To Catch a Predator
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|To Catch a Predator|
Title card from the DatelineNetCrime era.
|Presented by||Chris Hansen|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Running time||44 mins|
|Original release||November 11, 2004 –|
December 28, 2007
|Related shows||Crime Watch Daily|
To Catch a Predator is an American reality television series featuring hidden camera investigations by the television news magazine program Dateline NBC hosted by Chris Hansen. It was devoted to impersonating underage persons (generally ages 12–15) and detaining adults who contacted them over the Internet for sexual liaisons. People were lured to meet with a decoy under the pretense of sexual contact, then confronted and interviewed by Hansen, and finally arrested by local law enforcement.
The series premiered in November 2004, and featured 12 investigations in total held across the United States. The investigations were conducted as undercover sting operations with the help of online watchdog group Perverted-Justice. Since the third installment, law enforcement and other officials were also involved, leading to the arrests of most individuals caught. No new episodes have aired since December 2015.
NBC affiliates WTMJ in Milwaukee, KSHB in Kansas City and WBRE in Wilkes-Barre have also done local versions of To Catch a Predator. Various spin-offs have aired in the same format, including To Catch a Con Man, To Catch an ID Thief, To Catch a Car Thief and To Catch an i-Jacker, which featured iPod thieves. To Catch a Predator is also aired on FX and Crime & Investigation Network in the United Kingdom, the Crime & Investigation Network in Australia and New Zealand and FOX Crime in Portugal.
- 1 Method
- 2 Investigations
- 2.1 Bethpage, Long Island (Outside New York City)
- 2.2 Herndon, Fairfax County, Virginia (Suburban Washington, D.C.)
- 2.3 Mira Loma, Riverside County, California (Outside Los Angeles)
- 2.4 Greenville, Ohio
- 2.5 Fort Myers, Florida
- 2.6 Fortson, Georgia
- 2.7 Petaluma, California
- 2.8 Long Beach, California
- 2.9 Murphy, Texas
- 2.10 Flagler Beach, Florida
- 2.11 Mantoloking (Ocean County), New Jersey
- 2.12 Bowling Green, Kentucky
- 3 Criticism
- 4 Cancellation
- 5 Hansen vs. Predator
- 6 Book
- 7 In popular culture
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Show host Chris Hansen clarified in an interview with NPR News that the subjects confronted on the show should be labelled properly as potential sexual predators and not as pedophiles, which is a specially defined clinical subclass of human psychosexuality. Hansen stated, "Pedophiles have a very specific definition, people who are interested in prepubescent sex."
The method that was used to catch these would-be sex offenders is derived from that normally used by Perverted-Justice. Perverted-Justice volunteers build profiles identified as underage individuals on social networking websites, and enter chat rooms as decoys. They set up adults to message or email the decoy and begin a dialogue. If the conversation turns sexual in nature (the content in question initiated by the adult), the decoy will not discourage this, nor outright encourage it. This also can help the Perverted-Justice team in collecting incriminating evidence against the alleged offender. Such evidence could include engaging in sexual conversations, sending the decoy pornography or child pornography, and committing other acts.
The decoy eventually leads the visitors to believe they are home alone and invites the visitors to come to their house or to an agreed-upon location, where the visitor is seeking sexual activity from the decoy. When the visitors arrive at the house, the decoy finds a reason to leave the room within seconds of meeting the visitor, at which point the visitors are confronted by Hansen who instructs them to "have a seat" and states that he "needs" to talk to them.
Hansen questions each one at length about their intentions. Some leave immediately upon seeing Hansen because they recognize that he is clearly not a teenager, or they have seen him in previous Dateline investigations. Hansen, without initially identifying himself, interviews the suspects about their intentions, and also reads aloud some of the graphic portions of the chat to inform them that the logs were indeed recorded. Those who have not seen Hansen's Dateline investigations before often assume he is either the child's father or a member of a law enforcement agency. After a few minutes of questioning, Hansen identifies himself as a Dateline NBC correspondent and informs the visitor that the entire interview has been recorded on hidden camera as part of the Dateline NBC story. Then Dateline crew members with large cameras and microphones reveal themselves, and the person is offered a chance to make a final statement before being asked to leave.
