Join 3,552 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


A Crime of Shadows
January 27, 2010 1:52 PM   Subscribe

A Crime of Shadows: Mark Bowden shows both sides of a police sting of Internet child predators.

The article also discusses the history of entrapment as a legal defense and discusses the inaccurate media portrayals of Internet-initiated child predation.
posted by reenum (76 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Doug Stanhope, recently discussed hereabouts, had a goofier, more fun project for dealing with online pedophiles. (NSFW)
posted by msalt at 2:01 PM on January 27, 2010


Is a 7 inch cock really that preposterous?

Ok, back to reading... this looks interesting.
posted by nathancaswell at 2:02 PM on January 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow. This article is so full of bad and sad. I am not a fan of entrapment (or whatever flavor of entrapment like thing this is), steroids, lying cops, pedophiles or the use of the word 'tawny'.

I'm only one page in, too.
posted by poe at 2:14 PM on January 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Finished... very interesting and disturbing. My gut says that was entrapment (probably not the legal definition) but it seemed pretty clear from the logs that dude did not want to screw children. Sucks. Stay off the sex chat folks.
posted by nathancaswell at 2:15 PM on January 27, 2010


I know that cops who do that sort of internet sting work think they are doing the Lord's Work (and certainly there are some sick people that need to be exposed to the sunlight), but they seem only a few degrees less demented than their target perps.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:25 PM on January 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


The insistence by law enforcement that "I had enough already to convict him, [so] there was no need for a wire" really shows exactly what this is about -- convictions, not justice. The idea that someone can be convicted as a child abuser, when there was never an actual child involved and the chat logs show that he consistently tried to steer the "pedophilic" conversation away from children and toward an adult... frankly, this is as un-American as it gets.

Fantasy as "crime"... and the saddest part is, if he'd agreed to come over and kill both the kids, he'd have been done with his punishment the minute he'd served his time. But oh, no, this was about sex, so it's the double-jeopardy Scarlet Letter for you! You have to get never-ending counseling and go around to all your neighbors! Gross.
posted by vorfeed at 2:28 PM on January 27, 2010 [11 favorites]


darned real life perverts. Why can't they be PURE EVIL like the ones in movies?
posted by philip-random at 2:31 PM on January 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm disturbed by the story, sure. But I'm also slightly disturbed by the writer's apparent need to exaggerate the physical descriptions of both the police officer and "J." It's like he's trying to make the whole thing into a sexy story, which creeps me out as much as anything else.
posted by Aversion Therapy at 2:31 PM on January 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


I have been hearing/reading lately that online and general bullying is a far more greater problem than online predators
posted by robbyrobs at 2:32 PM on January 27, 2010


It isn't entrapment without Sean Connery.
posted by turgid dahlia at 2:36 PM on January 27, 2010


The chat room grammar creeps me out more than anything else.
posted by nathancaswell at 2:38 PM on January 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


You're right to be creeped out, Aversion - this is a Bowden piece. I'm surprised that he's as sympathetic to 'J' as he is, though. I always thought his opinion was that the best way to solve a crime is to take the accused into a basement and make him bleed and scream and beg for death until he admits to it. Must be an 'Arabs only' policy.

Doesn't like the Wire either.
posted by bonecrusher at 2:52 PM on January 27, 2010


I hang out regularly in a localized chat room of a major international gay website, and I know that the local cops hang out there regularly posing as very young men talking to the "chickenhawks" about sex. The website doesn't "allow" anyone under the age of 18 to join, but there is no age verification as part of signing up, and at least once I've had a man whose profile said he was 19 tell me in private chat that he was actually 17. My own interests don't run toward "da bois" at all, but I know that others in this particular community do seem to be "chickenhawks" and only chat with men who claim to be, say, under 23. These same people get really angry with me when I point out that there have already been very public announcements about the police activities in the chat room and remind them that they may be playing with fire. It's like they are living in denial, or something.

That said, I think it's really a huge and strange waste of time and energy on behalf of local law enforcement to be spending time hanging out in a queer chatroom pretending to be young gay men for the explicit purpose of maybe luring in the one or two PedoBear types who hang out there. It's not a large pool of people to begin with, and the age delineations of the conversations are pretty clear -- the under 25 set really doesn't want to talk to the 35 and older set, etc. It's like there is this huge reactionary expenditure as the result of the general conservative area we live in... You know... "All gay men are pedophiles", etc. And its real effect is to squelch what little sense of community there is to be found around here in what should be a safe zone for gay men, AND to create a lot of ill will against the local law enforcement community within the gay community. (Not that there aren't other reasons for such feelings, but this only serves to reinforce them.)

