Tuesday, May 16, 2006

What I Learned From Dateline's "To Catch a Predator"

Pedophiles are not only scumbags, they have no fashion sense.

No matter how many creeps they parade in and out of that house, Chris Hansen is still usually the most sinister presence. Even Stone Phillips is like, dude, what's with that voice?

The Fort Myers Police believe in brutally tackling every suspect, no matter how docile or cooperative. One was even already spreading his hands and kneeling when he got oofed by three cops.

Also, apparently, it is standard police procedure in Fort Myers for policemen with weapons drawn to yell, "GET DOWN! GET YOUR ASS ON THE GROUND!" at a suspect who is standing still and confused. In most towns, police officers identify themselves as police officers and order someone to surrender, thereby defusing a dangerous situation. Not in Fort Myers, where the notion that the perp might have a concealed weapon is considered a good reason to jump out from behind a bush and yell, "BOO!" (Then of course comes the four-man tackle)

Also, and bear with me here...

I'm all for humiliating them, and it's damn good TV, but I'm still not sure what law they broke. (Except for the ones who sent pictures of their pogo sticks)

I'm not being a smart ass, I'm really asking. I'm pleased and proud to state that the laws involving sex with minors are something I know nothing about. But in no case was there any minor actually involved. If any defense attorneys are reading this who feel they couldn't beat this rap, I'd love to hear why, just for my own edification.

I don't know much about entrapment, but some of these cases sure looked like it to me. In one case, despite the actress' repeated begging, the guy refused to come in the house. (He was tackled and arrested anyway as he tried to leave.) The most hilariously doofy of the guys claimed he was not there for sex but to pick the girl up and take her to a birthday party. The fact that his sister and her two kids were waiting in the car would seem to bear that out... Still, he got sacked.

Oh, well. I throw no pity party for these guys. It just doesn't feel technically illegal to proposition an adult posing as a child in a chat room, even if you didn't know they were an adult. It feels sicker to go into a chat room posing as a child looking for sex.

Still, I'm sorry that Lost and the Amazing Race will keep me from watching this week. One of the guys gets naked and brings a tub of Cool Whip.


Sydelle Pearl said...

"Intent to have sex with a minor."

Fair or not, "intent" crimes have everything to do with what was in the defendant's mind, not with the reality of the situation. So you can be found guilty of intent to have sex with a minor, even if you're chatting with an adult or a robot or nobody at all. Similarly, you can be found guilty of intent to commit murder if you plunge a knife into a bunch of pillows under a blanket, if you honestly believe it was a live human.

What I can't figure out is why these people sit down and calmly chat with Chris Hanson, even WHEN THEY KNOW WHO HE IS AND THAT THEY ARE BEING TAPED FOR TELEVISION. I also want to know if they get these perps to sign releases before they air these shows and, if not, how NBC gets away with that.

Michael Markowitz said...

Ah, thank you, Sydelle, I can see that. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I would still differentiate between the intent to commit murder and the intent to have sex with a murder because of the level of intent you describe... The fact that one actually involves "plunging," if you will, while another was nipped while still in the pre-plunge stage.

Still, these guys are lowlives, so I will not lose any sleep.

As for the releases I wondered that, too... I assumed that none was necessary because it's a production of NBC News, and maybe the news division is not required to obtain releases when covering a "story." After all, Jack Abramoff didn't sign any releases to be filmed on his perp walk. But maybe someone can tell us whether that applies to a story which NBC manufactures.

As for why people calmly chat, I think for the same reason people agree to be interviewed by 60 Minutes or The Daily Show: everyone thinks they can talk their way out of anything. Few can.

The only approach that works is the one taken by Joey Bishop in the movie "Guide for the Married Man" or by Scott McClellan: Deny, deny, deny. If I were caught in Hansen's web, I would simply say I was not there.

Michael Markowitz said...

I also want to add that I lived for a short time on Sanibel Island, Florida. Sanibel is one of the most beautiful, tranquil places in America. It is a paradise, and it's just off Fort Myers.

As I remember it, Fort Myers was not exactly Vice City. I don't know why the cops there are so hopped up.

peeky said...

I agree that most people think they can deny the obvious and lie their way out of it. By the time they figure out what's up, it's too late to run. And yes, they all look dirty, particularly the tank toppy/cheap jewelry ones. Yecch.

I'm basically okay with entrapment as a means to catch people, by the way. But that's because I'm not likely to solicit a hooker or a child or a drug dealer. (subtext: I'm a wonderful person!)

p.s. Mike, I vacationed on lovely Sanibel Island many years ago. I wondered if it was decimated in the last hurricane.

Michael Markowitz said...

Peeky, I wondered the same thing. What struck me most about Sanibel (besides of course the sunsets) were those incredible seashells. Every morning the beaches would be littered with thousands of exquisite seashells. I found out that collectors would come from all over the world to collect what was, on Sanibel, daily detritus. I stil have a few beautiful green and pearl shells.