Curley v. NAMBLA

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Curley v. NAMBLA was a wrongful death lawsuit filed in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts in 2000, by Barbara and Robert Curley against the North American Man/Boy Love Association (NAMBLA). The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts (ACLU-M) represented NAMBLA and was successful in getting the suit dismissed based on the specific legal issue that NAMBLA is organized as an association, not a corporation.[1] The Curleys continued the suit as a wrongful death action against individual NAMBLA members and NAMBLA Steering Committee members.[2][3] The Curleys dropped the lawsuit in 2008 because the plaintiffs had only one witness prepared to testify that NAMBLA somehow incited one of the convicted criminals, but a judge ruled the witness was not competent to testify.[4]

The case highlighted censorship of unpopular speech about sexuality and, according to Wendy Kaminer, a longtime ACLU executive, the "widespread biases about a supposed link between homosexuality and pedophilia" as children are more likely to be preyed upon by heterosexuals in their extended families.[5][6] The case heightened the gay community's disassociation from NAMBLA and even from the appearance of supporting pederasty (attraction to adolescents after they enter puberty) and pedophilia (attraction to prepubescent children), a division that was even present in NAMBLA as to their public image and publication(s) content.[7] NAMBLA had been the subject of several sting operations, raids and had been accused of links in several high profile child abduction cases such as the 1979 Etan Patz case.[8] The group denied any connections to crime but the public image was already permanently damaged and the gay community cut all ties of support.[8]

Robert Curley campaigned for Massachusetts to reinstate the death penalty, which had been ruled unconstitutional in 1975, and legislation that would have done so failed on a tie vote in the Massachusetts House of Representatives shortly after his son's murder.[9] He later changed his position and opposed death penalty legislation in 2007.[10]


In 1997, Barbara and Robert Curley's 10-year-old son Jeffrey was kidnapped, raped and murdered by two men, Salvatore Sicari, 21, and Charlie Jaynes, 22.[11] Jeffrey was a latchkey child and knew Sicari who lived only a block away. The two men befriended Jeffrey, taking him on car rides to dinners.[6] They offered to replace his recently stolen bicycle with a new one in exchange for sex. When Jeffrey refused, Jaynes killed him in the car's backseat.[6] Sicari confessed to his part in the murder but insisted that Jaynes committed the murder. NAMBLA literature and a membership card was found in the backseat of the car and in Jaynes' apartment.[6][11] Sicari was convicted of first-degree murder and Jaynes was convicted of second-degree murder and kidnapping.[12]


The Curleys' suit sought $200 million in damages.[12] It charged that NAMBLA's "adult-child sexual relationship" propaganda, including Jaynes' viewing of the group's website, caused his violent predatory behavior and urge to have sex with and rape young male children.[5][6] Proving the incitement is difficult given the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution standards that govern words in any medium.[13] At the time the Internet was much less popular so the point rested on the courts viewing the Internet as such a different media as to warrant a different legal standard.[13] Despite the lawsuit's claims, the NAMBLA website displayed no erotica, nor conspiracies to rape or incitements to violence.[5] In Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444 (1969), the US Supreme Court held that government cannot punish inflammatory speech unless it is directed to inciting and likely to incite imminent lawless action. In September 2001, the court declined the defense's request for summary judgment, because Brandenburg "does not foreclose liability 'on any set of facts that might be shown'" as to incitement just by NAMBLA's publications, meetings and website.[14] The Curleys had only one witness prepared to testify that NAMBLA "somehow spurred" Jaynes to commit crimes, but a judge ruled the witness was not competent to testify. When the Curleys dropped the lawsuit in 2008, Robert Curley explained: "That was the only link we were counting on ... When they ruled that out, that was the end of the line."[4]


  1. ^ Deroy Murdock on ACLU & NAMBLA on National Review Online Archived April 17, 2005, at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ US District Court of Massachusetts, Curley v. North American Man Boy Love Association, Memorandum and Order on Motions to Dismiss March 31, 2003 Archived October 23, 2005, at the Wayback Machine., accessed February 21, 2014
  3. ^ Plaintiffs' amended complaint and jury demand, May 16, 2000.
  4. ^ a b Saltzman, Jonathan (April 23, 2008). articles with dead external links%5d%5d%5b%5bCategory:Articles with dead external links from April 2015%5d%5d[%5b%5bWikipedia:Link rot|dead link%5d%5d] "Curley family drops case against NAMBLA" Check |url= value (help). Boston Globe. Retrieved February 21, 2014.  See
  5. ^ a b c Kaminer, Wendy (2002). Free for All: Defending Liberty in America Today. Boston: Beacon Press. pp. 77–80. 
  6. ^ a b c d e "Rights and Wrongs". CNN. January 7, 2001. Retrieved February 21, 2014. 
  7. ^ Benoit Denizet-Lewis, pages 164-175.
  8. ^ a b Philip Jenkins, pages 157-163
  9. ^ Klein, Rick (December 24, 2003). "Decision expected to fuel capital punishment drive". Boston Globe. Retrieved February 21, 2014. 
  10. ^ LeBlanc, Steve (October 24, 2007). "Death penalty bill faces a battle". Boston Globe. Retrieved February 21, 2014. 
  11. ^ a b Louis B. Schlesinger, page 26.
  12. ^ a b Finucane, Martin (May 16, 2000). "Jeffrey Curley's parents sue NAMBLA". Boston Globe. Retrieved February 21, 2014. 
  13. ^ a b Robert M. O'Neil, page 73.
  14. ^ Perle, E. Gabriel; Williams, John Taylor. Perle and Williams on Publishing Law, vol. I. Aspen Publishers. pp. 8–13 note 61. 
  • Benoit Denizet-Lewis, American Voyeur: Dispatches from the Far Reaches of Modern Life, Simon and Schuster, 2010.
  • E. Gabriel Perle, Mark A. Fischer, John Taylor Williams, Perle & Williams on Publishing Law, Aspen Publishers Online, 1999.
  • Philip Jenkins, Moral Panic: Changing Concepts of the Child Molester in Modern America, Yale University Press, 2004.
  • Wendy Kaminer, Free for All: Defending Liberty in America Today, Beacon Press, 2002.
  • Robert M. O'Neil, The First Amendment and Civil Liability, Indiana University Press, 2001.
  • Louis B. Schlesinger, Serial Offenders: Current Thought, Recent Findings, CRC Press, 2000.
Further reading
  • Brian MacQuarrie, "Curley's Sorrow", Boston Globe Sunday Magazine, May 10, 2009]
  • Brian MacQuarrie, The Ride: The Jeffrey Curley Murder and Its Aftermath, Da Capo Press, 2009.