Friday, September 14, 2007
A vigilante is a person or persons who ignore due process enacting their own form of justice when they deem the response of the authorities to be insufficient. Robert P. Ingalls has defined vigilantism as "extralegal coercion by a group of private individuals seeking to maintain the existing distribution of power.
History of Vigilantism
Vigilantism has long existed before the formal word "vigilante" (Span. "watchman") came into being in the mid 19th century. In the historical Western literary tradition, scholars of vigilantism have noted that folkloric heroes and legendary outlaws (e.g., Robin Hood) often have displayed vigilante traits. In a state of affairs in which justice is far to seek and the effective agents of proper authority have been corrupted, the archetypal vigilante Robin Hood and his Merry Men take the law into their own hands and engage in righteous extralegal violence against the dastardly Sheriff of Nottingham, other dishonest authorities and wrongdoers the official courts have failed to punish. In many ways, Robin Hood ironically embodied the ideal of medieval Christian chivalry: his prowess, loyalty, and largesse are never in question; he is devoted to the Blessed Virgin and will harm no company in which ladies are present. Robin's selfless yet technically and formally illicit violent behavior performed in the name of "higher justice" is later recognized and pardoned by the returning righteous king of England. Thus, in the Western literary tradition, "vigilantism" is deeply connected to fundamental issues of morality, the nature of justice, the limits of bureaucratic authority and the ethical function of legitimate governance.
The "philosophy" informing the "heroic" vigilante ethos was formulated centuries ago by Aristotle: men possessing superior virtue and self-mastery necessarily transcend the external human bureaucratic-administrative framework and thus become themselves the imago dei (the image of God) on earth:
"There are men, wrote Aristotle, so godlike, so exceptional, that they naturally, by right of their extraordinary gifts, transcend all moral judgment or constitutional control: 'There is no law which embraces men of that calibre: they are themselves law.'" (Hughes-Hallett, Lucy. Heroes. Alfred A. Knopf, 2004.)
These are perspectives to vigilantism which are used in varying contexts:
The traditional view of vigilantism is that when people see their governments as being ineffective in enforcing the law, they justify violent acts in order to bring about justice. "Vigilante justice" is usually spurred on by the perception that criminal punishment is insufficient to the crime, or nonexistent. Persons seen as escaping from the law, or "above the law" are generally the targets of vigilantism. Some vigilantes see ethics and moral laws as superior to governmental laws and may believe that the ends justify the means.
A lynching carried out by the San Francisco Committee of Vigilance of 1856.Classical vigilantism was practiced widely in the "late colonial or early federal period" to protect against fake religious practitioners. Hine, a law clerk, points out the context of classical vigilantism of people who "were concerned with protecting home and hearth from marauders." In contemporary times, classical vigilantism was observed after the destruction of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina, as individuals watched vigil over their private homes to protect them from looters, since local police were preoccupied dealing with large numbers of displaced citizens.
The San Francisco Vigilance Movement in the mid-1850s was an example of secretive groups of vigilantes. Hine points out that "neovigilantes often targeted religious and ethnic minorities for persecution." Using the cliche "a person who takes the law into their own hands," neovigilantes are associated with groups vigilance in numerous examples in history. Such watchdog groups include neighborhood watch groups and U.S.-Mexico border minutemen that keep vigil over wrongdoers. However, they do not exercise violence or use force against these people, but are expected to call for criminal activity. In some cases vigilantes perform verbal abuse in attempt to make the lawbreakers turn around, stop, and rethink their illegal activities; or they may simply terrorize them. Some vigilantes have no criminal intent but remain vigilant and attempt to aid in efforts where law enforcement lacks resources to cover a vast territorial range. Groups like the KKK take the cliche "a person who takes the law into their own hands" to a higher level with excessive violence and intimidation and are considered vigilantes as mentioned in historical records. The KKK historically exercised violence against Blacks when legal colored segregation laws at time where were in effect. However, they also conducted violence against African Americans long after segregation laws were abolished.
Pseudo-vigilantism recognized as a phenomenon in the 1960s-1970s is a result of a rise in United States criminal activity with a mix of notable controversial cases. Historical records cite Bernhard Goetz setting a precedent and is a classic example of pseudo-vigilantism. The defining difference between self-defence and pseudo-vigilantism is the anticipation aspect, as with Goetz, who anticipated the threat and was the first person to initiate the attack, or pre-emptive attack, against four potential criminals. In these cases, the victim has to defend themselves from the victimizer in a life-or-death situation because police help may be too remote to be of assistance.
The 1990s marked the dawn of Internet age where accessibility of erotic information such as pornography can be had at home, and the accessibility to naive and under age children through instant messaging and chatrooms is easy. The accessibility through many different internet venues catering to perverts though secret chat channels is of concern and not under the watch of law enforcement. As a result, vigilantes, or so called hackers with interest of law enforcement, justify breaking computer crime laws to protect the innocent and to protect the young ones. For example, a young adult Canadian hacker sent Trojans to suspected pedophiles then stood vigilant over their activities, bringing former Californian Superior Court Judge Ronald C. Kline to 27 months of jail and prosecuting other child porn downloaders. The hacker broke California State law and possibly others that do not allow for unauthorized programs such as viruses in unauthorized computers, but he was never prosecuted. In the U.S. media show Dateline NBC's To Catch a Predator in concert with the Perverted Justice cybergroup, using social engineering techniques, borrows a page out of neo-vigilantism (being vigilant and not breaking the law). This group lures potential child molesters from the Internet, who (having demonstrated that they intended to violate the law) are arrested on the spot by law enforcement.
A majority of these vigilantes are non-violent and non-confronting compared to previous historical vigilantes from previous decades.
The Hollywood vigilante had its development in the 1960s and 1970s as a time when the cop or detective story was popular. With censorship of this genre, production of these movies declined, showing a change in American values. These cops are said to express unrelenting and uncompromising violence towards anyone who got in between both the vigilante cop and criminal that broke laws to accomplish their objectives. For example the film Léon The Professional features a DEA agent who, without any repercussion, kills a family, including an innocent young child, in order to eliminate a narcotics trafficker who has stolen a percentage of the heroin that the DEA agent asked him to hold. Therefore the DEA agent wasn't acting as a vigilante cop but as a criminal drug dealer who uses his authority position as a DEA agent to his advantage. The real vigilantes in that film were Matilda and Leon.
Another prime example of vigilantism in movies is the film The Boondock Saints. It depicts the story two enraged Irishmen who, believing themselves to be on a mission from God, indiscriminately kill anyone involved in organized crime. This film has become something of a cult classic because of the righteous indignation it often spurns in viewers, and the fantastic violence which the vigilantes turn upon those they judge to be morally bankrupt.
Vigilantism in the comic book arena has its basic concepts in several fictional genres, including stories published in dime novels and comic books. Many of the heroes of pulp fiction, such as Doc Savage and The Shadow, and comic book superheroes such as Batman, The Punisher and Daredevil are vigilantes because they operate outside the law in order to combat lawlessness. In fact, virtually any superhero, including Superman, and Spider-Man can be considered vigilantes if he or she is not acting under the direct authority of a law enforcement agency or other government body. A key example is Watchmen, a DC Comics limited series of the late 1980s written by Alan Moore, in which superheroes are portrayed by society and government as illegal vigilantes. Also of note is the DC comic book character of the 1940s and revived in the 1980s, the Vigilante.
The Guardian Angels is a vigilante organization founded in 1979 in New York City that now has chapters in many other cities.
Self-proclaimed vigilante Jonathan Idema entered Afghanistan after the September 11 attacks and captured many people he claimed to be terrorists. Idema claimed he was collaborating with, and supported by the U.S. Government. He even sold news-media outlets tapes that he claimed showed an Al Qaeda training camp in action. His operations ended abruptly when he was arrested with his partners and sentenced to 10 years in a notorious Afghan prison.
Sombra Negra or "Black Shadow," is a group of vigilantes, mostly retired police officers and military personnel in El Salvador, whose sole duty is to cleanse the country of "impure" social elements. They specifically target the MS-13 gang, and have a reputation for being extremely violent.
Ranch Rescue, an organization in the SW US that ranchers call upon to forcibly remove illegal aliens and squatters off their property. This organization is still functioning.
In present-day Davao City in the Philippines, a killing spree aimed at the city's most notorious criminals was carried out by unknown vigilantes, usually riding motorcycles. The killers earned the monicker Davao Death Squad and their actions have spawned several similar incidents in nearby provinces and Cebu.
Opponents of the website perverted-justice.com have accused the website of being modern day cyber vigilantes.
Bernie Goetz was accused of being a vigilante, although his case was legally judged to be self defense; similarly, many other cases of the use of strong force in self defense have been accused of vigilantism.
The Ku Klux Klan was accused of being a vigilante.
A 39-year-old man in Oconomowoc kicked down the door of neighbor after hearing the screams of a female being sexually assaulted. The accused victimizer was held hostage by the sword wielding vigilante asking the victimizer, "Where is she?" However, it eventuated that the noise was from a porn movie. The "police are seeking charges of second-degree reckless endangerment of safety, criminal trespassing, criminal damage to property and disorderly conduct" against the 39-year-old man. It should be noted, however, that the 39-year-old has a history of criminal activity and waited over 9 hours before taking action. 