That said, the whole scenario of this story is really truly awful. A woman supposedly offering up her two prepubescent daughters for sex, and repeatedly trying to draw a man into talking about that sex? And that man, hoping to score with the mother, feeling like he has to spin a fantasy about pedophilia in the hopes of getting some wet on his willy with a woman of legal age? Pretty sick things, if you ask me. Light years beyond anything I've witnessed in any of my own chat experiences.

It's a shame that the dark corners of the internet don't seem to encourage adult behavior in general. And by adult, I mean responsible and grown-up, not NC-17. I wonder what would have happened if this guy had started keeping his own logs of this woman offering up her daughters for sex, and had turned over his log of what she was saying and insisting be talked about to a different law enforcement agency as a matter of being a good citizen? Entrapment takes two, and as was pointed out, often involves legal grey maneuvering on behalf of those claiming to act on the side of the law.
posted by hippybear at 2:54 PM on January 27, 2010 [5 favorites]


I've not been heretofore familiar with Bowden's writing. I gather this is a good thing, overall.
posted by Aversion Therapy at 3:07 PM on January 27, 2010


ah, tax dollars hard at work, putting slightly pathetic, desperate, lonely, lower middle class copy machine repair men in jail. Gotta get those fuckers off the street, er, off the desk chair.

In all seriousness (not that the incredible waste or resources this took isn't serious), I pity both of these people. He's just a wimpy pushover who fears intimacy and real life sex in general who - like many, many guys in this world - would say anything to get laid. She's a failed erotic romance writer turned cyber crime fighter hero in her own mind. And she probably needs to get laid.

Also, this is not justice. at all.
posted by Lutoslawski at 3:11 PM on January 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I'm not a big fan of law enforcement techniques to "catch a predator" or whev, and I totally recognize that fantasy is fantasy and it's possible to fantasize about illegal and even immoral acts without actually wanting to do them.

But this guy's excuse? This?
In the years he had been dipping into these chat rooms, he had learned a few things about the women who entered them. They were skittish... The ones who entered the fetish rooms had desires that were very specific. Men were eager and up for whatever—that certainly defined J—but women were looking to scratch a particular itch...
I'm having a real hard time believing this guy is just your plain old testosterone-fueled sex addict when he's chilling in a fetish room. He seems to be trying to argue that he fantasizes about sex with minors, without fantasizing about sex with minors. Not that fantasies should be grounds for criminal prosecution.
posted by muddgirl at 3:21 PM on January 27, 2010


ah, tax dollars hard at work, putting slightly pathetic, desperate, lonely, lower middle class copy machine repair men in jail. Gotta get those fuckers off the street, er, off the desk chair.

While this kind of police work is definitely a pretty murky area, you can't say that at least some of the people that get caught in operations of the sort aren't actively looking for gullible minors, and wouldn't hesitate to act out everything they talk about.

Then again, for an example of a really wrong way to do this, just look up To Catch a Predator - perfectly encapsulating everything that's wrong with both "entrapment" as a method of crime prevention and reality TV working with law enforcement in general. Especially the part where the company that does the entrapment on behalf of the police is also being paid by the show itself.
posted by wet-raspberry at 3:21 PM on January 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


"I wonder what would have happened if this guy had started keeping his own logs of this woman offering up her daughters for sex, and had turned over his log of what she was saying and insisting be talked about to a different law enforcement agency as a matter of being a good citizen?"

Now that's a story I would like to read, by someone other than this Bowden person, too.

Thanks, hippybear.
posted by emhutchinson at 3:23 PM on January 27, 2010


muddgirl: I'm having a real hard time believing this guy is just your plain old testosterone-fueled sex addict when he's chilling in a fetish room. He seems to be trying to argue that he fantasizes about sex with minors, without fantasizing about sex with minors.

I read that to quote that you refer to here to mean that J is willing to say whatever he needs to say to a woman in order to move the sexual interaction with her forward, and that he has learned that if he doesn't participate in the woman's fantasy, that will result in the end of his interaction with her.

I mean, I can participate in fantasy play about things which I personally don't have any interest in doing. The ability to describe an activity does not mean that you want to do it or even find it a tasteful exercise to have to talk about it.
posted by hippybear at 3:34 PM on January 27, 2010


While this kind of police work is definitely a pretty murky area, you can't say that at least some of the people that get caught in operations of the sort aren't actively looking for gullible minors

Right, but I think one of the strong points of the article is that it's likely that most of the people arrested in this way probably aren't, e.g.

"Three researchers at the University of New Hampshire reported earlier this year that during the period between 2000 and 2006, when Internet use by juveniles grew between 73 and 93 percent, the number of people arrested for soliciting sex online from them grew only 21 percent, from 508 to 615. The number of people arrested for soliciting sex from undercover police like Deery, however, rose 381 percent during the same period. In other words, alleged child-molesters like J are many, many times more likely to be locked up for approaching detectives than children."


posted by Lutoslawski at 3:35 PM on January 27, 2010


I mean, I can participate in fantasy play about things which I personally don't have any interest in doing. The ability to describe an activity does not mean that you want to do it or even find it a tasteful exercise to have to talk about it.

