Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Dateline NBC's "To Catch a Predator"

I just watched the latest installment of Dateline NBC's "To Catch a Predator," that series where they hire an organization called Perverted Justice to set up a sting operation where they catch adults who show up to houses to try to have sex with people who said online that they were 13-year-olds. On the one hand, it certainly removes a lot of dangerous pedophiles from the streets and makes for great TV in the process. But it also brings up a lot of questions about sting operations, I think.

Of course, there are legal rules as to what constitutes entrapment, but how many of these men would have gone through with their actions without the "Perverted Justice" decoy leading them on? Everybody knows that it's illegal and wrong to meet up with a 13-year-old for sex. A good number of the people profiled on the show seem aware that the whole thing might be a setup, or are even aware of the show itself. And yet they still go through with it, bringing along condoms to show intent, sending photos of their penises, etc.

Are these guys habitual offenders? If so, then no question, the sting should be commended for punishing these perverts. But what about the first-time offenders? If somebody harbors pedophilic fantasies, well, that's perverted, but if they're able to go their lives up to that point without acting on those fantasies, then I don't think that man's necessarily a danger. On the other hand, every habitual offender was once a first-time offender.

But that's the thing about fantasies, plenty of people have all sorts of fantasies that they never act upon, like killing their boss, stealing something they can't afford, having sex with their wife's best friend, etc. What would you think if Jane were to present herself online as being sexually available to her friend's husband Bob, accede to various sexual advances, set up a time to meet, and then pull a "Gotcha!" on Bob? Well, you'd think Bob made a big mistake and deserves to be in a heap of trouble. Bob could have said "No way" and cut off the conversation as soon as it got out of hand, but he didn't. That being said, has Jane done a good deed by leading Bob on and exposing his weakness? Would Bob have pursued Jane if she had never presented herself to him as available? I don't think we could necessarily say.

The parallel I'm getting at, of course, is that I think there's a good chance that a sizable fraction of these guys would never have actively pursued a 13-year-old without this sting operation. They gave in to temptation, but the show led them into temptation in the first place.

On the show, they showed that one of the guys arrested ran a website called www.hottbarefootwomen.com (the site is sexually-oriented (adults, not 13-year-olds) but doesn't contain nudity). If you check out that site, he has a lengthy letter on his blog, [link removed on his request; see comments] apologizing for being stupid, but also saying that he wouldn't have done it if the decoy used by the sting operation hadn't been so persistent. Well, he could have ended the chat session at any time, and didn't. But obviously something about the decoy appealed to him, and went along with everything he suggested.

He also claims not to be a pedophile. Maybe he's not. people who are attracted to eight-year-olds are pedophiles. 13-year-olds look pretty young, but they've probably physically developed into adults, at least to a certain degree. Getting romantically or sexually involved with a 13-year-old is illegal for a reason, though. Adolescents aren't known for thinking rationally about sex and the psychological imbalance between an adult and a young teenager is severe. I'm not sure if that makes it pedophilia, but it is a bad idea and a person who transgresses like that deserves to be punished by society. But as much good as Perverted Justice does, I think they may do harm, too, by turning private perverts into active perverts and felons.

I wonder how successful the prosecutions of these are. The show said that about a third of those charged with crimes pled no contest. How many of the others get convicted?

Update: Now that I think about it, these guys are getting prosecuted for intending to have sex with a 13-year-old where there was no 13-year-old. In other words, there was no victim, only an intent to have a victim. Maybe somebody who's a lawyer can explain how you can get prosecuted for perpetrating a crime against a person who doesn't exist. (Of course, drug laws and prostitution laws don't have direct victims other than "society," either, so maybe this falls under that category.)

13 Comments:

At Wednesday, February 7, 2007 at 6:24:00 AM PST, Anonymous Matthew B. said...

Have you seen Outlaw Vern's thoughts on this show? Look about halfway through the Lady in the Water review.

 
At Wednesday, February 7, 2007 at 9:08:00 PM PST, Anonymous don said...

