Published: Aug 10, 2010 7:53 PM EDT
Updated: Aug 10, 2010 4:53 PM EDT

MIAMI (AP) - When a stranger told Gizelle Pierre that a man had walked out of the store with her daughter, the horrified mother ran outside to find 6-foot, 3-inch Edwin McFarlane holding the 3-year-old's hand.

At 270 pounds, with size 17 shoes, the hulking "man" was only 14. Edwin, who is black, says he was just trying to help the lost Hispanic girl find her mom, but he was arrested for "false imprisonment" at an Orlando store in June.

Edwin was vilified on the Internet as a kidnapper and pedophile. The sheriff's office demoted a high ranking official responsible for leaking confidential information on the case.

The charges were later dropped, but the case has spurred concerns about snap verdicts in the court of public opinion that may linger forever on the Internet.