Perverting Justice

Cyber-vigilantes or lynch mob? A citizens' group seduces men into lurid chat with "underage" girls -- and makes them pay.

For those who play the game of catching online perverts, Raymond Dooley was the perfect villain. That is, exactly the type of guy the cyber-vigilantes at were looking for.

Perverted-Justice found Dooley in late January in an online chat room -- where the 23-year-old Michigan man entered into a conversation with a guy supposedly named Jason Delaney.

The banter got graphic. Dooley made plans to meet Delaney for sex.

Jeff Newton

Only he thought Delaney was a girl named Rachel. It was all a setup.

When Dooley showed up the next day at the appointed time and place, he was met with a television camera. Police later arrested him for "use of computer/Internet to communicate with another to attempt to commit criminal sexual conduct," and he was convicted last month. Dooley is awaiting sentencing and could face 20 years in prison.

Although there's nothing criminal about discussing sex with another adult, apparently there is if the adult on the other end of the computer is pretending to be a 14-year-old girl.

Here's a portion of the chat log -- posted on the Perverted-Justice Web site -- between Dooley and Delaney (as Rachel):

Dooley: I'm going to make you come all day long.

Delaney: Kewl.

Dooley: Better not let your mom get a hold of those panties. She'll probably be able to smell cum all over 'em and think something's up.

Rachel: lol

Dooley: In fact, just don't wear any. lol.

Rachel: OK, lol.

Dooley: So could I ask a favor of you tomorrow?

Rachel: Sure.

Dooley: Do you have any really short skirts and really small tops?

It was a trap that Perverted-Justice has set more than 690 times since the organization began going after what it calls "wannabe pedophiles" in July 2002.

The wannabes, PJ is careful to clarify, are "not pedophiles in the sense that they have necessarily committed the act of pedophilia -- however, if you look at the chat logs we post, you should be able to see that they have all clearly demonstrated interest in performing pedophilia."

What makes a situation like Dooley's ideal for PJ is that, not only did he say nasty things online, he showed up at a house hoping to do nasty things with a young girl.

That TV cameras were waiting and Perverted-Justice got great press were secondary to the fact that local police were able to make a prosecutable case out of the transcript of PJ's chat with him.

This rarely happens. Although the Web site claims to be responsible for 23 arrests, exactly three cases have resulted in guilty verdicts from PJ's sting operations.

Another glowing success is the case of Ryan Hogan, a 24-year-old New York fireman who allegedly tried to seduce who he thought was an adolescent girl while NBC's Dateline was filming a segment on Perverted-Justice that has yet to air.

PJ nabbed him on March 8, when a member posed as a 14-year-old with the computer-chat room moniker of "cuteashley."

According to PJ and court papers, Hogan said he was looking for a good-looking girl to have fun with. Here's an excerpt from their conversation, taken from PJ's Web site:

Hogan: what are you doing tonight?

cuteashley4u1990: nothin. bored. u?

Hogan: hoping to get some. lol.

cuteashley4u1990: lol thats kewl.

cuteashley4u1990: ur hot.

cuteashley4u1990: can u bring condoms?

cuteashley4u1990: >?

cuteashley4u1990: i dont wanna get preggers.

Hogan: i understand that.

cuteashley4u1990: kewl.

Court records say Hogan then talked about "doggie style" and oral sex, and he said he loves "going down on a woman . . . You need a guy to go down on you." Then he asked cuteashley: "Ever think about anal?" Ashley responded with: "Does it hurt?" Hogan said: "At first, but then I think you would like it."

The conversation continued over the course of a couple of days, with Hogan wavering between his desire to "pound " cuteashley and worrying about the immorality of the actions he was proposing. At one point, he sent Ashley a live feed of him masturbating in an Engine 237 sweatshirt.

And Hogan got his.

Later, a Dateline camera crew confronted him outside the Brooklyn firehouse. Hogan has been indicted and is awaiting trial.

People who take it upon themselves to put a stop to predators like these look like heroes.

After all, they're fighting sexual deviants across the country, using Internet chat rooms. They seem to be exposing the very perverts who parents worry will take advantage of their impressionable kids. And they're doing it in grand style.

But critics argue that many of the men PJ meets and subsequently lures in for humiliation are certainly sleazy, but hardly guilty of a crime. That is, authorities don't often agree with the organization's tactics, and the overwhelming majority of the nearly 700 "busts" on the PJ Web site are never prosecuted.

PJ uses profiles of mostly adolescent girls, complete with sassy screen names and photos.

Its operatives plop themselves into regional chat rooms and enter into conversations, offering their fictitious personae as bait for the sea of pedophiles they claim are hunting victims in cyberspace.

PJ calls its operatives "contributors." These baiters pose as young girls and are typically flirtatious, and it's not long before the conversations turn to sex. She will say she's not a virgin, that she likes older guys. She'll ask for a picture, and tell him he's "hot." She'll extract as much information about her mark as she can: what part of town he lives in, what he does for a living and, above all, his telephone number.

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