The first two investigations did not include law enforcement officers on site, and individuals caught in the sting were allowed to leave voluntarily, though Dateline would provide all video and transcripts to law enforcement and suspects would eventually be arrested. Arrests are sometimes made in a dramatic fashion by multiple officers who, with Taser drawn, ambush the suspect and command him to lie face-down on the ground before being handcuffed. In the Fort Myers investigation, a police officer in camouflage sometimes arrested the perpetrators as they left the sting house. Tasers are sometimes shown being used to subdue fleeing or merely unresponsive individuals. Some investigations also show booking procedures and bail hearings. Bail is usually set between $30,000 and $50,000 per suspect.
During interviews, suspects often claim not to have any idea how old the supposed minor is, even when confronted by Hansen with chat logs showing the decoy clearly identifying him or herself as underage. In some jurisdictions, online solicitation with the belief that the other person is below the age of consent is a crime, regardless of whether the other person actually is.
Bethpage, Long Island (Outside New York City)
The first in the series aired in November 2004 as a Dateline NBC segment called Dangerous Web. The operation was set up in a home in Bethpage, New York, to which 18 men came over two-and-a-half days after making an appointment for sex with a minor. One of the men in the investigation was a New York City firefighter, who was later fired by the FDNY.
Herndon, Fairfax County, Virginia (Suburban Washington, D.C.)
The sequel to the first story was an hour-long special airing in November 2005. The operation was located in Fairfax County, Virginia, in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., and saw 19 men arrive over three days. Among the men caught were rabbi David Kaye and elementary-school teacher Steven Bennof, both of whom lost their jobs after taping. Another man, John Kennelly, came to the house appearing naked in the kitchen, and just 24 hours later, was again caught at a McDonald's trying to meet a 13-year-old boy. He was later arrested.
Mira Loma, Riverside County, California (Outside Los Angeles)
The third installment of the series was a two-hour special aired in February 2006. The operation was located at a house on Riverboat Drive in Riverside County, California, and was the first done in cooperation with local law enforcement officials. During this sting, 50 men were arrested over three days and charged with felonies—so many that three arrived almost simultaneously, and law enforcement, at one point, ran out of personnel. One other person arrested was charged with a misdemeanor. The men arrested included a criminal investigator working for the Department of Homeland Security who was later fired and, for the first time, two men who claimed to have seen previous Dateline investigations of online perpetrators trying to have sex with minors.
The fourth investigation aired in two one-hour-long parts during April and May 2006 as the first half of a monthlong series of To Catch a Predator specials. The operation was based in Greenville, Ohio. The location of the undercover house meant that potential predators from the larger surrounding cities of Indianapolis, Columbus, and Cincinnati had to drive upward of an hour and a half to reach the operation. Among the men caught was one who had been slated to start a prison sentence for a different charge of solicitation in four days and a sixth-grade teacher who had also been chatting with an Indiana police officer posing as a teenage girl. Due to Ohio state requirements for evidence in sting operations, three Perverted-Justice members were temporarily deputized for the length of the operation. It was also the first Dateline investigation in which Perverted-Justice was paid a consulting fee.
Fort Myers, Florida
As with the Ohio investigation, the fifth investigation was aired in two hourlong parts in May 2006, forming the second half of the month-long series of To Catch a Predator specials. The operation was done in a house at 1252 Caloosa Drive in Fort Myers, Florida, and saw 24 men arrested in three days. Among the more notable moments in the investigation was the arrest of a man who had brought along his 5-year-old son to the house, creating a challenge for arresting officers as well as Hansen, who did not want to traumatize the boy. Hansen told him immediately that he was on Dateline without attempting to interview him, and police had the difficult task of arresting the father and removing the child without exposing him to the arrest.