Yeah exactly. What I'm confused about is that, given these were imaginary children, what, exactly, was the crime? (I mean I know what the crime *is* - but what is it exactly. I mean - is the only difference between this and, say, Lolita the fact that one was published and read by non-cops and this was on the net read by cops?
posted by Lutoslawski at 3:38 PM on January 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Mark Bowden has written about pedophiles before, although in a much different context.
posted by hackwolf at 3:39 PM on January 27, 2010


Talk about anything you want online. Anything. But once you actively try to get together with kids, you deserve whatever follows.

The article tried hard to make the guy sound sad and pathetic, but to me his chats sound calculated to give him a "I was only gonna fuck the woman and leave" defense later on in case "she" was really a cop. He's a perv trying to hedge his bets. (BTW- do you KNOW anyone on steroids? They may make you prone to angry outbreaks, but they don't suddenly change you into a sex-crazed retard like this guy seems to be claiming. Getting laid in Phila. is as easy as visiting Craigslist.)
posted by coolguymichael at 3:43 PM on January 27, 2010


I read that to quote that you refer to here to mean that J is willing to say whatever he needs to say to a woman in order to move the sexual interaction with her forward, and that he has learned that if he doesn't participate in the woman's fantasy, that will result in the end of his interaction with her.

Oh no doubt that is his excuse, but without going TMI it doesn't make much sense to me. It's clear this guy is into pretty standard sex chat fair - heterosexual penetration, bondage, a little S&M. His excuse seems to be that he was just "playing along" with the rape talk and eventually it would be HIS turn. This rings really false to me because, according to the transcripts in the files, "heatherscutiepies" never played along in reciprocation. If he was really only interested in the more vanilla stuff, he could have disengaged and found someone who wasn't, you know, pretty clearly a cop. Again, I'm making no claim as to whether or not he's a "potential" child predator and I'm appalled that he went to jail for a year essentially for a thought crime. But I also don't believe his whole "woe is me" act, either. I suspect the truth is somewhere in the middle.

J kept trying to explain himself, and the lieutenant instructed him, patiently, that he had to wait until they got back to his office, where they could talk at length. First he had to be fully advised of his rights.

Also, NEVER EVER EVER talk to the cops. Jeeeeez I feel really bad for this guy all of a sudden. I hope he gets off the body building in jail and like, reads a book or plays some D&D or something.
posted by muddgirl at 3:46 PM on January 27, 2010


...but they don't suddenly change you into a sex-crazed retard like this guy seems to be claiming. Getting laid in Phila. is as easy as visiting Craigslist.

Yeah this, too. I'd love to read an interview with this guy that's NOT clearly a pity play.
posted by muddgirl at 3:47 PM on January 27, 2010


I'm having a real hard time believing this guy is just your plain old testosterone-fueled sex addict when he's chilling in a fetish room. He seems to be trying to argue that he fantasizes about sex with minors, without fantasizing about sex with minors.

Only he doesn't seem to fantasize about sex with minors. No child pornography at all on his computer. He says, repeatedly, that he is not sexually interested in children, and the only mentions of kids were his chats with this woman, and even then he kept trying to steer it to her and she continually brought the kids into it, not him.

And there are all kinds of fetishes that he might have been into that don't in any way involve minors.
posted by misha at 3:50 PM on January 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


The article tried hard to make the guy sound sad and pathetic, but to me his chats sound calculated to give him a "I was only gonna fuck the woman and leave" defense later on in case "she" was really a cop

Yeah ok, I get that too. I was especially bothered by this sort of thing:

He wanted the sex with her, not with the daughters, but picked up quickly that the former could not be had without promises of the latter. So he was prepared to pledge the one thing in order to get the other.

I mean - do I think this guy was a serial child rapist and that justice was duly served hear? No, not really. On the other hand, he should have known better. He knew what he was doing could have gotten him arrested - he admitted that. And explicitly describing sexploits with children and later saying, "oh, but I wasn't actually going to do that" IS pretty fucked up, even if it is true.
posted by Lutoslawski at 3:53 PM on January 27, 2010


No child pornography at all on his computer.

That's Mark Bowden's assertion. Or really, his assertion is "J had no images that were obviously child porn." But J also says that he's not into visual pornography, and instead construct written fantasies, not visual. ie, cybersex and probably erotica.

