Caught in the act

By KYLE SUTTON  |  January 18, 2007

Julie and her son ended up taking her case to county court, seeking a restraining order against two Perverted Justice members responsible for making the harassing phone calls. But because those members were Wisconsin residents and Von Erck himself, the “only person capable of removing content” from the website, as according to the court order, was based in Portland, the petition was dismissed due to a lack of jurisdiction in states outside of Minnesota.

Julie Cison, now a Corrupted Justice member, says the family has moved on from the events, but remains active in her fight against Perverted Justice.

“I’m not against going after pedophiles. Not at all,” says Cison. “I think the guys that show up at the Dateline stings need to have some serious counseling... but I disagree with private citizens who are unaccountable in terms of who they are.”

Morrow adds that if someone is “wronged” by Perverted Justice, their only option is to take a civil suit such as the Cisons’. In those cases, the person doing the suing is fully responsible for the costs, in which he or she is expected to recover only one-third of what it costs to bring the suit, according to Morrow.

The incident involving Tommy Cison preceded Perverted Justice’s allying with Dateline by several months, and the group has gone to great lengths to ensure its legitimacy in the nearly two and a half years since. But the matter of tactics used against potential online predators who’ve yet to see their day in a court of law has taken a complex twist in recent weeks, decidedly in line with Perverted Justice reaching its 100th conviction (the site currently tallies 129).

Upon reaching this landmark, the site has decided to archive all non-convicted files, making them available only for law enforcement perusal. A post on the website says “it’s time to archive the past,” for “with our contacts across the nation with law enforcement, there’s no chance of a predator hitting on us without getting arrested.” As such, the unsolved cases and evidence of questionable Perverted Justice busts from the past are now no longer accessible to the public.

“Xavier is an exceptionally good rewriter of history,” says Morrow.

But even with its current operations with law enforcement contacts and Dateline, Perverted Justice, and more recently, “To Catch A Predator” have still received their fair share of criticism for how they go about business.

Joseph Donohue, an investigator with the New York State Police and head of the state’s daily operations with the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force, says he was concerned for how the first two Dateline specials were conducted, primarily the lack of on-scene police as seen in later investigations.

“The first few were generally just shock journalism. That doesn’t really do a lot for the public,” says Donohue, acknowledging that the potential predators where lured to a house presumably out of their neighborhood and then free to leave after their encounter with Dateline.

“How do you think the neighbors felt about that?” asks Donohue.

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