Another man had asked a decoy posing as a 14-year-old if she was willing to have oral sex with a cat and perform sex acts involving Cool Whip. She replied that she would do so on the condition that he would strip naked after entering the house. He did so and was immediately confronted by Hansen. He was the second featured predator to strip naked in the house. Like the first one, Hansen gave him a towel to cover himself. Before the man went outside the house to be apprehended by police, Hansen told him that he could keep the towel.
Another man arrived at almost 4 a.m. but refused to enter the house, trying to talk the girl into getting in his car with him. After pleading with her for over 30 minutes, he gave up and walked to his car where he was arrested. Another man confessed that he was "guilty of whatever's there" (referring to the transcript) and, when asked what should happen to him by Hansen, said that he should receive the death penalty. Another duped his sister into driving him to the sting house and waiting for him in the car while he intended to have sex with a 14-year-old girl. This is the individual who pulled his shirt over his head and said, "I don't want to be on the news, dawg," to which Hansen replies, "It's a little late for that, dawg."
On June 30, 2009, all the cases made it through the court system. 20 of the 24 men were convicted of using the Internet to solicit a child for sex and some were also convicted of sending harmful material to a child, as some of them emailed pornographic pictures to the decoys. Because these are sex crimes, the 20 convicted men have to register as sex offenders for the rest of their lives. Most of them were also put on sex offender probation.
The sheriff's department in Harris County, Georgia had arrested 20 men over four-and-a-half days in another sting operation. The investigation in Fortson, Georgia (just north of Columbus and 100 miles (160 km) south of Atlanta) aired on Dateline NBC in two parts on September 13 and September 22, and showed a growing awareness of the television series among potential predators; Dateline itself was referenced by name several times. Notable arrests included a military staff sergeant who on his knees pleaded with Hansen not to "destroy" his life, a devout Christian man whose MySpace page claimed "Jesus Rocks" and that God was his hero, and one man who had said that he had seen the show "about three times on TV already". Several months later, another man was rearrested when he exposed himself to a young girl at a public pool. One man, upon seeing Hansen, said that he knew that he was walking into a setup because of the way that the decoy was talking online, but came anyway "to test it."
Shortly after the first half of this investigation aired, the Georgia Governor's office announced a new Child Safety Initiative which would triple the number of special agents in the Georgia Bureau of Investigation dedicated to catching Internet predators and double the number of forensic computer specialists dedicated to helping prosecute computer crimes.
From August 25 to August 27, 2006, Perverted-Justice and Dateline worked with law enforcement in Petaluma, California to arrest 29 men in three days. One suspect was later released due to lack of evidence. The resulting investigation aired on Dateline NBC on September 29 and October 6. The confrontations took place in the backyard, which was the first time taping took place outdoors; all of the previous interviews took place in a kitchen or living room. Several political cartoons published in the wake of the scandal explicitly referenced To Catch a Predator by name.
Given the proximity of the sting house to Silicon Valley, the investigation saw several computer engineers arrested, one of whom declared to the police that he was a well-respected man in society with a Ph.D. in computer engineering. Among the more notable arrests was that of a medical doctor who was the vice-president of a major cancer research corporation and later had his medical license revoked. Another claimed to be an active-duty Marine Corps sniper who, in his chat, said: "I carry a gun everywhere I go". Police intervened immediately before any confrontation with Hansen and found a shotgun in the individual's truck.
In January 2010, Lt. Matthew Stapleton of the Petaluma Police Department credited the sting operation with scaring potential predators away from Petaluma. Referring to later decoy operations by local police, Stapleton said, "As soon as they found out that we were from the Petaluma area, they completely cut off communication with us."
However, after six days of testimony, a judge threw out the case against one of the defendants and criticized the tactics used by Dateline’s partner, Perverted-Justice, for engaging in entrapment.