Again, I'm not saying the guy is a pedophile. I'm just saying that his whole story is incredibly one-sided and meant to portray him as just a tortured sex addict who was led astray by the big bad cops. This story would have been much better if Bowden hadn't set up this silly dichotomy between "the cop's story" and "the defendant's story", and then given the majority of airtime to the defendant.
posted by muddgirl at 3:58 PM on January 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Mudgirl, I disagree with you. Not only was this girl extremely rare (being that she was within distance for actual sex) but there is nothing to indicate that this was the only person he talked to.
posted by rebent at 4:00 PM on January 27, 2010


Doesn't J actually admit at some point that he regularly engaged in this sort of "oh, I want to rape your daughters" talk at least on one other occasion? Which just makes this particular story even more suspect, because clearly it was NOT an unusual occurrence for him.

Again, J could have disengaged at any point. "Heather" gave him several opportunities to do so, and at each point he asserted what he "wanted". Maybe he DID really think that the only way to have sex with an anonymous woman in Philly was to promise to rape her daughters and even offer to impregnate the older one, but if so then frankly, he's a dumbass.
posted by muddgirl at 4:08 PM on January 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Maybe he DID really think that the only way to have sex with an anonymous woman in Philly was to promise to rape her daughters and even offer to impregnate the older one, but if so then frankly, he's a dumbass.

On this point we are in full agreement.
posted by hippybear at 4:11 PM on January 27, 2010


Mark Bowden has written about pedophiles before, although in a much different context.

Jesus H. Christ I can tell that's true

FTA:
"Deery seems altogether too wholesome for the work. She has athletic good looks, with tawny skin, big brown eyes, and long straight brown hair that falls over her shoulders."

goddamn I need a shower already and it's only the second paragraph.

I mean, it's not nasty or anything but objectify much? imagine if the subject looked like Andy Reid? would he write, "Deery seems tailor made for the work. He is generally keg-shaped, balding, with kind of a porn-star mustache and squinty eyes and his face gets red when he shouts obscenities at his monitor."?
posted by toodleydoodley at 5:15 PM on January 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


oh, nevermind. it turns out she's a creep too, so objectify away, suckaz.
posted by toodleydoodley at 5:17 PM on January 27, 2010


The Esquire story is clearly one-sided, and J's after-the-fact assertions that he only said what he thought he needed to say to get sex with the adult woman certainly invites skepticism, as it should. But I keep thinking that this was probably entrapment and, at best, a really "bad bust" on the part of the police. Wouldn't a man with pedophiliac urges, a married life in the suburbs, and a job repairing office equipment encounter far more opportunity for sex with willing adult women than for sex with young children--let alone for sex with the young children of a parent inviting him for exactly such an opportunity? Unless Esquire has selectively mischaracterized the full gist of J. and Deery's complete chat logs (a distinct possibility given the article's bias) the suggestion that Deery would need to repeatedly prod J. to focus on discussing the young girls rather than chatting up their "39 year old mother" makes J. seem quite unlike a pedophile...or else, a really unfocused one.
posted by applemeat at 5:26 PM on January 27, 2010


The thing I've never understood about this, and To Catch a Predator, is that the way the law is written, the crime is being committed completely inside a person's head. Even if you accept that he's soliciting, he's not soliciting a an actual minor, or a mother with kids. He's soliciting a person that he thinks exists, but really doesn't. There is no minor. There is no mother. It's a fiction. Nobody here is actually being attacked or offended or placed in danger. This is like arresting someone for drunk-driving before they step foot in a bar.

So, if I walk up to this nearby brick wall, and start telling the wall how much I want to sex up its human daughter (because in my understanding, it's totally reasonable to assume that brick walls spontaneously birth humans), have I committed a crime?

Did Nabokov commit a crime in writing Lolita?

It seems that there's an interpretation of these laws that says, yes, both my wall-loving self and old Vladimir are guilty as hell.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:33 PM on January 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


This is like arresting someone for drunk-driving before they step foot in a bar.

It's like arresting someone who is walking to a bar before they've had anything to drink because they are talking to someone walking with them that they might need to drive to the store later.
posted by hippybear at 5:53 PM on January 27, 2010


You know, the more I think about J the more I suspect that he's got a pretty standard mother-daughter incest kink that he's (understandably) unwilling to fess up to.
posted by muddgirl at 6:00 PM on January 27, 2010


Interesting story, but my god is it horribly written. Hard to believe anyone would cut a check to Bowden. He writes like the editor of my high school newspaper.
posted by bardic at 6:20 PM on January 27, 2010


You know, the more I think about J the more I suspect that he's got a pretty standard mother-daughter incest kink that he's (understandably) unwilling to fess up to.

Really, muddgirl? I don't see it at all from what's in the article.

I do agree that the story is badly written, though.
posted by misha at 6:23 PM on January 27, 2010


muddgirl: I'm having a real hard time believing this guy is just your plain old testosterone-fueled sex addict when he's chilling in a fetish room.

I'm having a real hard time with your logic here. You can't possibly mean that everyone who would hang out in a fetish chatroom/forum/whatever is into pedophilia... can you?
posted by desjardins at 6:27 PM on January 27, 2010


Please read all of my comments before characterizing my arguments.