Walking Tall (1973 and 2004)
Magnum Force (Dirty Harry 2) (1973)
Death Wish (1974) and its sequels Death Wish II (1981), Death Wish 3 (1985), Death Wish 4: The Crackdown (1987), and Death Wish V: The Face of Death (1994)
Taxi Driver (1976)
Mad Max (1979)
The Exterminator (1980)
Exterminator 2 (1984)
Above the Law (1988)
Batman (1989) and its sequels Batman Returns (1992), Batman Forever (1995) and Batman & Robin (1997)
The Punisher (1989 and 2004)
Falling Down (1993)
A Time to Kill (1996)
The Boondock Saints (1999)
A Man Apart (2003)
Man on Fire (2004)
Batman Begins (2005) and its sequel The Dark Knight (2008)
The Devil's Rejects (2005)
Sin City (2005)
Hard Candy (2005)
See No Evil (2005)
The Vigilante (1947)
Hot Fuzz (2007)
The Crow (1994)
Dark Justice (1991-1993)
Swat Kats (1993-1995)
Bubblegum Crisis (1987)
Tales from the Crypt (TV series) "The Man Who Was Death" (1989-1996)
Bubblegum Crisis 2040 (1997-1998)
Vengeance Unlimited (1998-1999)
Dark Angel (2000-2002)
"Homer the Vigilante," episode in the fifth season of The Simpsons (1994)
Veronica Mars (2004-2007)
Double Dragon (1987)
River City Ransom (1989)
Final Fight (1989)
Streets of Rage (1991)
The Punisher (2005)
The Virginian by Owen Wister (1902) - The first American western novel based on the theme of "frontier justice."
Without Remorse by Tom Clancy is explicitly about an ex-US Navy SEAL wiping out a gang of drug dealers.
Dexter Morgan is a fictional character in two novels by crime novelist Jeff Lindsay, Darkly Dreaming Dexter (2004) and Dearly Devoted Dexter (2005). In 2006, the novels were adapted into the Showtime TV series Dexter. In the TV series, Dexter is played by Michael C. Hall. By day, Dexter is a blood splatter expert for the Miami-Dade Police Department. By night he hunts down and kills those who he feels "deserve to die". These are usually violent criminals (murderers, rapists, etc) who Dexter thinks have escaped justice.
A Stout Cord and a Good Drop, by James Gaitis (Globe Pequot 2006). A lengthy literary work of historical fiction based on a rigorous analysis of the facts associated with the Montana Vigilantes, the infamous Montana hanging spree of 1863-64, and the foundation of the Montana Territory in the midst of the American Civil War.
VIGILANTISM, VIGILANTE JUSTICE, AND VICTIM SELF-HELP
The murder of pedophile priest John Geoghan in a Massachusetts prison leaves many of his victims — and victims of other predators — feeling violated once again.
For them and countless others, Geoghan was the personification of evil masquerading as good. His 34-year career as a serial child molester in the guise of friendly parish priest ruined scores of young lives. Though he was sentenced to nine to 10 years for one of the 147 cases in which he was accused, a second criminal case and more than 20 civil suits still pending might have shed more light on his actions and why they were covered up for so many years.
Instead, the possibility of such answers will be buried along with Geoghan. Prison authorities said the frail 68-year-old was strangled and stomped Saturday by another prisoner even though he was nominally in "protective custody."
Geoghan's high-profile murder focuses attention on a seldom-acknowledged problem. Prisoner-on-prisoner assaults, beatings and rapes are so common as to be the stuff of tasteless jokes. But they rarely raise concerns beyond the inmates involved and their families. Incidents that would be major felonies on the outside often go unreported.
Prison violence mocks a justice system based on punishment set by courts or juries — as well as attempts at rehabilitation. It allows prisoners to undermine the rule of law.
That may be changing. Last month, Congress passed legislation requiring annual surveys on prison rapes. It also offers states grants for rape prevention programs.
The legislation can help focus public attention on the extent of prisoner-on-prisoner crimes and the places with the worst records. Ultimately, primary responsibility for prisoners' safety resides with the states, which house most violent prisoners, but they largely have neglected the problem.
Geoghan's offenses were made public only after a courageous judge ordered the release last year of previously sealed evidence in pending civil cases. Geoghan became the most prominent symbol of the Roman Catholic Church's abusive priest scandal because of the numerous accusations against him and the extent of the church's coverup: Superiors repeatedly hustled him from parish to parish before defrocking him in 1998.
Geoghan's prison sentence also was symbolic. Penance is central to punishment, and he had served only one year. The vigilante death sentence that cut short Geoghan's atonement violated both his victims' and the nation's sense of justice.
The Minuteman Civil Defense Corps is a group headed by Chris Simcox dedicated to preventing illegal crossings of the U.S. border. Arguing that the government is not sufficiently concerned with securing the U.S. border, they have organized several state chapters, with the intention of providing law enforcement agencies with evidence of immigration law violations.
Simcox states that the group merely reports incidents to law enforcement, and does not directly confront immigrants. There is a standard operating procedure (SOP) that must be followed by Minutemen volunteers. Rules include not speaking to, approaching, gesturing towards or having physical contact in any way with any suspected border crossers they may see.  The organization has been criticized as being a right-wing militia
The Minuteman Project is an activist organization started in April 2005 by a group of private United States individuals to monitor the United States–Mexico border's flow of illegal immigrants, although it has expanded to include the United States-Canada border as well. The name comes from the minutemen who fought in the American Revolution. The group's founder and principal director is Jim Gilchrist who lives 50 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border in California.
The Minuteman Project describes itself as "a citizens' Neighborhood Watch on our border", and has attracted media attention to illegal immigration. While Border Patrol officials have expressed concern over the accidental tripping of border sensors, rank-and-file agents largely endorse the effort.
In February 2007, a misconduct issue by three volunteer advisory members led to their dismissal by the organization's president, Jim Gilchrist. Minuteman founder Jim Gilchrist filed a lawsuit in Orange County, California, against the former Minuteman Project advisory members Marvin Stewart, Deborah Courtney, and Barbara Coe (referred to as "hijackers") after they had illegally attempted to seize the organization he founded in October, 2004. In what appears to be criminal piracy of Gilchrist's organization the trio claimed they were taking over and declared the termination of Jim Gilchrist and then appointed themselves as governing officers of the group. This was an illegal take over of the project in an apparent attempt to divert donations and funds into the hands of the self appointed hijackers
Armed Volunteers To Patrol Border
Critics Fear Web-Recruited 'Minutemen' Could Spark Vigilante Violence
Hundreds of volunteers, some of them armed, are expected to take up positions along the Mexican border Friday and begin patrolling for illegal immigrants - an exercise critics say could spark vigilante violence.
Organizers of the so-called Minuteman Project said the civilian volunteers, many of whom were recruited over the Internet, will meet first for a rally in this one-time silver mining town, then fan out across 23 miles of the San Pedro Valley to watch the border for a month and report sightings of illegal activity to Border Patrol agents.
With the peak border-crossing season about to start, there is pressure for the government to do something. Half of the illegal immigrants arrested last year came through Arizona, CBS News Correspondent Jerry Bowen reports.
Minuteman field operations director Chris Simcox described the project as "the nation's largest neighborhood watch group" and said one of the goals is to make the public aware of how porous the border is.
Jim Gilchrist, a retired accountant from Aliso Viejo, California, who organized the project, said that some volunteers will carry handguns, which is allowed under Arizona law, but are being instructed to avoid confrontation, even if shot at.
Still, law enforcement officials and human rights advocates are worried about the potential for bloodshed.
Critics contend the project may attract anti-immigrant racists and vigilantes looking to confront illegal immigrants. At least one white supremacist group has mentioned the project on its Web site.
"They are domestic terrorists that represent a danger to the country and could promote a major border conflict that will have serious ramifications and consequences," said Armando Navarro, a University of California-Riverside political science professor and coordinator of the National Alliance for Human Rights, made up mostly of Hispanic activists.
Michael Nicley, chief of the U.S. Border Patrol's Tucson sector, said the volunteers are "not the kind of help the Border Patrol is asking for."
The announcement of the volunteer border patrol comes as the Homeland Security Department is assigning more than 500 additional patrol agents to the porous Arizona border Wednesday, saying they will help keep potential terrorists and illegal immigrants from entering the country.
The border buildup was to be announced two days before civilian volunteers with the Minutemen Project begin a month-long Arizona patrol against immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico line.
About 155 agents will be immediately sent to Arizona, according to a department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the buildup was not yet announced. Another 350 agents — all new trainees — will be permanently assigned to the Arizona border by Sept. 30.
Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever said he fears immigrant smugglers might open fire on the volunteers.
"I wouldn't anticipate that people of that persuasion would act or react any differently to anybody, citizen or law enforcement alike, if they were confronted and felt like their cargo was in jeopardy," he said.
The project's organizers gave assurances the volunteers will be closely monitored. "If it gets to a situation where someone's life is in danger," said David Helppler, Minuteman security coordinator, "I will end the project."