Long Beach, California
In September 2006, Perverted-Justice and Dateline once again worked with law enforcement in California, this time in Long Beach at 5278 E Mezzanine Way, to arrest 38 men over three days. The Long Beach investigation featured a man who had previously been encountered in the Riverside operation nearly a year earlier, as well as a post-production video editor for Nickelodeon, a software engineer who worked for the United States Department of Defense, and a man soliciting a decoy posing as an 11-year-old (Dateline's youngest fictitious age for a decoy to date). This installment also featured a man who met his decoy at nearby Wardlow Park after refusing to meet her at the house. This man had brought the decoy an MP3 player to give her after they had sex and got pulled over for speeding on the way to the meeting. Some predators were ushered out through the back door when it appeared that another predator was on his way to the house, in order to avoid tipping off the next visitor.
During some of the encounters in Long Beach, there appeared to be security breaches involving the decoy playing the part of the young teen: one predator was allowed to shake her hand and lean in to kiss her before Hansen walked in, and another was allowed to hug the decoy before being confronted by Hansen. Typically, the decoy is instructed not to have any physical contact with predators, and Hansen usually walks right in when they make a sudden move or request any physical contact such as a hug or a kiss. During this investigation, the presence of the Dateline sting operation in town was leaked online through a Craigslist internet posting. Nonetheless, this segment aired on January 30 and February 6, 2007.
In November 2006, Perverted-Justice announced that another To Catch a Predator sting had been conducted with law enforcement in Murphy, Texas. There were 25 men who arrived at the location on Mandeville Drive over four days, with law enforcement investigating additional suspects. The predators included a former church music director and a former police officer in his 60s. Most notably, these additional suspects, who conducted chats but did not arrive at the undercover house, included Kaufman County assistant district attorney Louis W. Conradt Jr., who shot and killed himself on November 5, 2006 at his home when police attempted to serve him with a search warrant. An NBC camera crew was waiting outside the house to capture the scene when the fatal shot was fired. His estate, managed by his sister Patricia Conradt, filed suit against Dateline for US$105 million The case was eventually settled out of court.
This sting was also notable because it prompted protests from local residents, who were opposed to law enforcement officials purposely attracting sexual predators to their neighborhood. Others countered that these predators were already in the area (or close by) and that this sting revealed them to be sex offenders. NBC broadcast this investigation on February 13 and February 20, 2007. Prior to the settlement of Patricia Conradt's lawsuit against NBC Universal Inc, portions from the February 20, 2007 broadcast of To Catch A Predator were intended to be introduced in civil court.
On June 1, 2007, the Collin County district attorney's office declined to prosecute any of the 23 cases brought up against those arrested on this installment of the show, citing insufficient evidence. Assistant DA Doris Berry later told Esquire that in many of the cases, there was no evidence that either the suspect or decoy were present within Collin County during their exchanges. She also discovered that the Murphy Police Department had done "literally no prior investigation" before making the arrests, thus making most if not all of them illegal under Texas law. The cases were not expected to be considered again. This marks the first segment in which local law enforcement has declined an invitation to prosecute suspects involved in the show.
On September 5, 2007, Dateline aired the results of the forensic report on Conradt's computer. According to the report, Conradt's "CDs, laptop computers and cell phone all contained pornographic material—some included child pornography." Additional reporting by Esquire in 2009 disputed this claim.
Flagler Beach, Florida
In December 2006, Perverted-Justice worked with the police department in Flagler Beach, Florida to arrest 21 men over four days, and the sting was taped again by Dateline at a house on North 13th Street. Aware that potential predators might be reluctant to show up at a house primarily due to repeated Dateline investigations, the crew set up a second location at the beach directly across the street from the house. This second location was also rigged with cameras and microphones and had police hiding in a bunker below the deck. Some of the men arrested included a retired truck driver who claimed that he lied during his chat log about wanting to have sex with the underage girl because he is no longer able to achieve an erection, a Taekwondo instructor who masturbated on webcam for the decoy with whom he chatted, and a sheriff's deputy from Alabama who was arrested in a vehicle containing an "arsenal" of weapons. In one case, two potential predators arrived within five minutes of each other, resulting in Hansen conducting the first dual interview of predators who had each made separate appointments for sex. This investigation aired on February 27 and March 6, 2007.