I don't think J is a pedophile.

I don't think he "deserved" to go to jail, and think he probably should have been better-informed as to what to do when caught in a sting like this one.

I do think he, like many many people, explores certain "taboo" kinks through sex chats.

I do think that he is misrepresenting his kinks in this article in an effort to make himself look better.

I do think it's hard to "trust" his motivations (if it even matters) when he's unwilling to admit that he, like many many people, is into taboo-style erotic fantasies.
posted by muddgirl at 6:41 PM on January 27, 2010


The thing I've never understood about this, and To Catch a Predator, is that the way the law is written, the crime is being committed completely inside a person's head.
They're charged with attempt, I would think. Commonly (and this is a state by state question), factual impossibility is not a defense to attempt, so the fact that the minor one was attempting to have sex with was not in fact a minor doesn't get one off the hook.
posted by planet at 6:52 PM on January 27, 2010


He's soliciting a person that he thinks exists, but really doesn't. There is no minor. There is no mother. It's a fiction. Nobody here is actually being attacked or offended or placed in danger. This is like arresting someone for drunk-driving before they step foot in a bar. So, if I walk up to this nearby brick wall, and start telling the wall how much I want to sex up its human daughter (because in my understanding, it's totally reasonable to assume that brick walls spontaneously birth humans), have I committed a crime?

To play devil's advocate here, I think the prosecutor would say it's more like a neo-Nazi who thinks there's a rich Jew across town in a big mansion, and who buys an AK-47, plans an attack, goes to target practice, and is arrested on the lawn of the mansion as he's about to kick the door in.

Maybe the mansion is really unoccupied. Has the neo-Nazi committed the crime of conspiracy to murder, etc? Does it matter if he's right or wrong about the intended victim being there? It's an interesting question.
posted by msalt at 6:52 PM on January 27, 2010


I do think it's hard to "trust" his motivations (if it even matters) when he's unwilling to admit that he, like many many people, is into taboo-style erotic fantasies.

But even if mother-daughter incest were a "pretty standard kink," why on Earth would anyone caught in a sting be willing to share their most private thoughts with police or, later, with journalists? After all, lying about sex, and wanting to "mak[e] oneself look better" is a pretty standard universal. I just don't see how his unwillingness to admit to unsavory-yet-perhaps-not-so-uncommon kinks would say much of anything about whether he is telling the truth re his intentions with Deery.
posted by applemeat at 7:00 PM on January 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


If Bowden hadn't been such a complete tool for invading Iraq, I might actually care about his recent work. It's really difficult to see anything he does now outside of the light that absurd episode shines on his judgment.
posted by mediareport at 7:12 PM on January 27, 2010


Does it matter if he's right or wrong about the intended victim being there? It's an interesting question.

It is an interesting question, and I'm not sure where I fall on it, but I'll double back on the "rich Jew and the neo-Nazi scenario."

The harm here is that the rich Jew exists in this scenario, and is therefore in real danger of being killed, and only luck will have saved him. Moreover, if he's just not at home at the time of the attempted attack, he will know about it afterward, and will forever live in fear of another attack. A definite harm will have been perpetrated against him, regardless of the attack's real possibility. He exists, therefore he can be harmed.

Our imaginary teenager doesn't exist. No harm could have happened at all. No imaginary harm could ever happen, either. There's no one here to be harmed today, tomorrow and forever.

I guess the crime is a societal one -- we are all harmed, philosophically, by people who would do this, just by the fact that they exist to do it. Which is kind of like making it illegal to smoke in a restaurant, whether or not it's occupied. But here, we're wandering into pure pointy-headed jibber-jabber, and I still don't want freaks walking around my city.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:32 PM on January 27, 2010


...it's more like a neo-Nazi who thinks there's a rich Jew across town in a big mansion, and who buys an AK-47, plans an attack, goes to target practice, and is arrested on the lawn of the mansion as he's about to kick the door in.


This does not sound analogous. In order to be analogous, an innocent (i.e. nonillegal) interpretation of the suspect's activities and his arrival at the mansion with the AK-47 would need to appear more reasonably possible. J.'s arrival at "the mother's" house with condoms is not the equivalent, because sex with an adult stranger, perverted talk in a kink chatroom, and lying in attempt to obtain a casual hookup are not in themselves crimes. ...Sure, I suppose it might be possible that a neo-Nazi would take an AK-47 to a Jewish family's home in attempt to, I dunno, sell it to them? But I think most everyone would find it much easier to believe that a testosterone-pumped man would lie for sex.
posted by applemeat at 7:40 PM on January 27, 2010


Did Nabokov commit a crime in writing Lolita?

Hilarious. I brought up the same question upthread.

Our imaginary teenager doesn't exist. No harm could have happened at all. No imaginary harm could ever happen, either.