"Maybe somebody who's a lawyer can explain how you can get prosecuted for perpetrating a crime against a person who doesn't exist. (Of course, drug laws and prostitution laws don't have direct victims other than "society," either, so maybe this falls under that category.)"

That's My question too

 
At Thursday, February 8, 2007 at 2:49:00 PM PST, Anonymous clynne said...

It's so weird you bring this up. A friend of a friend was recently caught by the show. Needless to say there's a lot of debate going on right now about it amongst all the mutual friends...

 
At Thursday, February 8, 2007 at 10:13:00 PM PST, Anonymous Joshua said...

The arrestees on Dateline are generally being charged with attempt to commit lewd acts on a minor.

The "impossibility" defense, which otherwise would apply here (namely, that there was no actual minor involved), is no longer generally recognized in cases of "attempted" crimes.

The men aren't being prosecuted for perpetrating a crime against a nonexistent person, but for attempting to do so.

 
At Friday, February 9, 2007 at 9:47:00 AM PST, Anonymous clynne said...

Oh. In the article I read recently, it turns out what they're being prosecuted for it "attempted lewd behavior with or corruption of a minor." Which, I guess, technically it is, although I thought that "attempted" usually translated legally to "thwarted" rather than "turns out there was no victim."

 
At Tuesday, February 20, 2007 at 9:10:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really think that misrepensation may be a factor if this line of prosecution is taken to the supreme court.In drug stings where drugs are sold to illegal drug buyers actual drugs are used.I believe it would actually take actual minors not decoys to get the same slam dunk effect.

 
At Tuesday, February 20, 2007 at 9:42:00 PM PST, Blogger Adam Villani said...

And lo and behold, in tonight's exciting episode, an assistant D.A. in Texas commits suicide! I'll bet they're proud of themselves.

Dateline NBC asked the cops if they could have foreseen the suicide, and they categorically denied it. Oh really? A prominent prosecutor's life gets ruined on national TV and nobody thought the guy might commit suicide?

 
At Tuesday, February 27, 2007 at 6:00:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At Thursday, March 1, 2007 at 2:56:00 AM PST, Blogger Adam Villani said...

Hey, I'd just like to apologize for deleting the comment above. I originally approved it, but upon further thought, the fact that it implied violence against a specific target (the Dateline NBC guy who does these stings) gave me the heebie-jeebies about keeping it up on my publicly-viewable blog.

So, note that I'm apologizing not for posting it in the first place, but for taking it down, since I don't honestly think the anonymous commenter, although certainly angry, actually wanted to shoot the guy. But I don't want to get embroiled in any controversy if somebody were to attack the Dateline NBC guy, so I took it down.

I'm not going to knock you for posting it, I just didn't want any trouble following me around to my site. Sorry; I post opinions here but I don't engage in crusades.

 
At Friday, March 30, 2007 at 5:29:00 PM PDT, Anonymous val green said...

Hello there Adam; I was wondering if you could do me a HUGE Favor...

I'd like to start off by thanking you for writing such a fair and balanced opinion of my involvement with the mentioned sting - This is the 'accused' ... I run hottbarefootwomen.com

I think it's good that you're fostering a discussion about this show. I'll tell you, like I'll tell anyone - that what I did was wrong; However I didn't do it because of the girls age - Lots of reasons come to mind - Not thinking, Irresponsable behavior on my part, it truly is the dumbest thing I've ever done; But I'm not a pedophile.

I think my website backs up my sexual preference. Afterall that's what being a pedophile is all about; Sexual Preference. If I prefered underage girls over legal-aged girls - then I would indeed be a pedophile.

As you can see I removed my original statement about this matter; It will return when the time is right; For now however I'd like to move on with life - I'd like the story to die down. I don't mind if the discussion you have here keeps going (although it looks to have died down) - But I would very much like the link to my blog to be removed from this post.

That's the Huge Favor that I'm asking of you. The reason being, blogs searches pick on on links from one blog to another - You can leave the words up if you'd like & the link to my main site - I just want the link to my blog removed if that's Ok with you.