Mantoloking (Ocean County), New Jersey
From March 28 to April 1, 2007, Perverted-Justice worked with the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office in Ocean County, New Jersey to arrest 28 men who showed up at Dateline's undercover house. The arrests spanned several Northeast states, including Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. The investigation was covered by Dateline NBC for a two-show edition of To Catch a Predator that aired on July 18 and July 25, 2007. As in the Flagler Beach investigation, a second meeting location was also set up at a nearby beach for those who were reluctant to show up at the sting house.
The female decoy assuming the role of the young teen was played by the 18-year-old daughter of the homeowner who rented out the beachfront house to Dateline. (This property is strictly used as a summer rental, and neither the decoy nor her father actually live in the home.) She was more interactive in speaking with the predators than in shows past, doing a pre-interview with featured predators before Hansen conducted the main interview. For the first time in the TCAP series, "Casey" gave an on-camera interview on what it is like to play a decoy.
Those arrested included a school bus driver, a court administrator, a senior web developer, a bodybuilder, United States Air Force mechanic Ernest C. Timmons (who died from liver failure while awaiting trial), a former firefighter, and a registered sex offender from Pennsylvania who once molested a young girl he had met online. As in previous episodes, most of the men denied an intent to have sex with the teen, yet brought gifts, condoms, and lubricants with them.
This installment of To Catch a Predator featured a man who became so ill while being interviewed by Chris Hansen that he passed out and crashed head-first into the bottom section of a counter. After being treated for his injuries, which were not serious, he was arrested. Another man seemed pleasantly surprised at meeting Hansen, shaking his hand before leaving, knowing that he would be arrested immediately afterward. In addition, a man caught in the sting mentioned on-air that he was a religious watcher of To Catch A Predator. He had heard Chris Hansen on the Opie and Anthony radio talk show. He went on to mention he was "really funny." Opie and Anthony commented about the incident on their show the next day.
Bowling Green, Kentucky
On October 22, 2007, the Warren County District Attorney's Office announced that 29 men were arrested in an internet child sex sting conducted by local police in conjunction with Perverted-Justice and Dateline NBC. Footage of this sting operation aired in an installment of the To Catch a Predator series on December 28, 2007, marking the twelfth investigation covered by Dateline and host Chris Hansen since the series began in 2004. Perverted-Justice partnered with the Kentucky Bureau of Investigation as well as the Attorney General's office in three separate sting operations in three cities in Kentucky, but Dateline NBC was only involved in the Bowling Green portion of the operation. The female decoy used by Dateline in this operation was the same decoy they had used in the New Jersey operation, though her hairstyle was different in order to reduce the possibility of being recognized by one of the predators who had watched the New Jersey investigation.
Only seven men showed up to the house during Dateline's portion of the investigation, a sharp decline from previous Dateline investigations. Among the men arrested include a man (Dustin McPhetridge) with cerebral palsy, a man (Lorne Armstrong) who was arrested on his birthday while playfully asking the decoy for a birthday kiss, and a man who claimed to be a detective. This last one was tasered due to his claim that he had brought a gun with him. The taser probes failed to stick, so police chased him into the house where he was subdued. It was later found out that he was no longer a police officer at the time and had actually been fired. All men arrested face 5–10 years in prison if convicted.