Project organizers said they expect 800 to 1,000 volunteers. How many might actually show is unclear; similar efforts in the past few years flopped. One of them drew only about a half-dozen people.
On Wednesday, the Homeland Security Department announced that it is assigning 534 additional agents to the porous Arizona border to help keep out potential terrorists and illegal immigrants.
The 370-mile Arizona border is considered the most vulnerable stretch of the 2,000-mile southern border. Of the 1.1 million illegal immigrants caught by the Border Patrol last year, 51 percent crossed into the country at the Arizona border.
Some people in this town nearly 30 miles north of the Mexican border, best known as the site of the 1881 shootout at the OK Corral, are eagerly awaiting the volunteers' arrival.
Tombstone Mayor Andree De Journett thinks of the volunteers as tourists and said they could boost the local economy.
"I've met five or six of them, they haven't been too bad so far," he said, estimating that 500 extra visitors for a month could mean $10,000 or more per month spent locally.
Marilynn Slade, Tombstone's city clerk, said the more attention drawn to illegal immigration, the better.
"The vast majority of the people feel that the feds should be dealing more aggressively with the problem," she said. "There's a huge, huge cry down here."
But some citizens of the Southwest say immigrants are not only not a problem, but are nearly necessary to sustain life in the United States.
"As a grower and processor, I'm virtually made a criminal because I can't harvest my crop without some illegal help," Ed Curry, of Curry Seed and Chile Co., told CBS' Bowen. "I think most Americans do not understand that their food chain would completely stop if we didn't have this help."
Vigilante justice: So, is it murder?
Jonathon Edington allegedly kills neighbor to avenge harm to daughter
Jonathon Edington, a 29-year-old patent attorney, allegedly snapped after his wife told him their next door neighbor had molested their 2-year-old daughter.
Edington’s wife and daughter were out of town when she broke the news to him over the telephone. After Edington hung up the phone, he allegedly went next door, climbed through a bedroom window, and stabbed 59-year-old Barry James to death while his elderly parents were in the house.
Police reportedly found Mr. Edington back in his home, talking on a phone, standing at the kitchen sink, washing blood off his hands, a bloody knife on the counter nearby.
When the story first broke a few months ago, the media seemed to have labeled this a case of “vigilante justice,” almost endorsing the defendant’s actions by seeming to cheer and applaud and say, “If someone did this to your kid, wouldn’t you kill him too?”
But from the very beginning, when this story broke, I countered this approach saying the taking of a life is homicide, no matter what the reason, except for legally justified homicides such as self-defense or defense of another.
Murder is not an option
It is never okay to kill, no matter what you think someone did to “deserve” it. But the law in Connecticut does recognize that sometimes a homicide is a manslaughter rather than a murder if the person acted under the influence of extreme emotional disturbance. This is also known as the “heat of passion” defense. It is most typical in cases where a spouse catches a spouse in the act of adultery, flies into a rage, and kills. In some instances, this would be manslaughter rather than murder.
In Edington’s case, a prosecutor could offer a plea to manslaughter rather than murder, or a jury could find Edington guilty of the lesser included offense: manslaughter rather than murder. While murder is punishable by life in prison without parole, manslaughter is a 20-year felony. But make no mistake: even if convicted of manslaughter under extreme emotional disturbance, Edington still faces 20 years in prison for taking Mr. James’ life.
The key to understanding the extreme emotional disturbance defense is in the statute itself. In order to say someone acted under extreme emotional disturbance, first you have to find a reasonable explanation or excuse for those actions. Second, those actions have to be reasonable from the viewpoint of a person in the defendant’s situation under circumstances as the defendant believed them to be.
If the jury thinks that killing a child molester is a reasonable excuse, then they also have to find that it was reasonable for Edington to believe James molested his daughter, whether he had or not. The question isn’t whether it happened, but rather was it reasonable for Edington to think that it did.
And this is where the going will get tough for Edington. Once the jurors learn that yes, Edington really thought James molested his daughter, but no, James never touched his daughter, jurors could stop siding with Edington. And here, Edington’s justification, or provocation, could morph into cold-blooded murder for no reason at all.
Rage destroys two families
What was going on in the Edington family that a remark from a 2-year-old to her mother sparked a phone call to her husband, that ignited a homicidal rage in Edington such that he allegedly snuffed out the life of an innocent man?
Two families have been destroyed. The elderly James family has lost their beloved son. Attorney Edington will likely end up with a lengthy prison sentence, Mrs. Edington has lost her husband and their daughter has lost her family, which is forever shattered.
The moral of the tale is that no matter what you think someone has done, do not take the law into your own hands. Call the police. Lodge a complaint. Let the justice system do its work to punish and protect.
And if you hear of someone avenging a loved one whom they think has been harmed, do not clap and cheer for the vigilante. Whether the vigilante turns out to be right or wrong, vigilante justice is always wrong. And in this case, there is a gentle victim who did not deserve the death sentence Edington allegedly bestowed on him.
Edington, a lawyer himself, was judge, juror and executioner. And an innocent man has allegedly died as a result.
Internet vigilantism (sometimes e-vigilantism or digilantism) is the phenomenon of vigilantism occurring on the Internet or carried out by way of the Internet. The term encompasses both vigilantism against Internet scams or crimes, and using the Internet as an additional tool in furthering vigilante responses to non-Internet related behaviour.
Some have suggested that the Internet's lack of central control, and the highly libertarian culture among many Internet users with respect to the Internet, have prompted a tendency towards vigilante reactions against certain behaviours in the same way that they have prompted those behaviours to occur in the first place.
To Catch a Predator is a series of hidden camera investigations by the television newsmagazine Dateline NBC devoted to the subject of identifying and detaining potential child sexual abusers who contact children (or what they believe to be children) over the Internet. The investigations, which have all been reported by Dateline correspondent Chris Hansen and producer Lynn Keller, are conducted as an undercover sting operation with the help of online watchdog group Perverted-Justice. Since the third installment, law enforcement and other officials have also been involved in the operation, leading to the arrests of most individuals caught in the sting.
Several other NBC affiliates, such as WTMJ in Milwaukee (which was the first news media to conduct a sting operation in cooperation with Perverted-Justice) and Kansas City's KSHB have also done local versions of To Catch a Predator, as well as Scranton/Wilkes-Barre market NBC affiliate WBRE. A spin-off called To Catch a Con Man was developed in early 2007 using similar methods in order to catch con men performing advance fee fraud scams. Further spin-offs have included To Catch an ID Thief, To Catch a Car Thief, and To Catch an i-Jacker (featuring iPod thieves).
Dateline NBC: To Catch a Predator
Reflections on 'To Catch a Predator'
After 10 investigations, Dateline's Chris Hansen talks about what goes on behind the scenes, the feedback, the criticism— and why it's important.
We’ve been doing these investigations for almost three years and I’ve interviewed more than 200 potential sex predators from all walks of life and all ages.
In the beginning, I had no idea what to expect. I remember the first day of the first investigation. I had heard about Perverted Justice. I’d heard about their work in the chat rooms posing as a 12, 13 or 14-year-old kids. But I honestly wondered if anybody would show up.
Frag, Perverted-Justice: The producer and Chris kept asking, “Is anybody really gonna show?” We knew it was gonna happen. But it was that, “Are you sure this isn’t a waste of time?” and you know, of course people showed up.
When this first guy was walking up the driveway and it became clear that he was actually going to come in the house, my heart is almost beating out of my chest. And I’m short of breath.
With each guy who came in, you know I got a little better at asking the right questions.
I wondered, quite honestly, whether or not everybody would just see me and run. Not because they knew I was Chris Hansen with Dateline NBC, but you know whether it was a father who came home unexpectedly or was it the police?
But it turned out most of the guys stayed and chatted.
During that first day of that first investigation we had something like eight guys come in. And it was almost as if they were coming on the hour every hour. And it was difficult to keep up because I didn’t have it down to a system then.
So I’d be looking at one transcript thinking, "This was the guy who was coming in". And I’d go to confront him in the kitchen, and I’d say;
Hansen: You came here for Rachel?
It turned out it was the wrong transcript. I had to go back to the dining room and get the transcript.
Hansen: It was for Beth.
And say, “Oh, you were here for the 14-year old girl.” He goes, “Oh, yeah, yeah, that was me.” And continue on from there.
Del: I was the first decoy we ever used in ‘To Catch A Predator.’ When I had joined Perverted-Justice I had come onboard as a contributor in February of 2004. And about a week later I got a phone call from Frag saying, “Hey, could you come up to New York this weekend?” And I showed up at the house and the producer took one look at me and asked, “So you’ll also be the physical decoy for this operation?” And I said, “Yeah, sure.” So suddenly I was playing male and female and ages 10 to 15 and every ethnicity in-between.
Eddie was a classic. When Eddie shows up, he has this long, tense drawn out conversation between Del, posing as the teenage girl, whose standing next to me.
Del: And I’m looking at Chris like “What do I do?” And Chris you know tells me spin it out a little bit. You know those little hand motions.
