down the list after ‘getting the hell away to somewhere safe’ and ‘freaking out for a while’. A lot of sexual assault victims, sadly, never contact the authorities, for various reasons (there’s a lot of literature on this, but it boils down to fear of whether or not they’ll be believed – and consequent revenge if they aren’t – and a desire not to relive the traumatic event); does that mean that the sexual assault they suffered is invalid and can safely be ignored?

    • says

      Yes you are going out on limb. A very thin one that you should not walk or ever assume and I would suggest you not use that argument as a defense point again as you have no idea whatsoever what people have gone through in their lives.

      That is exactly why I am trying to stick to exactly what was presented in the post and that alone.

      With regards to the timeline of the post. The post that was written in Noirins. It’s her post that will be called up by Leiberts lawyers if this ever goes to post. It’s her post that people are judging this on.

      Of the thousands of people who have read her post how many do you think have read his comment on my blog? How many do you think will read the comments on her blog?

      Quit being naive here Adam. The “only” version of events that stands is Noirin Shirleys and unless she revises her post or contradicts that, that is what the internet sees and right now, the internet is doing the judging.

      Also, why should I believe that the memory of a man who was partying is any more or less fallible that the memory of the person making the accusation?

      That, in a round about way is my, point. What the heck is she doing posting about this stuff online if her story is already being contradicted by her friends who were there.

      Talk about a defensive goldmine!

      Right or wrong, if this ever makes it court, it’s stuff like this that will discredit her story and then if there is any truth to be had, we may never know what it it.

  17. says

    TechCrunch is right to un-post their story, BTW, for a simple reason: they’re a news organization. Noirin isn’t. It is generally inappropriate for a news organization to print allegations that have not yet been legally proven as if they were true. It’s not inappropriate for a person to allege that another person has committed a crime. Noirin and TechCrunch are not in the same position here.

    • AJ_Syrinx says

      TC indeed did the right thing by pulling it. I believe what Paul Carr posted that they basically had an itchy blog post trigger-finger. The whole “first post” thing, you know?Still, and not to sound like a Monday Morning Quarterback, I was dumbfounded when reading TC’s initial post about this situation. I was like “Why would TechCrunch post what is basically an allegation?” I could see TC losing some serious $$, if sued.

  18. Tony says

    Note that Nóirín Shirley’s Bebo profile ( http://www.bebo.com/Profile.jsp?MemberId=1930334017 ) says that her favourite sport is “teasing the boys ;-p”. Does that mean that she is in the habit of pretending that she wants to have sex with men that she targets, and then, if they respond to her advances, deciding whether or not to destroy their lives by publicly accusing them of sexual assault?

  19. says

    “It’s very hard to cut through the immediate empathy that occurs when someone claims to be a victim in a case like this and look at things from afar.”

    Of course by posting anonymous “I used to know this woman…” rubbish I note that you did manage to cut through your ’empathy’. Must have been tough.

  20. says

    Hi Paul,

    Very good article. I find it just as scandalous as the accusation, that noone is chasing down a recount of events from Florian. The internet circus that followed Noirin’s blog post whipped up a wolf pack of vigilantes, but there was nothing in the way of legal due process to determine whether a crime had in fact been committed. It’s easy to be emotional, impulsive and follow the pack; quite the opposite to be objective, impartial and methodical in obtaining facts.

    As you said, now Florian has to carry this the rest of his life because the internet is forever, regardless of the fact no charges were filed, and his guilt never established in a court of law.

    As a civilised society we are required, nay compelled, to bring disputes of this kind to court and have them judged according to the rule of law. Once we do away with this and start pronouncing judgement based on emotional hearsay virally transmitted through social media, civilisation fails and we are not much more than dogs with fancy gadgets. Rules of society and the law; they are all that separate us from animals.

    Respect to you for asking the question, and presenting the discussion you did here.


    • says

      If there were an epidemic of public and false accusations of sexual assualt, then I would have more sympathy for the guy. In the real world there is an epidemic of sexual assault against women and victim-blaming/shaming. I feel a little uneasy about her outing the guy, but it’s disturbing that this is the main focus of the discussion. This hand-wringing over whether she should have put the name in a blog is one of the ways in which the huge problem of sexual assault is swept under the rug. Very effective misdirection: the woman’s “crime” gets all the attention.