The series has been accused of making news rather than reporting news, blurring the line between being a news organization versus an agency of law enforcement. Among the more prominent critics of the series has been Brian Montopoli of the CBS News Public Eye blog and formerly of the Columbia Journalism Review. Montopoli argues that although Dateline NBC leaves legal punishment up to police and prosecutors, broadcasting the suspects on national television, in the context of exposing criminal behavior, is already a form of punishment which the media have no right to inflict. Montopoli also suggests that NBC News is more concerned about ratings than actually bringing online predators to justice:
But NBC is first and foremost a business, and the producers' motives are not simply altruistic. Perhaps I'm being cynical, but I find it telling that this program has been remade and rerun so often. You could argue that NBC is just making sure as many people as possible are aware predators are out there, but is it too much to think that a little thing called "ratings" might play a part as well?
In the United Kingdom, columnist and television critic Charlie Brooker wrote of the show that "when a TV show makes you feel sorry for potential child-rapists, you know it's doing something wrong". He also commented on the "overpowering whiff of entrapment" and the potential for viewer complicity. Brooker also mentioned the selection process for the actress as being disturbing by adding "Presumably someone at To Catch a Predator HQ sat down with a bunch of audition tapes and spooled through it, trying to find a sexy 18-year-old who could pass for 13. They'll have stared at girl after girl, umming and ahhing over their chest sizes, until they found just the right one. And like I say, she's hot. But if you fancy her, you're a paedophile."
In May 2007, a former executive producer for Dateline named Marsha Bartel filed a lawsuit against NBC and made assertions about To Catch a Predator that contradicted what the show purports to be about. She commented on the relationship the show has with the different police organizations and the group Perverted-Justice. The lawsuit was dismissed by the New York Supreme Court in October 2007, citing that NBC has the legal right to dismiss employees without notification. NBC commented on the dismissal: "We believed from the beginning that this case was without merit and we are pleased with the judge's decision."
Entrapment is a practice where a law enforcement agent induces a person to commit a criminal offense that the person would have otherwise been unlikely or unwilling to commit. It can be used as a legal defense for actions committed by the government but does not apply to investigative actions taken by a purely private organization. Some critics of To Catch a Predator, such as Brian Montopoli, argue that people accused of offenses through the show may be able to raise an entrapment defense due to coordination with law enforcement.
Although entrapment does not ordinarily apply to actions taken by private organizations, when Perverted-Justice works sufficiently in concert with a law enforcement agency, the involvement of the state actor may allow for an entrapment defense. Perverted-Justice takes the position that it has precautions in place to avoid entrapment issues, claiming that volunteers never initiate contact with the target or instigate lewd conversations or talks of sexual meetings. However, former Dateline anchor Stone Phillips disputes that claim, arguing that, "In many cases, the decoy is the first to bring up the subject of sex." Phillips defended the tactic as enticement as opposed to entrapment, stating that, "Once the hook is baited, the fish jump and run with it like you wouldn't believe." In contrast, Montopoli contends that this alone may render Predator-related cases vulnerable to the defense of entrapment on the basis that targets might be enticed to commit a crime that they had no previous intent to commit.
After a sting operation conducted by Perverted-Justice with the Riverside, California Sheriff's Department, a court rejected a defendants' entrapment defense, finding no evidence to support the claim that that Perverted-Justice acted as an agent of law enforcement. The conviction was affirmed on appeal, which noted the trial court's observation that the defendant initiated the contact with who he thought was a 12-year-old girl.
In 2011, a case was thrown out against a defendant who formerly appeared on the show because the trial court judge did not find proof of a specific intent to commit the crime. The judge criticized the tactics used by Perverted-Justice, which he suggested lacked credibility and engaged in entrapment.
In June 2007, Perverted-Justice was criticized following a sting operation in Collin County, Texas after charges against 23 suspected online sex predators were dropped. Collin County Assistant District Attorney Greg Davis claimed the cases were dropped after Perverted-Justice failed to provide enough usable evidence that crimes were committed within the county's jurisdiction. Perverted-Justice responded by claiming that the District Attorney's Office was changing its explanation for dropping the charges and "could not defend the claim that the evidence was 'inadequate'".
