Happy Ending For Raleigh Parents Accused Of Sex Offenses
Posted July 26, 2005 4:40 a.m. EDT
RALEIGH, N.C. — Imagine going to jail for showing playful affection toward your baby. Now cleared, Charbel and Teresa Hamaty say that is exactly what happened to them.
Police charged the Hamatys last August with child abuse, accusing Charbel Hamaty of sexual assault on the couple's newborn son. The charges were eventually dropped, but the legal nightmare lasted until Tuesday.
Speaking for the first time publicly about the accusations, the family says it is frustrated by the legal system, but thankful to be reunited.
Back home again, 16-month-old Kristoff Hamaty has no clue that his parents temporarily lost him and their freedom over what they considered innocent, loving pictures.
"I know and I believe it was a nightmare," Charbel Hamaty said. Last August, he was jailed on felony sex offenses for family photos he casually dropped off to be developed at a North Raleigh Eckerd.
In a batch of impromptu party pictures, a few showed a naked Kristoff, then an infant, being kissed by his half-sister, Victoria, and proud father Charbel.
"You see the back of the baby, and like if someone is kissing the baby's belly button," said Teresa Hamaty.
Instead, police saw the worst and also arrested Teresa Hamaty for taking sexually explicit photos.
At court appearances, dozens of Hamaty supporters showed up to argue that police overreacted.
Over time, family, friends and strangers from the United States, Canada, and Charbel Hamaty's home country of Lebanon raised $140,000 in legal and living expenses.
"(It) makes me feel, that's it -- that's why I have to be strong for -- to show everybody what the truth is," Charbel Hamaty said.
Teresa Hamaty was released on bond, but waited months to reunite with her children. Charbel Hamaty sat in jail six months before the district attorney dropped charges after an expert's report showed no criminal intent.
"I think this was one of those times that they got the wrong people," Teresa Hamaty said. "They were too quick to judge when they took one look at my husband."
Both police and the District Attorney's Office contend they reacted appropriately.
In hindsight, the Hamatys said they realize the photos could be misinterpreted at first glance. Now, they say they are just happy all of their legal troubles are behind them.
As for family photos, Charbel Hamaty said he is now paranoid.
"I hate cameras," he said. "I don't like taking pictures."