Won't SOMEONE think of the imaginary children?

But seriously: crimes of the mind. WTF.
posted by Lutoslawski at 7:41 PM on January 27, 2010


I wonder what would have happened if this guy had started keeping his own logs of this woman offering up her daughters for sex, and had turned over his log of what she was saying and insisting be talked about to a different law enforcement agency as a matter of being a good citizen?

My heart is finding trouble bleeding for this guy if only because his desire to have dishonest sex with the hypothetical mother overrode a basic human responsibility to report her for what she was supposedly doing to her daughters and seemed to want to have happen to them.

But no, since he is not a mandatory reporter, like a surprising many folks, its clear he committed no crimes.
posted by Blasdelb at 7:49 PM on January 27, 2010


But seriously: crimes of the mind. WTF.

WTF indeed, and especially in a nation where criminal conviction requires guilt "beyond a reasonable doubt."
posted by applemeat at 7:52 PM on January 27, 2010


This does not sound analogous. In order to be analogous, an innocent (i.e. nonillegal) interpretation of the suspect's activities and his arrival at the mansion with the AK-47 would need to appear more reasonably possible.
But this is just a question for the jury at trial of the sort that is raised by almost any attempt prosecution. It's an attempt prosecution precisely because the crime itself was not in fact committed, so there will very frequently be an innocent explanation of greater or lesser credibility.
posted by planet at 7:54 PM on January 27, 2010


I wonder what would have happened if this guy had started keeping his own logs of this woman offering up her daughters for sex, and had turned over his log [...] as a matter of being a good citizen?

It's possible that J.'s not having done so could support the contention that kink chatroom fantasy is not necessarily to be taken literally, and that J. perhaps never believed that Deery was actually going to present to him her children. (In any event, yes-- the guy's really creepy.)
posted by applemeat at 8:06 PM on January 27, 2010


WTF indeed, and especially in a nation where criminal conviction requires guilt "beyond a reasonable doubt."

Too bad that's not the sort of nation we have. A good lawyer probably could've shown reasonable doubt in this case... which is exactly why they got the guy to take a plea bargain. With 10 years' probation, to boot -- and I'm sure that no two-bit probation violation will turn up to send him back to jail for the full sentence!

The truth is that "beyond a reasonable doubt" applies to only a very small fraction of felony convictions in this country. Over 90% of US felony convictions are the result of plea bargains. The implications of this are rather interesting... assuming you don't actually believe that more than 90% of all people charged with a felony are guilty, that is.
posted by vorfeed at 8:14 PM on January 27, 2010


A good lawyer probably could've shown reasonable doubt in this case... which is exactly why they got the guy to take a plea bargain.
I don't know. A self-serving statement by the accused isn't necessarily going to do much good when he shows up with condoms at a prearranged meeting place with a documented plan to have sex with kids. His version of events is just such a bizarre story, and supported by so little except his unverifiable claims about his intentions.
posted by planet at 8:26 PM on January 27, 2010


vorfeed: "The truth is that "beyond a reasonable doubt" applies to only a very small fraction of felony convictions in this country. Over 90% of US felony convictions are the result of plea bargains. The implications of this are rather interesting... assuming you don't actually believe that more than 90% of all people charged with a felony are guilty, that is."

vorfeed, The impact of plea bargains are definitely interesting and frightening in many ways, though your link states that around 95% of felony convictions are the result of plea bargaining but does not say what percentage of felony accusations result in plea bargains.

In this case though I think the plea bargain he was offered resulted in greater justice than was likely in a jury trial. How many people in suburban Philadelphia do you think there are willing to look at a case like this through the eyes of someone who can graphically describe sex with an eight year old?
posted by Blasdelb at 8:38 PM on January 27, 2010


Psst. Hey, you. Want to buy some kiddie porn? It's right here, taped to this stack of hundred dollar bills. I'll charge you five bucks. To get it, you just gotta say, "I wanna buy some kiddie porn."

So, what'll it be?
posted by fleacircus at 8:40 PM on January 27, 2010


Over 90% of US felony convictions are the result of plea bargains.

It's possibly a silly question, but if you've never been tried, have you been convicted? Or is it more accurate to say that over 90% of US felony sentences are the result of plea bargains?
posted by hippybear at 8:58 PM on January 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's possibly a silly question, but if you've never been tried, have you been convicted?

Being found guilty is being found guilty, basically. It doesn't have to be a jury trial conviction to be scored as such.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:08 PM on January 27, 2010


His version of events is just such a bizarre story, and supported by so little except his unverifiable claims about his intentions.

