There was one particular reality television series on NBC Dateline which also help set up a climate change in Internet law and awareness issues of Internet safety.
That was NBC’s “To Catch a Predator”. The concept was to work with a volunteer phone group called “Perverted Justice” (link ) Members of the group would pose as legal minors, and enter chat rooms. Men would contact them and then go to a particular home for a liaison. In all but the first two of the episodes, police or the sheriff’s department would arrest the men as they left. Chris Hansen, the lead journalist, would appear in place of the intended minor, and quiz and scold the visitor. (“Why are you here? I want to go over the chat logs. This isn’t a gay-straight thing.”)
NBC does not appear to have an active link for the show now, but there are various links for specific episodes, such as here.
The first episode occurred on Long Island in November 2004. The next episode did not air until early November 2005, but had been taped in mid August 2005 at a home in Herndon, VA. One of the most awful cases involved a rabbi named David Kaye, who had worked in his faith in education in suburban Maryland. He had actually used his work computer in the chats, some of which (reproduced by peej) became quite graphic. He tried to get NBC not to air his segment, which of course he could not prevent. He resigned from his job right before the airing. At the apparent prodding from Peej, the FBI began to investigate him. He was contacted and told to surrender in late May, 2006. He never saw home for 12 years. Despite the lengthy time before bringing charges, he was denied bail, and convicted in a most interestingly written opinion in federal court in Alexandria, VA. He served about six years and would follow with ten years supervised probation. The Washington Post story by Jerry Markson of the Dec. 2, 2006 sentencing hearing, where Kaye sobbed, is here.
Stings were set up in a number of states: Florida, Georgia, New Jersey, Ohio, Texas, California. In California, a cancer researcher fell for the trap. In Texas, an assistant DA was caught and committed suicide. That led to litigation, as reported in the Los Angeles Times here.
One of the most important moral points was that the “entrapment” defense could not work, because most states will punish attempting to contact a person that the perpetrator believes to be a minor. There may have to be a specific person, but the person can be a decoy. Stings run by police departments are common now, particularly in the Washington DC area in all local jurisdictions. In one case, an Army general was arrested in Union Station by Metro Transit Police in trying to set up an encounter after traveling across the country on government expense.
It’s very important to note that about 90-95% of the men who came to the sting houses were looking for females. This was mostly a heterosexual thing (Vladimir Putin’s recent comments, as well as the Kaye case, notwithstanding).
A disturbing comparison could be made to the case of Justin Berry, who started answering requests from chat rooms to make his own videos, as reported in the New York Times video here. Berry has since cooperated with police and the DOJ.
NBC would follow up with a sequel later called “Predator Raw” with excerpt from the series, on MSNBC.
Chris Hansen would author a book, “To Catch a Predator”, published in 2007 by Dutton, link for my Blogger review here.
Hansen would eventually be “dumped” by NBC, according to a New York Post story, here.
Arrests of teachers for improper conduct with students seemed to be reported in the media much more often starting in 2006.
NBC Dateline (which sponsored the series) should report on what happened to many of the convicts, many of whom would be released by now, especially Kaye. This would be a disturbing but important project for an independent film documentary.
ABC 20-20, on Feb. 14. 2014, reported on a troubling case in Florida about a n 18 year old girl in a relationship with a 14 year old, and not realizing that it could be illegal, link here.
(First published Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 11 PM EST.)