Conflict of interest
Beginning with the fourth investigation, Dateline began paying Perverted-Justice a consultant's fee to do its regular work; the fee was reported to have been over $100,000 for that operation. It was suggested that this payment created a potential conflict of interest for Perverted-Justice, an organization run largely on the efforts of volunteers, and furthermore, that for Dateline to pay this fee would be tantamount to paying news sources, a practice widely frowned upon in the journalism industry. In their FAQ, Perverted-Justice defends this consulting fee, citing, among other things, the costs of keeping its website running and the fact that "... everyone except [themselves] and the predators are being compensated for this massive amount of effort." This was also addressed by the March 2007 issue of Law Enforcement Technology magazine. A judge dismissed motions to throw out indictments against seven of the 18 men arrested in the Ohio sex sting. To date, 16 pleaded guilty and two were convicted at trial. Defense attorneys contended the sting violated state law because of Dateline's involvement with Perverted-Justice and petitioned to have related videos, statements and photos suppressed.
The department kept itself separate from Dateline staff during the sting as well, to avoid legal hassles later on, says Burns. Officials were positioned in a location near but not inside the house where offenders arrived for meetings. Communications and video equipment permitted authorities to keep tabs on what transpired, and all chats were transmitted directly to officials as they took place. "We didn't want to blur the line of ethics between law enforcement and the media," Burns explained. "We didn't even speak to Dateline officials during the operations."
The potential for conflict of interest was one of several concerns that led to the non-prosecution of 23 cases in Collin County, Texas. District Attorney John Roach questioned circumstances of the May 2007 sting, stating: "What is exactly the deal between the City of Murphy and NBC? What is the deal between NBC and Perverted-Justice? Who's getting paid what? Who has an axe to grind?" Investigative journalist Byron Harris explained, "John Roach knew the money issue would come up in court as part of the required disclosure of benefits received by possible witnesses."
Investigation by 20/20
On September 7, 2007, the ABC newsmagazine 20/20 aired an investigative report into the To Catch a Predator series by ABC News investigative reporter Brian Ross. The report critiqued certain aspects of the specials, and also investigated the controversy over the suicide of prosecutor Louis Conradt, Jr. In the report, two former police detectives with the Murphy, Texas Police Department, Sam Love and Walter Weiss, claimed that the decision to arrest Conradt at his home was made by Chris Hansen, a charge NBC denied. Love and Weiss claimed that the NBC News crew had every intention to confront Conradt, and the attorney for Conradt's family charged that Dateline chose to stop at nothing to get Conradt. Love and Weiss also claimed that Conradt's death was shrugged off by many in Murphy's police force, and the two of them left the department in disgust.
Neither NBC News nor Perverted-Justice cooperated with Ross' report. NBC News accused ABC News of using the 20/20 report as a hit piece on the rival newsmagazine Dateline NBC. "I chalk this up to the usual network silly competitiveness, in a territory of a much more serious handling," NBC News president Steve Capus told USA Today. "The competitive wars [for ratings] right now are at a very high level...That's fueling this." The allegations were denied by Ross, who was formerly a reporter for NBC News.
The show was cancelled in 2008, in part because Louis Conradt, an assistant district attorney in Rockwall County, Texas, shot himself after he was caught talking to and exchanging pictures with a Perverted-Justice volunteer posing as a 13-year-old boy. When Conradt did not show up for a prearranged meeting, NBC and local police tracked him to his home. He committed suicide as police and an NBC camera crew entered his home.
In late 2007, Conradt's sister, Patricia Conradt, subsequently sued NBC Universal, saying that the police had raided Conradt's house at the behest of NBC. In January 2008, federal judge Denny Chin dismissed most of Patricia Conradt's claims, but found that she had a reasonable chance of proving that NBC had pressed police into engaging in unreasonable and unnecessary tactics solely for entertainment value, thus creating "a substantial risk of suicide or other harm." He also found that Conradt could prove that police disregarded their duty to prevent Conradt from killing himself and that NBC's actions amounted to "conduct so outrageous and extreme that no civilized society should tolerate it." NBC and Conradt reached an undisclosed settlement that June.
