August 30, 2007 2:53PM

Richard Jewell, RIP

There were scores of federal agents working at the 1996 Summer Olympics, but it was a private security guard named Richard Jewell who spotted the suspicious backpack loaded with explosives and sounded the alarm–sparing countless lives and injuries. For his good deed, Jewell found himself in the crosshairs of a desperate FBI investigation. Federal agents leaked his name to media outlets and Jewell was smeared as a killer who only wanted to pose as a hero. The feds had to back up when the actual evidence pointed to someone else, but a lot of damage had already been done. The life that Jewell had been hoping for was gone. People treated him as if he had the plague. Sadly, Jewell died yesterday. He was only 44. 

The Jewell case serves as a reminder that the government has the power to inflict serious damage on the lives of people–even when there is no conviction in court, and even where there is no indictment.

Note that Cato will be hosting this forum about the Duke University students who got smeared in another investigation that went awry.

Note also the dismissal of charges against Frank Quattrone. The indictment was a page one story, but the dismissal is found in section D, page 2.