John George, Jr.: Innocent until proven guilty

The John George Farmstand and Ice Cream Parlor stands there on the intersection of Allen Street and Slocum Road, just a hop, a skip and a jump from DMS. It’s kind of a landmark, in a way, and late in the day, when the sun begins to set, its message becomes all the more poignant.

Just a few months ago, it was the talk of the town. It would have been packed, with a line long beyond belief. A line filled with people desperate for good ice cream. Now it stands constantly empty, either because, now, when I’m writing this article, it’s December, and no one wants ice cream, or because no one wants to go to a place owned by an alleged criminal.

One can make the argument that the place now stands perpetually empty because it’s almost winter. However, it certainly seems like the place started going empty soon after an incident occurred this August.

For those who don’t know, John George, Jr., the owner and operator of John George Farms on the intersection of Allen and Slocum, as well as a member of the Dartmouth Select Board, was arrested on Wednesday, August 6 according to the Standard-Times. He was charged with embezzlement and conspiracy, both allegedly committed during his time as the owner of the Union Street Bus Company.

John George has always denied these claims, and he was quoted in Curt Brown’s Standard-Times article saying, “It’s not true, and the word that best describes this is bulls–t.”

The profaneness of this quote was surprisingly published in the Standard Times and it would come to rock the town of Dartmouth, as much as Clark Gable’s “I Don’t Give a Damn” rocked the nation in 1939.

And yet after that, there was nothing. Once the story was printed in the Standard-Times, and the shockwave that immediately followed settled, there was very little additional discussion. The name John George, Jr. doesn’t even elicit a response from anyone anymore.

This comes as no surprise. We, as Americans, have admittedly short attention spans. Once something is out of the news for a good period of time, we tend to forget about it.

In addition there has been no follow-up to Mr. George’s arrest. No more articles in the paper. No more word from the attorney general’s office, nor even the police department.

This seems odd. The arrest of anybody that does something for a living worth mentioning in a town like Dartmouth is bound to be a high profile story. And with any other story featuring a person with as high a profile as Mr. George, there would be a lot more to go on by now.

Yet the news on the matter has been completely silent since August. Nothing. With any other high profile story, the news would be full of every detail, every lead, every tip a decent reporter could manage to dig up.

This may be the case because the police and the attorney general’s office may not quite have the case they thought they did.

The charges brought against Mr. George are extremely serious, of course, but when you look further, you start to realize that there really doesn’t seem to be much of a case against him. The article sites no real evidence, beyond that of which is circumstantial, and we can’t cite any other evidence beyond that. As far as the average citizen knows, there isn’t any.

As a result, I’m inclined to think that Mr. George is innocent.

I agree with the notion that, in a court of law, one is innocent until proven guilty, and neither the Dartmouth Police Department nor the Attorney General’s office has done that.

Yet none of these reasons that I’ve discussed have been brought up by anyone. In fact, the general conception seems to be that Mr. George is guilty.

Human beings, especially Americans, love a scandal. In a scandal, a person is guilty until proven innocent. No one challenges the evidence against the person at the center of the scandal. That would cause reasonable doubt – challenging the verdict of guilty, and they certainly don’t want that. We just want to watch their downfall.

Maybe that’s just what the case against John George, Jr. really is: a scandal. Not an actual criminal case, even, which is much more serious. Just a scandal, with foolish details and exaggerated allegations that amuse and enrage citizens for a short time, then fade away as the public loses interest. Nothing more.

That could even have been the point of this whole thing: bring a scandal to the front pages of the local news, fueled by circumstantial evidence and serious accusations, designed to disturb the doldrums of the summer, and cause some of the limelight to be momentarily focused on the police department.

Innocent until proven guilty? Not in the case of John George, Jr. it seems. In his case, he’s already been tried, convicted, and found guilty. And if we want that to stop, then we, as responsible citizens, have to start asking some very serious and tough questions.