I remembered reading this blog of yours when all of this first happened; I wanted to commend you, and thank you for not Judging me incorrectly. You're welcomed to publish this response if you'd like, Or leave it unpublished and for your eyes only; But if possible please remove that blog link.

Thanks so much in advance - feel free to contact me about this matter if you'd like; you can reach me through the website. Take care.

 
At Saturday, March 31, 2007 at 12:46:00 AM PDT, Blogger Adam Villani said...

I've now removed the blog link, as requested.

 
At Friday, July 25, 2008 at 12:36:00 AM PDT, Anonymous val green said...

:) ... Many months later, I thank you again for your efforts; It still turns up in searches; but, I'm ok with that. I guess that's where I'll begin; I've been serving my probation, and learning a whole lot about myself due to this process.

My problem, at the time, was one of discretion. Meaning, I tended to take interest in women who had interest in me; even if only for a short term; Appearance, age, didn't really matter - just being interested in me was enough.

I've learned since, how important it is to make good choices. Not that I didn't know this before, but the point was really hammered home by the results of my Poor decision.

For the past 2 years, I've been unable to help guide my young nephews, the way I'd like; been unable to give them advice about things, can't really spend time with them... and that part has really sucked the most; I always envisioned myself as being helpful to them, giving them tips on what to avoid in life, what to strive for.

I do what I can when I can, giving them nuggets of advice when I get the opportunity; But I sure wish I hadn't done what I did, as I have missed out on the chance to Really be there like I'd like to be.

One nephew plays basketball; Oh how I would have loved to spend time practicing with him; running drills with him, teaching him what defenders on the other team are thinking; taking him to games, being like a personal coach; I hope his life does not suffer, because of my choice.

And, not because I have a taste for young women - but because one was put in my face - extremely interested in me - when by comparisson, the other girls in the room that day were not. I can't speak for all the guys on this show, but I'm sure many of them made the same poor choice for that similar reason.

I've met guys who's lives have been ruined by a poor choice. One guy was in a bar, and hooked up with a girl who he later found out was under age; He's been slapped with "sex offender" for life.

I've read stories of guys who've done more than me; R. Kelly for example, was on video - peeing on a minor - but, his wealth helped buy his freedom. Another guy in the classes with me, had a long term relationship going with a 15 year old girl; The mother knew and was Ok with it; but one day someone in the family told - however his money helped get him a light sentence - Probation, No sex offender Registration.

I was pursued by an adult, posing as a minor, pursued vigorously, and like so many when tempted by things they should not choose - I made the wrong choice.

Would I be in this position, if they weren't running these stings? ... that is a question I often ask my self. Every time I tell myself, of course not - but, perhaps I needed this to happen to teach me a lesson, to prepare me for something else to come in my life.

Now, I know, that absolutely under no circumstances, no matter what, I cannot afford to make poor choices like that one; The laws are not in your favor, public perception is not on your side; People don't want to hear that "I" was the victim ... they don't care that yahoo chat rooms are often frequented by Adults, not minors, that the chances of this happening, without dateline paying these vigilantes to conduct these "stings" - are slim to none - No... people only care that when Presented with this option, I took the wrong one.

Again, Adam, I thank you for fostering this discussion; but it's a difficult one to have in this present time; While there are still very many thinkers in our society today, far too often the media thinks for the people in society.

People do not care that the D.A. in Texas took his life; they over look that despite the chatting, the guy was a No show; that NBC brought cameras to this guys House; they wanted their story, no matter the cost; People's reaction generally was, "serves him right.. that pedophile."

And, maybe they're right; maybe that D.A. had a 'taste' for young boys, but if that's true, why didn't he show up? Why did they have to call and harass him? Maybe, just maybe, he was not going to act on his conversation...

But people only care that he Had the conversation;

It's a thin line, a real tough one; I'll say it again, I made the wrong choice; I'm sure "adam" would love to take back his choice when "eve" presented the apple ... but, in life we must all live with the consequences of our choices... and that's where I am now.