And so finally he comes in and then I approach him. He tells me he’s a television producer. And, at that moment—it was kind of a breakthrough for me because you know you’re always walking a fine line. You want to be serious. It’s a very serious topic. But you can also be clever about the way you ask the questions.
Hansen (footage): Where are you a television producer?
Ed: I work independently right now.
Chris: Yeah, you know it’s ironic because I work in television too, with Dateline NBC.
And right there, there was a flicker in his eye when he recognized either my face or my voice, and he realized what he was in for.
Eddie: I haven’t done anything wrong at all. If you go into the transcripts.
Hansen: I’ve read all the transcripts.
Eddie: Everything that was said..
Chris: (reads transcript) "Picture this: Picture this you lying back I straddle your chest." It sounds like you’re looking to have a sexual experience with this girl Rachel who you were talking to on the Internet. I don’t know what other conclusion you can draw.
Eddie: You can search me for a condom I don’t have one on me. I wouldn’t have sex without one. Besides she’s supposedly a virgin so she’s never had sex anyway so you wouldn’t want to be the first (laughs)
Chris: It kind of sounds like you might have been excited about the the fact that she was a virgin in here.
Eddie: No, I don’t think so. you don’t see that in there. And in fact all you see is just little test scenarios.
He then tells me then he thinks it’s great what we’re doing.
Eddie: I’m very interested in your story I think it’s a great thing that you’re doing. I think uh its something that you should certainly do more and more of and bag people left and right.
The very first investigation I thought was pretty slick. I mean we had 5, 6, cameras. And they set up a mini control room in like a little back room in the house. And they’re all huddled in there with the monitors.
Frag: Very first thing was quite an experience. It was a lot different than they are anymore. Dell and I were stuck in the corner of a stairwell-
Del: Of the house we went from Frag and I being perched on a single desk in a hallway at the top of the staircase— to having an entire room set aside where we’ve got out Web cams up, and we’ve got our phones verifiers in position. And we’ve got all these new technologies that we’re using. And Frag’s gone from having a hallway window to look out of, to having something like 7 monitors pyramided around him.
Frag: It was quite exhilarating that it worked out and that they showed up. And that, you know, we got to expose it on national TV.
Every time I think that I’ve seen it all, something else happens.
When a guy walks into this house naked, I mean, nobody ever taught me in journalism school that you had to put a towel or a blanket nearby to hand to a naked man so he could cover up, so you could interview him.
But when that same guy, John Kennelly, surfaces in a chat room the very next day, and agrees to meet another young boy at a fast food restaurant, and we confront him again, it was hard for me to assemble to words to approach him.
The other naked guy
Another surprise was in Ft. Myers. It’s late at night on a Saturday. And we’re expecting this guy to show up. He has had a conversation with the decoy posing as a 13 year old girl. He wants her to do this bizarre sex act involving a cat, her cat, and cool whip. I’ll just leave it at that. She says she’ll consider it if he’ll strip naked when he walks in the house.
But you never really think somebody’s gonna do this. But, sure enough, there he is— Marvin Lakhan. And this guy moving so quickly, naked, coming through our living room, that the decoy barely makes it into the room and closes the door where I’m standing, where we have monitors, security and cameramen.
And I start going through the chat log with him. And he thinks it’s funny. And I think it’s somewhat nervous laughter.
Would you ever think that would have happened before seeing one of these investigations? I wouldn’t.
Frag: In the very first operation we did with Dateline in Long Island, the most memorable person that I was chatting with happened to be a person who turned out to be a New York City firefighter, Ryan Hogan. The interesting thing about Hogan was that for a while he was—he was just about off the hook. He drove by the house and he got scared to come in because there was a Nassau County Sheriff’s car parked next door at this real estate office.
And at the time we weren’t working with law enforcement. That just happened to be that there was a marked unit next door unrelated. And he actually then started talking to me, going, “Oh, I knew it was a setup. I knew it was a sting.” But later that day he got back home and I was able to maintain my persona.
He gets back on the computer, turns on his Web cam, and masturbates in front of someone posing as a young teenage girl. That’s what got him into trouble.
Since he never came into the house, I tracked him down outside the fire house where he worked.
Frag: He was charged and convicted in federal court because of him getting back on, getting comfortable, and exposing himself to who he believed was a child.
In a nice Petaluma neighborhood, this 48-year-old doctor, name Maurice Wollen, had been chatting online with the decoy posing as a 13 year old girl. And it was pretty graphic. I mean there was no mistaking what he had in mind.
So he comes in, and he’s clearly nervous. But there’s a bit of a conversation between the actress portraying the young teen and the doctor. And my gut was I thought that this was gonna be one of those situations where the chat would continue between the actress and the doctor, and I would come out. And he would probably be one of those guys to stay and talk to me.
But as he’s standing at the bar, you can tell he’s nervous. He goes to pour himself a drink and it comes out a big clump, and it spills all over the place. And now he’s all flustered.
So he’s looking for something to wipe up the mess. So, by this point, the actress is around the corner standing next to me, next to the sound man, next to the cameraman. Dr. Wollen comes around the corner and sees the sound man, and there’s eye contact there. And he freaks a bit. And I start to come out, I said, “You know, excuse me, I just would like to talk to you for a minute.” And he says something to the effect—“No, I’ve gotta go.” And he hot foots it through the garage. And of course he’s met by Petaluma Police. And he knows that he’s in trouble.
With police, he talks, says he doesn’t want to talk. Talks some more. He gets on the phone, calls his wife.
The man who brought his son
The probably the most unsettling thing that I’ve seen, and we’ve seen a lot of unsettling things in these investigations. But when we were wrapping up our investigation. It was towards the end of the investigation, Fort Myers, Florida. A man showed up for a sexual encounter with at 14-year-old boy and we’re watching on the monitors.
And he gets out and he goes to the passenger’s side rear door.
Frag: Oh no. He brought his son with him. He brought his son with him. he’s got his child with him.
And leads him by the hand, as if you were taking him to the zoo. And walks in to meet this teenage boy with his son. The house was silent.
There were guys in tears. I don’t want to confront this guy in front of his 5-year-old kid. I don’t want to traumatize him further.
He walks out of the scene, police arresting him. And sweeping this 5-year-old boy off his feet. It was tough to watch. It was very tough to watch.
Frequent viewer question 1: Are these investigations dangerous?
Viewers are always asking do I ever feel like I’m in danger... We’ve had guys who talk in their chats about how they never go anywhere without a gun. That makes me nervous.
The police arrested a guy before he came into the house. And in fact, we found out later that the guy had a shotgun in his car. And we find out that he was a Marine sniper.
I think the most well-known, the most remembered person to surface in one of these investigations is Rabbi David Kay.
The rabbi has sent a couple pictures of himself naked, one of him engaging in oral sex with another man. He sort of comes at me because he wants the picture. He’s not even thinking that we could have a million copies of it already.
It’s at that point that Ron Knight our security man, steps in, and he leaves. That was tense, but at the moment, I really didn’t think I was facing any great danger.
In Flagler Beach Florida, part of me thinks we dodged a bullet. This is one of those nights where everybody was pretty tired. So about 9:30 at night, we broke down. And, of course about five minutes after we got back to the hotel, cell phones are going off.
So we scramble back into position. And somewhere in this time period, we get an indication that he might be a police officer.
This means he might be carrying a weapon. Which means it’s a better idea to have the police make a traffic stop. And we can get the crews there very quickly afterwards.
So the police stop him. And he identifies himself as a law enforcement officer. They search him. They find a .38 caliber pistol in his pocket. In this car they find an assault riffle, a shotgun another handgun. Hundreds of rounds of ammunition. Bullet proof vests. A still camera and a video camera among—assorted other items. I realized, at that moment, that I could have been standing there in this house, confronting a man who had a loaded gun in his pocket. I wonder what this guy would have done had there really been a young teenage girl home alone. What was he gonna do with the video camera, the still camera?
Who knows what would have happened to a young girl. I wonder what would have happened had there been a confrontation. How does he react? That’s why we try to take all the precautions we can.
Now, he’s out on bail and has pleaded not guilty. His attorney says he always carries those weapons because he’s a police officer.
Frequent viewer question #2: Is it entrapment?
We’ve gotten hundreds of emails from viewers asking, "Is this entrapment?"
Ken Lynch: Okay. Entrapment is basically a defense when a normally law-abiding person is induced to commit a crime that they wouldn’t otherwise do because of police behavior. In our situation, first of all, there was no police conduct. So, there is no entrapment.
Mike Burns, Darke County Sheriff's department: How can it be entrapment when you set up a profile, you present it with illicit things about it, strictly innocent, and they contact you? And they are the ones that begin talking about wanting to have sexual encounters with you. They initiate it. Because they get caught once they’ve initiated it is not an entrapment issue.
Frequent viewer question #3: Why don’t you ever catch women?
Del, Perverted-Justice: One of the questions that we get asked more than any other question is, “Why don’t you guys bust women?” And it’s not for lack of (laughter) trying. It’s not like we’re out there with just girls. We’ve got boys, we’ve got everything , but women just generally aren’t Internet predators. In terms of just a woman of her own accord hitting on one of our kids, we just haven’t had it happen.