I'd say it's pretty well-supported by the chat logs, which show that the cops were unable to get him to agree to come while the kids would supposedly be there, despite weeks worth of repeated attempts. The fact that the best they could do was "come while my kids are at school, we'll do X, and then I'll pick them up and we'll all do Y" does support his contention that he planned to leave after having sex with an adult.

vorfeed, The impact of plea bargains are definitely interesting and frightening in many ways, though your link states that around 95% of felony convictions are the result of plea bargaining but does not say what percentage of felony accusations result in plea bargains.

Good call, sorry. I misspoke. However, the Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics suggests that about 89% of all felony defendants in US District Court in 2004 were convicted through a guilty plea, so I wasn't far off.
posted by vorfeed at 9:12 PM on January 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'd say it's pretty well-supported by the chat logs, which show that the cops were unable to get him to agree to come while the kids would supposedly be there, despite weeks worth of repeated attempts.
I don't know. Even the article quotes lines where he says he wants to have sex with the kids. The article tries to explain it away, but I'm just having trouble imagining a guy who will lie about wanting to have sex with a woman's kids because that's what he thinks she wants, even with the cherry picked lines and various justifications provided by a friendly author to help me imagine it. Maybe the plea bargain robbed him of his rightful acquital, but I'm having a lot of trouble seeing it.

It seems much more likely that he was scared of the cops and wanted to try to manufacture some deniability.
posted by planet at 9:41 PM on January 27, 2010


Burhanistan is right, a conviction is simply the condition of having been found guilty of a crime, regardless of whether a jury had its hands in the process or not. Ergo, pleading guilty for a crime simply ends due process before the jury becomes involved.

(Just wanted to clarify for hippybear).
posted by Clamwacker at 9:44 PM on January 27, 2010


Ergo, pleading guilty for a crime simply ends due process before the jury becomes involved.

and thus by its very pragmatism, the LAW is absurd





(certainly arbitrary within the fog of its functionality)
posted by philip-random at 10:03 PM on January 27, 2010


His version of events is just such a bizarre story

I don't think so. He's just a guy saying whatever it takes to get into a woman's pants. A tale as old as time, playing out in thousands of different ways as we speak. Of course, he's willing to say ANYTHING whereas most people have a filter.
posted by falconred at 10:13 PM on January 27, 2010


Whenever I read about someone getting nabbed for this sort of thing, why is it always some borderline entrapment scenario that involves feeding some desperate schmuck just enough material to convict him regardless of the fact that he likely wasn't a threat to anyone?

Whether it be the FBI convicting someone based only on some cached thumbnails from a link they put up themselves, someone outright lying to people online about who they are while encouraging them toward their eventual conviction, or nabbing some kid for having hentai comics, it's just pathetic. Then everyone sits around and argues about legal minutiae and the broad moral implications of this guy's actions while ignoring that nothing has actually been accomplished except running some guy in and ruining his life so they can all pretend the Internet is safe again.

Meanwhile, the people who have a history of doing this and know enough not to get caught so easily keep doing it. This is depressing. It's like law enforcement lives in some other world where they are heroes for catching some guy who makes suggestive comments in a chat room, while things ten times worse are happening all around them.
posted by Avelwood at 11:04 PM on January 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


It seems much more likely that he was scared of the cops and wanted to try to manufacture some deniability.

What's the point of manufacturing some deniability if you then complete your master plan by talking to the cops and pleading guilty? I think you may be giving this guy way too much credit -- from where I stand, everything he did looks like the behavior of a credulous fool who never really understood how serious this was. Anyone with the sense to manufacture deniability would have already realized that they were talking to a cop... and even if not, his inability to keep this strictly fantasy (as any number of the other men "heatherscutiepies" chatted with must've done) strongly suggests that he wasn't the brightest banana in the bunch.

To me, "he was stupid enough to agree to meet this lady, yet clever enough to deliberately leave weeks worth of chatlog evidence about not wanting to come over when her kids were there" seems much less Occam's Razor-y than "he was stupid enough to agree to meet this lady, yet didn't want to come over when her kids were there".
posted by vorfeed at 11:05 PM on January 27, 2010


So, people keep telling me there are "good cops" in America. That they knew this one guy this one time.

I'm more convinced, each day, that such a thing does not exist.
posted by Netzapper at 11:39 PM on January 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


The amount of manpower and resources that we pour into this is amazing, almost as amazing as the fact that we pay absurd amounts for this "crime-fighting" while victims who report rape and sexual abuse cannot be guaranteed the care and attention they need.

It's like an episode of L&O SVU where Benson and Stabler wave off reports of a predator targeting his niece so they can type "lol math class is hrd" to some sad sack basement dweller in Bensonhurst.
posted by uri at 1:07 AM on January 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Somehow, as if on cue, this story hits. Thanks Australia.
posted by Avelwood at 1:16 AM on January 28, 2010


wtf .... from the comments on that Australia link:

What's wrong with sexual titillation from a drawn image of imaginary characters?