Forced to live, knowing full well who I am, what I am, and what I'm into; While having to face people who often don't know anything about me at all; other than the 3 minutes of TV time I received; which was full of 'spin' ... them filling in reasons for why I did what I did, all without consulting me. But ... that's what I get.

I do hope that one day people will look back on this series and see it for what it is ... or was; A set up.

Sure, I had the chance to make the right choice - I could have put the girl on ignore, closed the box, turned off yahoo, walked away; But is life ever really that simple?

No see, these guys are playing a game where they take into account something known as "human nature."

They know full well the environment that is chat; They're using experienced chatters, who've done it for years. Most of the women in those rooms are lying about who they are, they're not attractive, and or they're Not even interested in meeting a man; So when they introduce a girl who is, and I mean who "really is" - guys are going to bite.

A typical game of, Fishing; using artificial bait, and yes ... catching real fish; We dont spend enough time in this nation educating men about the real dangers of making these types of choices - Sure we hear jokes, we all know we should not do it; but how many of us ever find ourselves in a position to make that choice?

Some will say "it doesn't matter" - but I disagree, I think it does. I had seen the show, something didn't feel right about it; and yet it was so tempting, so intriguing because they knew what I'd be interested in; They went for my weakness ... putting photos and subtle wording about bare feet on a myspace page that was Wiped Clean - the equivelent of Tampering with a Crime Scene - but ... if the media isn't covering that, people are not thinking about that either.

Yes, what I did was wrong; but at what point will society look at "Both sides" ... the reality that most people do not do wrong, on their own; that it takes two to tango; not that it makes it 'right' - but that it is our Nature; Causality; Action and Reaction, Cause ... and effect.

Who knows how many lives have been ruined ... how many marriages have been broken up ... how many uncles have been unable to truly mentor their nephews ... how many people have committed suicides, or found themselves in fist fights with 'friends' - all because NBC wants more ratings, and more advertising dollars, and yes... all because 'when tempted' ... these men, made a poor decision.

On the flip side, how many people have been saved? Will we ever really know? I've read discussions where people have suggested that due to these shows, True pedophiles are now more careful; that they're using different methods to inflict harm; Has this show driven Real threats underground?

I love the ad, put out by the ad council, where it talks about the girl who met a new friend - same age, similar interests, the girl was 13; she goes to meet her new friend one day, and he turns out to be an Old man; I "love" this ad, because in my opinion, it's message is more rooted in reality; and that ad stresses the Need for parents to be Parents - to be involved in their kids lives; to Protect their children from the dangers this world presents;

On one hand we have a show that is purely false in every way; both the decoys and the 'predators' aren't even Real predators - but are more like, Opportunists.

When an opportunity presents itself you either accept or you decline; In this case, it's totally wrong to accept, but the decoys really sell it to you well; They make fun of you if you're not interested; They indeed entyce; and since they're not the police it's all totally legal;

What I learned later, is that the conversation alone was enough to convict me of 'attempt' - how many men are aware of that?

So again, my hope for all of this, is a society where men are better educated about the laws in this country, because they are truly not in our favor when it comes to things like this; Not much sympathy, most could care less about what the 'decoys' did or said - Their view is, "no matter what, absolutely under no circumstances, never ever...."

And, so long as that is the law of the land; they are absolutely right; Ignorance of the Law does not protect you from the law; so I hope this show teaches men everywhere ... learn from My mistake; do not, under any circumstances, and for any reason, take this risk; I don't care what she looks like, Always check ID; I don't care what she tells you, Don't engage in a sexual conversation; don't even tempt yourself, walk away; Do not worry about what they call you, or how they feel about it; look out for you... look out for your best interests... Make, the right choice.

 
At Sunday, April 24, 2011 at 8:32:00 PM PDT, Anonymous Kathy said...

On "To Catch a Predator", I don't see why they have to slam the guys to the ground when they step out of the house. I realize the so-called predators could be armed but can't they just have them raise their hands and then search them? I think the way they smash them to the ground, pushing them down hard, is just unnecessarily nasty treatment.

 

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