The closest we’ve ever come to catching a woman was in Georgia. She told a Perverted-Justice decoy she was going to come with her boyfriend for group sex - the woman chatted on the phone with the decoy named Erin.
Del: And we’re like, “oh there is a woman.” And she has this conversation. And she was gonna come with Marvin. And Marvin ended up showing up for the girl. But, the woman Phyllis, didn’t come. And the police, I believe, are actually still trying to figure out whether or not they’re going to arrest her or not.
The man has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial.
Frequent viewer question #4: Why keep doing these investigations?
I think we’re covering a continuing story. And this problem isn’t going away. You know, we’ve done 10 investigations so far. And I’ll bet you that we could walk into virtually any town in America and do it again.
When we catch somebody who has committed a sexual assault in the past, especially when you talk about the sexual assault of a child, to me, I think that’s satisfying to expose somebody like that.
In the one case in Ohio, Kevin Westerbeck, there was a frustrated detective chasing this case for a couple of years. He sexually assaulted a young female relative, who had sought his company in the middle of the night because she was afraid as a thunderstorm was coming. And it wasn’t until Westerbeck surfaces in our investigation that he ultimately pleads guilty in this earlier case.
Thomas Bodner - some 20 years ago, it turns out, he sexually assaulted three children in one family. And here he is, in our hidden camera house, and he makes a run for it and the police arrest him.
And we tracked one of the victims down, who lived in Alaska. And she tells a heartbreaking story about what happened to her and her two brothers. It turns out that after serving prison time in that case, he was caught again, Santa Barbara, California, charged with the sexual assault goes back to prison. And then here he is, out again, here to meet someone who he thought was a young teenage boy.
He’s pleaded not guilty is in jail waiting for his day in court
Rod Pacheco, Riverside County District Attorney: The Bodner case involves the possible sentence of 25 years to life, because it’s a three-strikes case. We intend to seek that sentence. What that means is, he will take his last breath in prison.
Where are they now?
I’m always asked are these men getting convicted and sent to prison? Of the more than 200 men charged in our investigations, not one man has been let off. In every case the man has either pleaded guilty, been convicted at trial or the case is pending.
Rabbi David Kay was indicted, facing federal charges. He requests a bench trial in federal court, in other words, no jury. He just goes before a federal judge. The case is heard. He’s convicted, sentenced to six and a half years in federal prison, partly because, the judge said, the rabbi lied when he testified in his own defense that he really didn’t think there was a 13-year-old boy home alone.
Burns: In Greenville, Ohio, 18 of the men were arrested. Out of those 18, 17 have already been—to court and found guilty. But, two of ‘em went to trial.
With Rob Klein, when we were at trial with him, his main issue was “Hey, I drove there. I even stopped down at the church and tried to debate whether I should come to the house or not.”
The jury felt if you were really thinking of abandoning it from the church, you would have gone home. 16 men out of the 18 have been sentenced.
The 17th one is still to be sentenced sometime in April. Sentencing on these 16 men have ranged anywhere from 30 days in the local jail to 11 months in prison.
In Ken Westerbeck’s case, he was given 11 months. In another county right next to us, he had received a 10-year sentence for actually rape.
When the judge sentenced him in ours, he took his sentence and ran it concurrent. I was mad. Why did our sentence run concurrent? You know, why didn’t it run consecutive? Why should this guy be turned back out? Why is just 11 years enough? Why shouldn’t it be 12?
Pacheco: In Riverside County 51 men were arrested. They were all charged. They are all being prosecuted with the exception of 17 who have pled guilty. We didn’t offer any plea bargains to any of these individuals; no deals whatsoever.
The two longest sentences: One was given to Daniel Allen. The other one was given to Hoi Chen. They were both three years in state prison. They got the longest sentences because the judges in their case, realized the incredible harm that could have occurred. And so, they got the sentences that they deserved. And quite frankly, all of ‘em deserved those sentences.
Pacheco: The Walter Babst case involves a teacher from Corona who pled straight up at trial. He decided to plead; throw himself on the mercy on the court. He’s pending sentencing. That’s coming up in April.
There’s the Homeland Security agent. I think that case will go to trial. And there are well. What they’re going to argue? I have no idea. I would imagine that they’re gonna talk about entrapment. But once people see those communications—those written communications, between the defendant and what appeared to them to be an underage child and then they see the interviews—done by Dateline, I can’t imagine anybody being successful at trial.
Lynch: In Long Beach, California 35 men were arrested. 18 so far have pled guilty and the remaining 17 are still fighting it out in court.
Our standard offer on the case was essentially 18 months in state prison. None of the defendants have accepted our offer of state prison. They have fallen on the mercy of the court. And in those cases that have put out, basically the judges have given a probationary sentence.
A lot of these guys are getting straight probation and no time. But they are having to register sex offenders, which is a good thing.
Lynch: I can’t demand a judge to give a guy state prison. I can only ask for it. That’s their role to determine what the sentence should be.
Mike Jolley, Harris County Sheriff: 20 people actually showed up in Harris County to meet with a person they thought would be 15 or younger. Out of those 20, at this point, to date, we’ve had 14 go to court, and plead guilty in our supreme court of Georgia to criminal acts. The sentences range anywhere from ten years with 2 years to serve, with the remaining eight years being on probation, all the way up to six years to serve, with 25 years being put on probation.
Mr. Restocruz, he was the military member. He actually got 5 years the balance of 25 years on probation. I would like to think Georgia has been tougher in sentencing than most States, because we’re looking out for our kids. We’re very conservative in the South. We put a big value on family. And for that reason, we’re looking out for our children.
When we began our investigations into online sexual predators, you know, we knew it was an important story. We knew it would be eye opening. We knew people would say, “Oh, my gosh. This is really going on.” But, I had no idea that this thing would resonate with people the way it has.
Once I appeared on Oprah, that changed everything. We’re talking about a woman here, who herself was victimized by sexual abuse. And, so when she gets onboard, it makes a real difference. When she weighs in on something, you know, she’s got a loyal, educated viewing audience that pays attention. And, it makes a difference.
I was invited to testify in front of a Congressional Subcommittee in Washington. I think they found it eye opening, and I think it had impact. And, I believe ultimately it will strengthen laws governing this sort of activity on the internet.
Being on Oprah and testifying in front of Congress brought a lot of awareness to the issue and so has all the spoofs that have been done.
We also got a call from the Conan O’Brien folks proposing to be a part of a skit for the opening of the Emmy Awards.
I think it was funny in a way where, you know, we didn’t show any disrespect for law enforcement or for people who have been victimized by this crime.
There have been spoofs on "Saturday Night Live," and "Studio 60 On the Sunset Strip." I got a call from the folks at 30 Rock asking me to do a cameo appearance as myself. Essentially the main character’s—boyfriend goes into the kitchen to get something to eat and Tina Faye is flipping through the channels, and “To Catch a Predator” comes on. And, there’s the boyfriend walking into the house with balloons.
It’s amazing to me when you go to YouTube or some of these other sites, you know, where people post these videos that they make, how many parodies are out there. They take a lot of time to create, and some of them are pretty darn clever.
There are people who have taken issue with what we do. They say perhaps we shouldn’t expose the problem as much as we have, or in the manner we have. But the vast majority of people stop me to talk about the story and thank me.
I decided to write a book because I felt there were aspects of this crime that could be better explored in a book form.
After I met Darlene Calvin on the Oprah Winfrey show, I knew that she had to be in the book. What happens to the wives and the children of these predators once they’re caught?
It turns out that her ex-husband was secretly a member of NAMBLA, the North American Man/Boy Love association.
Darlene Calvin: When I see Chris doing one of his catch predator shows, my first thought is, “Wow, somebody is going to have to tell his wife.” I know what that feels like. And, that—and, it hurts—and, it stinks.
Nobody really thinks about the predator’s wife or the predator’s children, the predator’s best friend, the predator’s next door neighbor. And, these are all people, who have been betrayed. And, these are all individuals, who have to go through their own shock and grief, and anger, and regrouping, and moving on.
As we’ve seen in our investigations, there is a wide range of opinion when it comes to sentencing and treatment for potential predators, sex offenders. I met a man named Bob Shilling who has one of the most unique points of view when it comes to this issue.
Bob Shilling: I spent four years of my life being sexually abused. And it was one of the most painful times of my life.
He later became a police officer in Seattle. And he was approached by the chief to work in the division investigating sex crimes against children. And at first, he didn’t want to face what had happened to him as a kid.
Shilling, former victim, and now Seattle police officer: And unfortunately my mother walked in one time when it was happening and she turned around and walked out. That was the low point in my life. Because, I thought, “My God if my own mother doesn’t even know how to protect me, how am I going to protect myself?”
So, I can assure you that I have no love for sex offenders. But through my years of being a law enforcement officer, I know what works. Treatment works. Making sure that these offenders have jobs, making sure that they have places to live.
But of course not everyone agrees with him.
Rod Pacheco, Riverside California district attorney: Counseling doesn’t help at all. And this is an irresistible impulse that these individuals cannot control, and have no desire to control. Counseling is therapy, giving them a hug, isn’t gonna help these guys.
