Online predator stings under fire

The New York Times ran a lengthy featured article at the end of August written by a Pulitzer Prize-winning 30-year-veteran of The Times, Michael Winerip.


Titled Convicted of Sex Crimes, but With No Victims: An online sting operation to catch child predators snared hundreds of men. What were they really guilty of? the articles focuses in primarily on the case of a single 20-something from Washington, Jace Hambrick, that had been caught and convicted through an online sting operation intended to catch child sex predators.


Anyone that frequents this site is familiar with the standard sting operation.  Generally undercover officers will establish profiles on social media accounts posing as underage minors and then wait for someone to contact them.  When the conversation turns sexual, an address is provided for a meeting at which time an arrest is made by local law enforcement officers.


Such was the case with Hambrick.


While attempting to argue that he had committed no true crime, the article details how he began messaging someone that had posted an ad on the "Casual Encounters" section of Craigslist, identifying themselves through personal messages as a 13-year-old.


"Why did you post an add on Craigslist if your[sic] 13? You mean 23?" Hambrick is said to have asked.  After all, the terms of use for Craigslist personals stated someone had to be 18 to post.


Within just three and a half hours, with the conversation moving from email to text, including a statement from Hambrick stating "I can be real bad if your[sic] into bondage," he was showing up at the address he had been given after making a stop for condoms.


The article goes on to explain that Hambrick, whom Winerip quoted his mother as describing as an "introverted, sensitive, immature, coddled, nerdy son," in the third paragraph, was really just showing up because he thought the woman he was speaking with was into role play and wasn't in fact 13.


“If she was 13, I was going to turn around and walk away,” Hambrick  is quoted as saying.


But the communications had clearly stated that the person he was speaking with was 13 and he showed up anyway.  With condoms.


While this article focuses in on the case of Hambrick, it touches on a few others, but the underlying issue with the arrests is that they involve fictional children and images of those that are not children.


Anyone that has covered the prosecution of child sex offenders realizes that law enforcement follows a very strict set of guidelines; especially where child exploitation is involved.  Real Dark News recently covered one such case in which a prosecutor chose to drop charges against an individual rather than duplicate evidence - which included images of child pornography - at the request of the judge.


“Every instance of reproduction/distribution of child pornography is another instance of victimization of a young child,” County Attorney Mark Ostrem said.


So what is essentially being argued by the way in which this Times article is being written is that it's unfair to charge these men with attempted rape of children when the images used are not in fact, those of children, that there's no real victim.


The same use of that 'no real victim' argument is being used time and again by those that are pushing for the legalization of prostitution.  They're willing, after all, so where's the crime?


The slippery slope of that argument just got Senate Bill 145 passed in California asserting that in LGBTQ+ relationships of minors there were no real victims.


These online sting operations do oftentimes net people that have no criminal history.  Does that mean that they are not a danger to children?  If they are clearly told that the person they're speaking with is 13, 14, or 15, or that they are speaking with the parent of an 11-year-old and they still show up at the door, does that not make a clear argument for intent?

A 13-year-old or a 20-something officer with the Vancouver Police Department in Washington?