Hansen vs. Predator
In April 2015, Hansen announced the start of a Kickstarter campaign to fund an online reboot of the series. In October of that year, the project, dubbed Hansen vs. Predator, conducted a sting operation in conjunction with local police in Fairfield, Connecticut. At that time, Hansen reported that he was commencing negotiations with various potential broadcast partners in an effort to find a media platform on which to air the footage that was shot during the Fairfield operation. In mid-2016, Hansen became the host of the syndicated television news magazine Crime Watch Daily, with Hansen vs. Predator installments being broadcast as a recurring segment on that show.
A spin-off book, To Catch a Predator: Protecting Your Children from Online Enemies Already in Your Home, was published in 2007.
In popular culture
Mad TV spoofed the show in a season 13 episode, where Michael McDonald portrays Chris Hansen and Jordan Peele portrays Melvin Dufrane, the predator he is confronting. The comedy involved the fictionalized Chris Hansen failing to intimidate the unusually honest and shameless predator, a contrast to most real cases.
"Bro Rape: A Newsline Investigative Report" is a video by comedy group Derrick Comedy parodying To Catch a Predator, in which a fictitious journalist catches so-called "bros" who sexually assault other "bros".
South Park spoofed the series in its 2007 episode "Le Petit Tourette", highlighting the exploitative nature of Chris Hansen's show and having numerous pedophiles commit suicide upon realizing they'd been set up.
In the episode A Date with the Booty Warrior from the adult cartoon The Boondocks: an episode of To Catch a Predator experiences a shocking twist when Chris Hansen confronts a character who calls himself 'The Booty Warrior'. Chris Hansen assumes that the Booty Warrior is a pedophile who has fallen into his trap by coming to a boy's house, but the Booty Warrior has intentionally fallen for the trap as Chris Hansen is his real target.
The play Meat Puppet is a dark comedy inspired by the events that took place during the Murphy, Texas investigation of To Catch a Predator. In the play, a reporter for the fictional news magazine show Red Letter catches a disgraced film actor soliciting a minor online. When the actor fails to meet the show's decoy in-person, the reporter convinces local authorities to arrest him in his home, live and on-air.
Insane Clown Posse made a song called "To Catch a Predator" for their album Bang! Pow! Boom!, in which a killer lures child predators to his home by pretending to be an underage girl online, he then proceeds to torture and kill them.
- Anti-pedophile activism
- Online predator
- Perp walk
- Public humiliation
- Reaction formation
- "Predators still showing up - Dateline NBC | NBC News". MSNBC. 2006-10-26. Retrieved 2014-07-13.
- "Ethics of NBC's Sting Show 'To Catch a Predator'", Talk of the Nation, National Public Radio, January 16, 2007
- When Smith tries to run from the deputies, he's shot by a Taser and knocked to the ground. – "Inside Dateline". MSNBC/MSN. 2006-09-22. Retrieved 2007-03-11.
- When he is confronted by police, they ask him put his hands up. He does not respond quickly enough, and the result is a taser shot.
- Hansen: Why was it necessary to use the taser on this guy?
- Sgt. Lee DeBrabander: He's already demonstrated that he's not going to listen to the orders of the police officers. A lot of these guys, they are confronted with the reality that they are about to be exposed for what they did. And a lot of them may try violence to get away. The taser was used to prevent any injury to him and also to any police officers. – Chris Hansen (2007-01-30). "Scary chats and a repeat 'predator' (transcript)". MSNBC/MSN. Retrieved 2007-03-11. YouTube-hosted video also available.
- Lengel, Allan (2005-11-04). "Rabbi, Teacher Lose Jobs After Taping". Washington Post. Retrieved 2006-11-13.
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- [dead link]
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