20/20 Out of Focus
It would be an understatement to say that Arizona U.S. Attorney Janet Napolitano doesn't see eye to eye with ABC's 20/20.
Napolitano, her staff, her supporters--and even a few of her detractors--say she was smeared by the news show in a May 10 report about child pornography called "Caught in the Web."
They're right, according to U.S. Department of Justice documents obtained by New Times.
20/20's assertion--that Napolitano refused to approve a search warrant in a kiddie porn case because it involved a homosexual man--is easily refuted by statistics that had been provided to a 20/20 producer. Those stats were not included in the report.
And the U.S. Attorney's Office's January 11 letter denying the search warrant reveals the real reason Napolitano declined to approve a search warrant in the case of accused child pornographer James Norman Moore: There might not have been a legitimate reason to suspect that Moore was trafficking in child porn, and that if he were trafficking, he may have been entrapped by investigators.
In a May 10 report, 20/20 chief investigative correspondent Brian Ross took viewers to a January 19 kiddie porn raid in Phoenix. The suspect was James Norman Moore, a tour-bus driver.
Moore allegedly had ordered pornography from undercover postal inspectors conducting a nationwide sting called Operation Special Delivery. In addition to the Phoenix raid, investigators conducted 129 searches in 35 states.
Most of the raids had been conducted with federal search warrants, Ross explained, but in Moore's case, a state warrant had had to be approved. U.S. Attorney Janet Napolitano refused to cooperate, Ross said. And why? He gave just one possible explanation, via U.S. Postal Inspector Karyn Cassatt.
Cassatt, who was deeply involved in Operation Special Delivery, told 20/20 that one of Napolitano's employees told her, "They didn't like the fact that all these people were interested in sex with young boys. They believed we were targeting homosexual males."
The camera zoomed in on Cassatt's notes, which detail a conversation she had with Mary Murguia, deputy chief of the criminal section of the Arizona U.S. Attorney's Office: "Ms. Murguia . . . advised me their office had a philosophical disagreement with the premise of the entire operation in that they believed it targeted homosexual males."
20/20 offered no other explanation for the search warrant's rejection. Murguia wasn't interviewed. Neither was anyone else from the Arizona U.S. Attorney's Office, with the exception of Napolitano herself, whom Ross ambushed May 1 on Capitol Hill, where Napolitano was attending a budget hearing. She declined to comment on the specifics of the Moore case--except to say that Cassatt's conclusions about homosexuals were mistaken.
Although it didn't show up in the broadcast, Napolitano apparently did tell Ross that her office had approved search warrants in other child pornography cases. Napolitano's public information officer, Rebecca Treon Even, received a call May 6 from Vic Walter, a 20/20 producer, who told her he was reviewing Ross' interview with Napolitano, that she had referred to other child porn cases, and that to be fair he wanted to hear about them.
Even says she told Walter that details of cases under investigation were confidential, but she would provide statistics.
In a May 8 memo to Walter, Even wrote, "Since August 1995, 10 search warrants relating to child pornography . . . have been presented to our office. Nine out of 10 were approved and executed. These cases are pending or are still under investigation." One of the cases stemmed from Operation Special Delivery.
Even says Walter had only one follow-up question: How many of the approved search warrants involved men and boys? The answer was eight.
Even was horrified that those statistics never made it into the broadcast. She had assured her colleagues and her boss that the report would be accurate
Even says, "When we sat down to watch 20/20, I was fully confident that we would come out all right, because I had given them all this information prior to the broadcast. I was completely stunned that they concealed the facts that would have painted us in a different light."
Walter did not return repeated calls from New Times. But Ross defends his story, saying that he was never provided with any specific details--and therefore didn't mention the statistics.
He says, "We never got any specifics from her office, which we asked for, because I had talked to her in Washington . . . and wanted specifics on any case--because we were more than glad to refer to it--but she never gave us any."
Ross adds, "[Napolitano] never, never, ever gave us any copies of the indictments or the search warrants or anything. And we just found that Miss Napolitano wasn't always telling us the truth, so we just couldn't go with it."
The truth about what?
"In terms of what was happening in the Justice Department."
What about the Justice Department?
"Well, I can't say any more than that," Ross replies, and that's the end of the conversation.
But it's not the end of the story. A January 11 letter from assistant U.S. attorney Sharon Novitsky and Mary Murguia details why the U.S. Attorney's Office denied the search warrant of Moore's residence. According to the letter, the primary reason involved that Moore's name was found in connection with the Spartacus organization, which distributed child pornography and legal pornography involving adult males.
Novitsky and Murguia wrote, "Given the fact that we do not know what types of images, if any at all, had been previously obtained by the subject from the Spartacus organization, we are unable to show a predisposition on the part of the suspect. In fact, we know very little about the suspect. We do not know that he is a pedophile."
And they wrote, "Furthermore, based on the facts presented, an argument could be made that the suggestion of criminal activity was originally made by the government. Additionally, the suspect's initial reluctance to respond to the postal mailing could be properly considered in a finding of no predisposition on the part of the suspect and inducement on the part of the government."
A source familiar with the case tells New Times there's a possibility that Cassatt misunderstood the prosecutors' concern--that Moore might have ordered legal materials from Spartacus--for a broader concern about same-sex cases.
Moore was indicted this month on five counts of sexual exploitation of children. He pleaded not guilty and is being held on a $159,000 bond. His attorney, Maricopa County public defender C. Daniel Carrion, did not return a call from New Times.
According to Cassatt's notes, Cassatt spoke with Murguia after the January raid: "I informed Ms. Murguia that we had taken an extremely vile criminal off the streets. Moore confessed to sexual activity with at least 200 young boys, many of them underage, and some as young as 14. In addition, sexually explicit photographs and videotapes produced by Moore and commercial child pornography were recovered and were being evaluated by a doctor to determine the ages of the boys depicted. Ms. Murguia stated, 'Well, maybe for you the end justifies the means, but we don't do things like that around here.'
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Phoenix New Times' biggest stories.