Shilling: I am a absolute firm believer in strict punishment, getting them treatment and then letting them get on with their life when they come out. Knowing who the are, watching them, making sure that they are held accountable, but let them get on with their life.
I have looked into the eyes of more than 200 of these. And I have read every word of every chat log these guys have generated. And it has given me a unique perspective on this problem, and I thought it was important to share that experience with people.
Did the Dateline Show, "To Catch A Predator Go Too Far"
Bernard Hugo Goetz, known as Bernhard or Bernie (born November 7, 1947) was dubbed the "Subway Vigilante" by the New York press. He became a symbol of New Yorkers' frustrations with a high crime rate when Goetz, who is white, shot four young black men who were intent on robbing him on the Seventh Avenue 2 express subway train in Manhattan in 1984.
Goetz was born in Kew Gardens, Queens, New York to a German American father and a Jewish mother; he was raised in the Lutheran religion. Goetz earned a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from New York University. At the time of the shooting incident, he was self-employed, running an electronics repair business out of his Greenwich Village apartment.
In the early afternoon of December 22, 1984, four young black men — Barry Allen, 19; Troy Canty, 19; James Ramseur, 18; and Darrell Cabey, 19 — boarded a downtown No. 2 express train on a mission to steal money from video arcade machines in Manhattan.
Goetz entered the same subway car at the 14th Street station and sat down near the four young men. According to Goetz's statement to police, approximately ten seconds later Troy Canty asked him, "How are you?" Goetz responded that he was "fine". According to Goetz, the four men gave signals to each other, and shortly thereafter Canty and Barry Allen rose from their seats and went over to the left of Goetz, blocking Goetz off from the other passengers in the car. Canty then said to Goetz, "Give me five dollars." According to the young men's testimony, Canty was panhandling, although eyewitness testimony given at Goetz's criminal trial generally agreed that the four men were aggressive and threatening. Goetz told police that he thought from the smile on Canty's face that they wanted to "play with me," and he decided on a "pattern of fire" that he would use to shoot them. Goetz, pretending not to hear them, asked Canty, "What did you say?" Canty calmly repeated, "Give me five dollars." Goetz admitted to police that he "snapped" and that his intention at that point was to "murder them, to hurt them, to make them suffer as much as possible." At the criminal trial, Goetz's defense attorneys, Barry Slotnick and Mark Baker, claimed that this and other extreme statements by Goetz were the product of an overactive imagination.
After the second demand or request for money, Goetz rose from his seat, and from beneath his blue windbreaker he fast-drew his .38 caliber five-shot Smith & Wesson revolver and fired five shots with speed shooting. (Speed shooting is a very fast technique, primarily effective at close range, where the shooter initiates trigger pull prior to the sights being aligned on the target.) In media interviews, Goetz, who had prior firearms and target shooting experience, described how he discharged all five rounds extraordinarily quickly within 1.5 to 1.6 seconds. The first hit Canty in the center of the chest; the second shot struck Allen in his back and came out his arm; the third shot hit the subway wall just in front of Cabey; the fourth shot hit Cabey in the left side, severing his spinal cord and rendering him paraplegic; the fifth shot went through Ramseur's arm and lodged itself in his left side. Goetz then immediately looked at the first two men to make sure they were "taken care of." Goetz then saw Cabey moving on the bench and confessed to approaching Cabey and saying, "You don't look too bad; here's another," and then attempted to shoot Cabey again in the stomach, with an empty gun. Cabey, who was briefly standing prior to the shooting, was sitting on the subway bench during all attempted shots. In his subsequent police statement, Goetz explained, "if I had had more [bullets], I would have shot them again, and again, and again." All four men survived, though Cabey was permanently paralyzed and suffered brain damage as a result of the bullet that severed his spine.
Goetz claimed that at the moment of the incident he experienced severe distortion of his visual depth of field, one of many known significant physiological effects of epinephrine (adrenaline), a fight-or-flight hormone released by the adrenal medulla. He also apparently suffered a combination of loss of hearing and audio exclusion, in part from the adrenaline rush and also from the tremendous decibel level of the gun discharge reverberating inside the confined space of the subway car with its carbon steel walls and fiberglass benches. In media interviews, Goetz has described in haunting, vivid detail, the incredible high-pitched ringing in his ears as a part of his overall state of mind at the moment of the incident. Goetz claimed he suffered this hearing loss and audio exclusion after the first shot and up to the point he noticed two women who he thought were unintentionally hit by his bullets. These women in fact fainted outright in response to the trauma of the incident.
After the shooting, the only other passengers of the original 15 to 20 that remained in the subway car were the two nearby women who had fainted. After talking to the two women to determine if they were injured - they were not - Goetz was approached by the conductor who had been in the next car. Goetz refused to hand over his gun to the conductor, stating "They tried to rob me" and left the train which had halted because of the incident, a common practice on the New York City subway system during certain emergency situations. Due to the tremendous decibel volume of the shots inside the confined space of the subway car, there were initial witness reports after the incident that suggested the gun involved was a .44 Magnum or other large caliber handgun. Goetz alluded to these reports in a 2005 media interview on the Opie and Anthony radio show that the volume was in part due to the fact that the shots he fired that afternoon "cleaned the barrel" of the small-frame .38 revolver he used. In other words, those shots were purportedly the first time he had ever fired that particular gun.
Goetz fled the subway system at the Chambers Street Station. He then rented a car and drove to Bennington, Vermont and buried the gun and the blue windbreaker he wore at the time of the shooting. He walked into a Concord, New Hampshire police station to turn himself in on December 31, 1984. While he was away, police had already tried to contact him at his Greenwich Village apartment for an interview because he fit the description of the shooter.
After the incident, rumors spread that Goetz had been threatened with sharpened screwdrivers. This rumor was published as fact by some newspapers; however, neither Goetz nor the young men made any such claim. In fact, during his subsequent statement to the police Goetz expressed a belief that none of the young men was armed. Paramedics and police did find a total of four unsharpened screwdrivers on two of the men, which they explained were to be used to break into video arcade game change boxes. Goetz's confession to shooting Cabey twice, first in the left side and later in the stomach, and Goetz's use of the phrase "You don't look too bad; here's another" was made public by the DA prior to the second grand jury. This was reported as fact in the media for 18 months up to the time of the criminal trial, when Cabey's medical records were released indicating he was shot once in the left side.
This incident occurred during the 1980s, a time of unprecedented crime rates in New York City. In the mid-eighties, New York had a reported crime rate that was over 70% higher than the rest of the U.S. In 1984, NYC police reported a rate of 2 homicides, 18 total violent crimes, and 65 property thefts per 10,000 people per year. On average, 38 crimes were reported on New York City subways each day.
After being mugged once in the mid 1970s while with friends returning to a Harlem subway station, Goetz was mugged yet again in 1981 by three men and sustained injuries from the assault. Though he had prior target shooting experience earlier in his life, it was this second violent mugging that prompted Goetz to begin carrying a gun. Goetz did apply for a permit to carry a handgun, which was denied as are most such applications in New York City. Goetz bought a five-shot, scandium alloy J-frame Smith and Wesson "Airweight" revolver with a shrouded hammer out of fear for his safety. Goetz had brandished the pistol on two occasions prior to the attack on the subway in order to frighten away would-be robbers. It was this firearm that Goetz used to shoot the four men who confronted him on the subway in 1984.
At the time of the incident, Goetz had no criminal record while each of the four men had been previously arrested and had a total of fourteen outstanding criminal bench warrants, although only Cabey had been charged with a felony, armed robbery. When the incident occurred, all of the men were either 18 or 19, and had reached the legal age of majority. It is thus both more factually accurate and sensible to refer to them as "men" or "young men", rather than "youths" or "kids", terms often used by the media regarding this incident and also used by their civil trial lawyers, among them Ron Kuby and William Kunstler. Although not an exact definition, in a legal context the term youth typically implies that the person is under the age of 18 and may or may not be tried as an adult.
 Public reaction
The "subway vigilante", as Goetz was labeled by the New York tabloids, was front page news for months, partly due to the repressed passions it unleashed in New York and other urban areas. Some viewed the soft-spoken Goetz as a hero for standing up to his attackers and defending himself in an environment where the police were increasingly viewed as ineffective in combating crime. This camp felt that, in his cornered and threatened circumstance, Goetz's best defense was to use the element of surprise, his only strategic advantage over four younger, and more physically powerful, men, to shoot all four men quickly and decisively with overwhelming force, in order to resist the mugging, the potential great bodily injury that four young men could inflict on a single victim, and to avoid to possibility of having his gun appropriated and used against him by one of the four men.
The Guardian Angels collected thousands of dollars in donations from N.Y.C. subway riders for a legal defense fund for Goetz. The Congress of Racial Equality (C.O.R.E.), a civil rights organization, also offered to raise money for his legal defense. C. Vernon Mason, a candidate for district attorney, and the Rev. Al Sharpton said Goetz's actions were racist. Published stories about the prior criminal convictions of the four men prevented them from gaining sympathy from many people.
Some wondered whether the trial result would have been different if the participants' races were reversed. In contrast, Time Magazine correspondent Otto Friedrich pointed out the case of Austin Weeks, a 29 year old African American man who shot a white teenager, yet a New York City grand jury refused to indict Weeks for that shooting.
Others viewed Goetz's shooting as a callous overreaction to the events. On the 2005 Opie and Anthony Show radio interview, Goetz alluded to this camp and recalled how an audience telephone caller, on a radio talk show interview he previously sat for, suggested to him that at the moment of the incident, Goetz "should have been thinking of (19 year-old Darrell) Cabey's mother." In contrast Goetz advised that at the moment he was cornered by what witnesses testified as four hostile men, he was first and foremost concerned for his own safety and survival and that he was not thinking of the men's relatives.
Those in the first camp tended to believe Goetz's version of the incident, that he was aggressively accosted and cornered by the four men demanding money. Those in the second camp tended to believe the version of the incident as told by the four men, that they were merely panhandling with neither intimidation nor threats of violence. This latter view of events was later substantially discredited when one of the four men admitted that they planned to rob Goetz.
In the middle of these two polarized views were people who believed that Goetz was indeed being threatened with violence, but seriously questioned whether the drastic nature of his actions could qualify as self-defense. People in this camp thought that Goetz overreacted when he opened fire without warning on not only one, but all four of the men who confronted him.
 Criminal trial
The Goetz trial was a significant news event. Goetz confessed to the shooting but argued that his actions fell within the New York self-defense statute. Under Section 35.15, "A person may not use deadly physical force upon another person...unless...He reasonably believes that such other person is committing or attempting to commit [one of certain enumerated predicate offenses, including robbery]." The New York Court of Appeals upheld Goetz's indictment for attempted murder and assault. Goetz was eventually acquitted of those charges, but he did serve eight months on a one-year sentence for illegal weapons possession.
People v. Goetz, 68 N.Y.2d 96 (Jul 08, 1986) —
The New York Court of Appeals, the highest court in New York, reversed the dismissal of a grand jury indictment of Goetz on charges of attempted murder, assault and criminal possession of a weapon. The court held that Goetz's actual belief that he was in imminent danger was not dispositive because the standard is not purely subjective. Rather, the self-defense justification of deadly force requires an objectively reasonable belief that an imminent threat exists. That is, considering all the circumstances, a "reasonable person" in Goetz's place would have believed he or she was in danger.
People v. Goetz, 73 N.Y.2d 751 (Nov 22, 1988) —
Goetz was convicted of Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Third Degree and initially sentenced to six months in jail, one year psychiatric treatment, five years' probation, 200 hours community service, and a fine of $5,000. He appealed, and the appellate court affirmed the conviction and ordered a resentencing for a period of one year in jail without probation. The order of the appellate court was affirmed because the trial court did not err in instructing the jury that, if it found the People had proved each of the elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt, it "must" find defendant guilty. This was not a directed verdict.
 Civil trial
Darrell Cabey, and his lawyer Ron Kuby filed a civil suit against Goetz in 1985. In 1996, a jury found that Goetz acted recklessly and deliberately inflicted emotional distress on Cabey. Goetz admitted to using racist language. The all black jury awarded Cabey $43 million. Goetz subsequently filed bankruptcy.
At the civil trial, newspaper columnist Jimmy Breslin testified that Cabey denied his involvement in an attempted robbery, but said that Canty, Allen, and Ramseur intended to rob Goetz because "he looked like easy bait."
The jury apparently was confused. Goetz and the two doctors who testified at the trial said Cabey was shot once. The only two jurors who were willing to make brief statements to the media after the trial said they believed Cabey was shot twice.
This case made Al Sharpton a well known public figure.
James Ramseur and Barry Allen committed serious crimes since the original incident. Soon after being released from the hospital for the treatment of his gunshot wound, James Ramseur committed another crime with an associate: he was later convicted of raping, sodomizing, beating and robbing a pregnant nineteen year old woman on a building rooftop in the Bronx, and in 1986 was sentenced to 8 ⅓ to 25 years in prison. Barry Allen committed two muggings after the shooting.
After this shooting Charles Bronson promoted the larger caliber .475 Wildey Magnum in the 1985 sequel Death Wish 3, although he recommended that people not imitate his character.
The New York State legal standard for the self defense justification use of deadly force shifted after rulings in the case. New York jurors are now told to consider a defendant's background and to consider whether a reasonable person would feel imperiled if that reasonable person was the defendant.
After reaching an all time peak in 1990, crime in New York City dropped dramatically throughout the rest of the 1990s. As of 2006, New York had statistically become one of the safest large cities in the U.S., with its crime rate being ranked 194th of the 210 American cities with populations over 100,000. The New York City crime rates in the first half of the 2000s decade were comparable to those of New York in the early 1960s. Goetz and others have interpreted the significance of his actions in the subway incident as a contributing factor precipitating the groundswell movement against crime in subsequent years. While that claim is impossible to verify, Goetz achieved celebrity as a popular cultural symbol of the reaction to urban crime and disorder.
In the first season of the television program Law & Order, the episode "Subterranean Homeboy Blues" was based on the Goetz case; however they switched the gender of the character who was the victim. Cynthia Nixon played the character based on Goetz.
The themes of the incident play a large part in the mid-80s Spider-Man story The Death of Jean DeWolff, which also concludes with a very similar incident.
The New Yorker columnist Malcolm Gladwell described the incident in chapter four of his best-selling first book, The Tipping Point (2000), within a discussion about the sharp drop in crime in New York City since the 1980s. The chapter is entitled "The Power of Context."
In the 2002 film Every Move You Make, Goetz plays a criminologist who teaches a female stalking victim how to use a concealed carry weapon.
Twenty years after the incident, Goetz appeared on Larry King Live. He believes that his actions helped precipitate the drop in crime experienced in New York City in the early 1990s. He is now an outspoken vegetarian and advocate of vegetarian alternatives in school lunches. In 2005, hoping to bring attention to significant issues in the public interest, he unsuccessfully ran for New York Public Advocate, earning about 17,000 votes.
In the music world, "Bernie Goetz" is named in "We Didn't Start the Fire," a hit single by Billy Joel released on the 1989 album Storm Front. (The lyrics are a mix of history and social commentary.) He is also mentioned in "B-Boy Bouillabaisse" by the Beastie Boys, "Why Do You Think They Call It Dope?" by LL Cool J, "NYC Street Corner Battle" by Kool Keith, "Da Graveyard" by Big L, "Hold On" by Lou Reed, "Clan in Da Front" by Wu Tang Clan, "The Executioner (Bernie Goetz A Gun)" by the British group Pallas, "Rising to the Top" by Sean Price (f. Agallah), "Stick to Your Guns" by the NYC based Oi punk/skinhead band The Templars, "Vigilante" by the Canadian band Barstool Prophets, "Shoot His Load" by New York punk band Agnostic Front, and "Winicumuhround" by Redman.
Alton Brown, a fine-dining and television chef, lists Bernhard Goetz as the personal hero of a thin, angry man with a lead pipe, to humorous effect, in his comparison of hot 350-degree oil and a 500-degree oven in his book I'm Just Here for the Food.
The 2007 film The Brave One stars Jodie Foster as a women who turns vigilante after becoming a victim in a brutal crime. In one scene, she's approached and threatened by a young black man on the subway where she then proceeds to pull out a gun and shoot him. This film is essentially a remake of the movie Death Wish featuring Charles Bronson in which an almost identical episode is repeated.
As of 2005, Goetz is again living in New York City and has run for both mayor (in 2001) and public advocate (2005). Goetz has stated that while he did not expect to be elected, he did hope to bring attention to issues in the public interest. He is also an advocate for vegetarianism and the service of vegetarian lunches in the New York City public school system. He occasionally gives media interviews about the 1984 subway incident that suddenly brought his private life into the public eye. He sells and services electronic test equipment via his company "Vigilante Electronics".
The Subway Vigilante's claim to fame
Subway Gunman, veggie Bernie Goetz plays with his squirrel
bernie goetz freaks out
‘Vigilante justice’ alleged at another Iraq prison
Iraqis reportedly beaten in reprisal for rape of Jessica Lynch
BAGHDAD, Iraq - A female soldier in the Army’s 320th Military Police Battalion took “vigilante justice” on Iraqi prisoners who she believed had raped Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch, according to a letter from the battalion’s commander obtained by The Associated Press.
Lt. Col. Jerry L. Phillabaum, commander of the 320th Military Police Battalion, leveled the allegation in a rebuttal to charges against his leadership of the 320th, some of whose soldiers were also charged with abusing prisoners last fall at Baghdad’s Abu Ghraib prison.
Phillabaum made the allegation in an April 12 memo to Lt. Gen. Thomas Metz, deputy commander of coalition forces in Iraq. He provided a copy to The AP.
In the document, Phillabaum said Master Sgt. Lisa Girman, 35, and three other MPs from the same battalion abused the prisoners at Camp Bucca in southern Iraq on May 12, 2003.
‘Vigilante justice’ alleged
“When Master Sgt. Lisa Girman returned to Camp Bucca shortly before midnight, she took ‘vigilante justice’ against EPW (enemy prisoners of war) that she believed had raped PFC. Jessica Lynch,” he said. “Four out of the 10 320th MP Battalion soldiers abused some of the EPWs; a clear indication that the abuse was the responsibility of those individuals acting alone and was not condoned by myself or any leader at Camp Bucca.”
Girman, who was among four members of the 320th discharged over allegations they abused prisoners at Camp Bucca, called Phillabaum’s description of the incident “completely false.”
“That night there was no abuse, there was no evidence of abuse,” she said in a telephone interview Tuesday.
She said the group of accused MPs used only the minimum force necessary to subdue a group of unruly prisoners being taken to the camp, and that at the time of the incident, she didn’t know who the prisoners were, or whether they had any involvement with Lynch.
Other soldiers who allegedly witnessed the altercation testified against Girman and other members of the 320th at a disciplinary hearing last year.
Accuser called an ‘incompetent’ leader
Girman, a Pennsylvania state trooper in civilian life, called Phillabaum an “incompetent” leader trying to cover up his shortcomings by blaming others.
“It’s funny how the leadership continues to point downward,” she said.
Lynch was captured and injured in the early days of the Iraq invasion. She was later rescued by U.S. troops. According to medical records cited in her biography, she was also sodomized, apparently during a three-hour gap that she cannot recall.
In Charleston, W.Va., Lynch’s attorney, Stephen Goodwin, said she “would not condone the use of what happened to her as a reason to abuse prisoners.”
“Jessica would urge that all prisoners of war be treated humanely and appropriately,” Goodwin said. “She would not be in favor of any kind of abuse against any prisoner. It is not anything she would approve of.”
The four Army reservists from the 320th Military Police Battalion are accused of punching and kicking several Iraqis, breaking one man’s nose, while escorting prisoners to a POW processing center.
Reservists deny wrongdoing
Military officials have declined to name the reservists, but relatives identified them as Staff Sgt. Scott McKenzie, 37; Sgt. Shawna Edmondson, 24; and Spc. Tim Canjar, 21. All are from Pennsylvania. All four denied wrongdoing and said the force they used was necessary to subdue unruly prisoners.
Phillabaum, who was reprimanded in connection with the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib prison, mentioned the previous abuse at Camp Bucca in southern Iraq in a rebuttal to charges leveled against him in an April report of an Army investigation.
Phillabaum said Girman and the other soldiers who allegedly beat prisoners at Camp Bucca had no authorization for heavy-handed tactics from their commanders.
Phillabaum said he doubted training would have stopped Girman or Spc. Charles A. Graner, an MP indicted in connection with the Abu Ghraib abuse.
“In my opinion, Master Sgt. Girman and Cpl. Graner led acts of abuse in clear violation of any standard of morality. Training alone would not have prevented these acts of abuse,” Phillabaum wrote, incorrectly labeling Graner a corporal.
“If I were omnipotent, I would have removed Master Sgt. Girman and Cpl. Graner from their duties and avoided the abuse of prisoners and the disgrace to the nation.”
Iraq's Mysterious Vigilante Killers
The dark blue Volvo sped toward the guard post near Najaf's Safi al-Safa shrine just as the muezzin began his evening call to prayers. Inside the car, three gunmen prepared to fire. Their targets were members of the Mahdi Army, a band of militants loyal to the firebrand Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who has holed up in Najaf for the past month to avoid capture by the 2,500 U.S. soldiers surrounding the city. As the Volvo neared the tiny brick-and-reed building, a gunman in the car opened up with his AK-47, hitting one of al-Sadr's men. Mahdi Army members say they ran the Volvo down, killing one of the three gunmen and capturing the remaining two. But other witnesses say the car disappeared into the night, its occupants unharmed. Either way, it was a blow for al-Sadr's army, which last month staged dramatic uprisings against coalition forces in several cities.
With the U.S. seeking to avoid an outright confrontation with al-Sadr's forces inside Najaf, the holiest city for Iraq's majority Shi'ites, a shadowy group of al-Sadr's rivals appears to be taking matters into its own hands. Locals say the gunmen in the Volvo came from a new group calling itself the Thulfiqar Army, seemingly named for a famed two-pronged sword that in Shi'ite tradition was used by Imam Ali, the martyred son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad. Two weeks ago, the group began distributing leaflets ordering al-Sadr to leave Najaf immediately or face death. Since then, residents say, Thulfiqar has killed up to four Mahdi Army militiamen, a figure challenged by al-Sadr officials, who claim the group is the invention of American propaganda. U.S. officials say they believe the group exists but have few clues about its composition. "We don't assess it to be a very large activity at this point," coalition spokesman Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt said last week.
Plenty of people have an interest in seeing al-Sadr and his ragtag army cut down. The cleric has little widespread support among mainstream Shi'ites. But al-Sadr's rise has alarmed senior Shi'ite clerics, who view him as an upstart demagogue. Al-Sadr's troops have regularly clashed with the more powerful Shi'ite militia known as the Badr Brigade. Grand Ayatullah Ali Husaini Sistani, the most prominent Shi'ite leader in Iraq, has ordered all Shi'ite factions to avoid further confrontation with al-Sadr's men, fearing it would lead to fratricidal Shi'ite violence, but, Iraqi intelligence sources say, Thulfiqar could be a splinter faction of the Badr Brigade working independently. Those sources think Thulfiqar may also be receiving support from Iran's intelligence services, which may fear that al-Sadr's anti-U.S. militancy could jeopardize the expected establishment of a Shi'ite-dominated government.
Many residents of Najaf have tired of al-Sadr and his militia's thuggish ways. Out of earshot of Mahdi Army members, locals complain that al-Sadr's men raid shops for supplies, confiscate mobile telephones and arrest people on suspicion of spying. A pro-al-Sadr newspaper ran a picture last week of a man hanged by al-Sadr followers for "spying." Waving the photo, Muntadhar al-Khazali, 18, an al-Sadr loyalist, issued a threat to others: "Anyone who works against us, this will be their fate. We will never let Muqtada al-Sadr die. If America is such a great country, why doesn't it come and get him?" Perhaps because there's a reasonable chance that someone else will first.
Vigilante justice makes pop culture comeback
Vigilantism captures audiences, becoming ever-present in media
While riding the New York subway in 1984, Bernhard Goetz was approached by four young men who asked (in a not-so-nice way) for his money. Goetz decided to take care of business himself and unloaded five shots from his .38 Smith & Wesson revolver into their bodies. When questioned by police, he said that once they asked for his money, his intent was to "murder them, to hurt them, to make them suffer as much as possible."
All the men survived, but the "subway vigilante" sent shock waves through America. I just think he was a man who liked to watch way too many Bronson movies.
Vigilante justice has always been a slightly taboo subject in America because of ethics. Does one take a life to save another? If a woman was being mugged and she attacked back, would anyone really feel bad or blame her? Of course we wouldn't blame her--this is America!
It is for this reason that vigilante characters have always been interesting to audiences. Here is a character that crosses a line that most of us would not, and we get to witness the rewards and repercussions of such actions. Look at almost every superhero known to man: Batman. Spider-Man. Daredevil. The Punisher. Each and every one decides to take the law into his or her own hands and delivers swift and thorough justice.
But that was mere fantasy. Costumed hooligans who love to beat up the bad guys were just pop culture fluff, easily digested by the children of yesteryear.
It wasn't until 1974 when Brian Garfield's novel "Death Wish" was adapted into a feature film starring one of the last real men of our time: Charles Bronson. What gave way to a series of needless and exceedingly ridiculous sequels began as an intense tale of revenge and mustaches. Bronson's character just got angrier and angrier as the films continued. In "Death Wish III," when witnessing a purse-snatching, Bronson doesn't run after the thief. He lets his bullets do the running for him and guns down the petty criminal.
After the huge surge of this form of crime fighting came to a close in the mid-1980s, it has recently hit big with the American public again.
"Hard Candy" tells of a 13-year-old girl who tortures a man who may be a pedophile. "Dexter" is a Showtime series about a crime scene investigator who's a serial killer of serial killers. Even "To Catch A Predator" has journalist Chris Hansen destroying lives of men left and right who have technically done no wrong (other than being dirty old men), just because he's Chris Hansen and he can.
Finally, two new films come along to whet our appetite for a dish best served cold. "Death Sentence," which unfortunately showed up dead on arrival at the box office, was also based on the Garfield novel of the same name. It was more or less "Death Wish" but with extra bacon.
Neil Jordan, director of "The Crying Game," has taken a less conventional approach by putting vigilantism in the hands of Jodie Foster with "The Brave One" (out Friday). After her fiance is brutally murdered, she goes on a rampage - basically killing anyone who gets in her way, Bronson style. Oh, and after seeing the trailer she obviously wants her dog back.
Maybe people feel safer taking care of themselves today as opposed to relying on the legal system to help. In these times when the country is more focused on homeland security than security at home, the regular Joe Schmo would rather depend on a two-by-four at his side than the cops on the other end of the phone line.
I, for one, am growing the 'stache now so I too can send out a few death wishes.