You're asking the wrong question, IMO. You should have asked:

"Why is it any worse than pure textual depictions of fictional children having sex?" (which AFAIK is not considered child pornography in most jurisdictions)

Would ASCII art depictions of child-like figures having sex, which are simultaneously textual erotic fiction about children having sex, be considered child pornography?

posted by mannequito at 2:09 AM on January 28, 2010


It took the detective a good month, or so, to reel this guy in. That's a damn long time to dangle the carrot in front of the mule before he supposedly moved for it.

Personally I think the abstraction of the internet has a tendency to induce subjective idealism and move people's reality almost squarely into a solipsistic worldview*. You can find reams and reams of all kinds rape fantasies online and the fact that this guy wrote some for her is kind of shruggo for me in that context. I don't mean to prop this up as some kind of defense for online predators but I think for this guy it does seem apropos. There's even a point where he talks about meeting up with a woman in real life and it was disappointing. I don't really know which side of the fence I come down on here, because even even though there is obvious ambivalence in the transcript, but in the end he was setting aside any moral quandary to try to have sex with the woman.

*Actually, I think every time you detract from real interaction (by way of subtracting a sense perception) then the solipsism becomes stronger.
posted by P.o.B. at 2:17 AM on January 28, 2010


She's a failed erotic romance writer turned cyber crime fighter hero in her own mind. And she probably needs to get laid.

Oh come on, can we please not do this?
posted by Rhomboid at 3:50 AM on January 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have a real problem with laws against victimless "crimes." The American justice system has its roots in English common law, but preemptive convictions and thoughtcrimes and moral crusades like this have little in common with that philosophical tradition. As far as I'm concerned, if there's no victim, there's no crime. The real crime is prosecuting people for thinking bad thoughts or saying bad things.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 12:42 PM on January 28, 2010


But even if mother-daughter incest were a "pretty standard kink,"

I can't visit this site at work, and you probably can't, either, but head on over to Literotica, often touted as the best source for quality online erotica. Check out their category listings. Browse around a little bit. Imagining that other families are screwing around is a very common fantasy. Right behind "my wife is a slut, and so is her best friend" and "my uptight lady boss is secretly submissive".

I don't expect him to tell the truth, since unfortunately we live in a hella uptight country which both perpetuates these kinks while at the same time being all ashamed about them. But I don't believe for one second his allegation that he was "...saying whatever it takes to get into a woman's pants." Again, I don't think he actually wanted to have sex with imaginary kids, but I do think he's a dumbass.
posted by muddgirl at 1:34 PM on January 28, 2010


I don't expect him to tell the truth, since unfortunately we live in a hella uptight country which both perpetuates these kinks while at the same time being all ashamed about them. But I don't believe for one second his allegation that he was "...saying whatever it takes to get into a woman's pants." Again, I don't think he actually wanted to have sex with imaginary kids, but I do think he's a dumbass.

You're limiting the options on your statement there. Essentially, you think he has a mother-daughter kink, and that would entail you also believe the reason he traveled out there was to take action on his kink. If thats what you think that's fine, because the guy was prosecuted and jailed for it. I like to think the justice system is doing its job without mistakes as much as the next person, but I think the article clearly shows there is plenty of reason to believe there were mistakes in thinking all around - including the idea that this guy is "perverted" and should be jailed just for that.
posted by P.o.B. at 2:06 PM on January 28, 2010


"The lieutenant told him, in so many words, that he was under arrest for “soliciting” sex with children."

Actually, the one soliciting sex with children was the police officer. She was keeping him on the line for his "crime" by consistently dangling the prospect of legal, adult sex.

For some reason I always imagined that police went after online child predators by pretending to be children. To insert this intermediary seems morally questionable at best.
posted by lholladay at 2:44 PM on January 28, 2010


_I'm having a real hard time believing this guy is just your plain old testosterone-fueled sex addict when he's chilling in a fetish room_

Trust me, the kink scene is full of people who saw 'fetish' and think 'easy'. But in this context his profile, with the lament about the vanilla wife and the promises that he can do anything for the woman in graphic detail are exactly like every other pervy solicitation I get- a guy will have seen enough porn to get the idea that kinky sex means porn stars who orgasm from a spanking/ 'forcing' a man to give head and promise me the moon based on what he thinks I'm interested in. So I spend a lot of time deleting emails from weirdos who want to 'serve' me who see it as a ticket into my trousers.

As a general rule, while these people might be inherently kinky, they'll take what they can get and jump through hoops if they get the idea it'll make you happy. Complaining that a wife doesn't understand them is a sympathy ploy used to cover the guy's ass, as classically the wife doesn't know and they wouldn't dream of being honest with her.
posted by Phalene at 2:04 PM on January 29, 2010


« Older Forget cosmetic upgrades—Air New Zealand has been ...  |  A compelling hypothesis: the i... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments