Both the policewoman and her target give the author their versions of the truth, in a case that challenges the conventional wisdom about online sexual predators, and blurs the lines among crime, “intent,” and enticement.
Detective Michele Deery works in a cubicle in the basement of the Delaware County courthouse, in Media, Pennsylvania.
The more frightening and reprehensible the threat, the more license and latitude are given to the police.
For a variety of reasons, few of them valid, the child-molester has become the pre-eminent domestic villain of our time. In 1998, in response to growing fears of sexual predation online, Congress provided funds for the Department of Justice to create the Internet Crimes Against Children (icac) task force, which among other things provides federal grants to local police departments for programs to find and apprehend online predators.
For this account, both Deery and J were willing to speak openly and at length; transcripts of online chats and police interrogations have also been made available.
The space feels like a cave, which has always struck Deery as about right, because her job is to talk dirty online to strange men. She has athletic good looks, with tawny skin, big brown eyes, and long straight brown hair that falls over her shoulders.
Her parents sent her to Catholic schools, and her mother, a retired district judge, now jokes that she wants her money back.
Her daughter’s beat is in the vilest corners of cyberspace, in chat rooms indicating “fetish” or various subgenres of flagrant peccancy.
He had peeked into a number of active chats to see how many women were there, and logged on to the ones with a promising ratio.
His screen name, parafling, was a nod to paraflying, the tiny parachute/tricycle flying machines he had once or twice enjoyed.
Deery would begin a dialogue, dangling the illicit possibility, gauging how serious her mark was.