NBC Settles To Catch a Predator Suit

Louis William Conradt Jr.’s name will be known to journalism students forevermore. It took his suicide to end the run of the worst program ever broadcast on television. Good for his sister, Patricia Conradt, for fighting the good fight, though the money will be cold comfort. And good for Luke Dittrich, who wrote a brilliant story in Esquire, “Tonight on Dateline This Man Will Die,” which showed us all what really happened.

Update: As a commenter points out, the terms of the settlement weren’t disclosed. The original headline of this post read “NBC Settles To Catch a Predator Suit for $105 Million.” The sister sued for that much; what she got is likely something less.

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Comments

42 responses to “NBC Settles To Catch a Predator Suit”

  1. Trey Garrison says:

    Every writer (okay maybe just me, but I like the cover of a crowd) has a file labeled “stories I wish I’d written.”

    Luke Dittrich’s is on the top of my stack.

  2. Jack Jett says:

    Wow…That is amazing. Renews my faith in the justice system. Now if someone could just bitch slap that Hanson dude and the pervs at Perverted Justice.

  3. BSG says:

    I don’t think it was settled for $105 million – that’s how much they were asking for. “Terms of the agreement were not disclosed,” or so says the story.

  4. John Charles McKee says:

    “For example, the person who spent the last two weeks conducting an on-again, off-again chat-room relationship with Bill Conradt calls himself Jay Alternative, though his real name is Greg Brainer. Ostensibly the members of Perverted Justice adopt these fake names so that the men they trap do not seek them out in the real world, but the cartoony, superherolike aspect of most of their aliases perhaps also says something about the way the members of Perverted Justice perceive themselves. Online, Jay Alternative is a faceless crusader patrolling the dark side of the Internet. Offline, Greg Brainer is a middle-aged man who lives in Milford, Michigan, and spends upwards of forty hours a week sitting at a computer pretending to be a sexually available boy. Sometimes the fake names become real. A few years ago, Phillip John Eide, the founder of Perverted Justice, legally changed his name to that of his alter ego, Xavier Von Erck.

    Jesus christ what is wrong with these people. It seems like they just enjoy being sexually solicited pretending to be young boys and do the whole “justice” thing to try and absolve themselves from having a twisted and socially unacceptable fetish.

  5. Jason says:

    Tim,

    WTF? Are you kidding me? Why is exposing sexual predators the worst thing that could happen?

    When is personal responsibility for one’s actions no longer valid?

    You are a joke.

  6. amandacobra says:

    Everyone involved in this whole scenario is wrong. The Perverted Justice guys are not vigilantes and cyber Guardian Angels but more along the lines of what John described and they seem to get off on their creepy cyber luring skills as much as their lurees.

    Sometimes I did feel like they cast the net wide and they knew that they were dealing with individuals who were probably legally mentally handicapped but as long as they could pin them to the ground as they walked out the door or make them bring Taco Bell and condoms, it made for good TV.

    All that said, the genuine “predators” who were there to have sex with 13 year old children deserved to be shamed on national TV. The rub being that the charges rarely, if ever, actually stuck from these things. So no one wins. But if a guy (or woman though I believe there never was a woman predator-ess) that came to have sex with a child gets screwed over in life later down the line because of this show, I can’t get too broken up about that.

  7. Jason says:

    @amandacobra

    I don’t doubt that this is sensationalize for the TV viewers – that is big media. The point of the predators to bring condoms is to show intent. If they didn’t plan on have sex, why would they bring condoms? You statement about the charges not sticking is absolutely wrong. In Seattle, they prosecuted 89 of 93 offenses in one day. The documented evidence is overwhelming. Chat logs, video, intent, etc.

    Fry them all. There is no excuse whatsoever for a man showing up and walking into a house under the pretense of meeting a child. No excuse. But “it’s not my fault” Tim here will make you think otherwise.

  8. amandacobra says:

    Yeah, REALLY don’t know about “fry them all”. I’m gonna back away from this one slowly.

  9. Jerked Quisling says:

    “In Seattle, they prosecuted 89 of 93 offenses in one day.”

    But how many convictions?

  10. Jason says:

    @amandacobra

    That was sarcasm – “fry them all” :-0

    Seriously though, there is very little gray area here. Is it dramatized for TV – that is the media at work.

    If you have a sexually explicit conversation with what you think is a teenager, show up at their house under the pretense that they are home along, you bring condoms or alcohol, what is going on? You have got to be a fool to think they are there to talk to them about Hanna Montana and watch a movie. Come on!!!

  11. Jason says:

    @Jerked Quisling

    Does it matter? Go check the ourt records. I am sure at least 1/2 of them are innocent and came to the house to cook the kids a meal.

  12. Jerked Quisling says:

    “But how many convictions?”

    “Does it matter?”

    Wow. Just, wow.

  13. Oh My Eyes says:

    The saddest part of the advances of the net, is that it gives those so inclined to sexually exploit children and teens a new portal for abuse.

    I have little pity for the now dead former public official….nor pity for any of those caught up in the efforts of NBC and Perverted Justice.

    Perhaps I am a bit prejudiced on the topic as an adult survivor of child sexual abuse….. but “fry them” is minor in my opinion.

  14. Bethany says:

    This, to me, falls under the same category as the whole mess with FLDS. Yes, go after them. But do it correctly, and make sure the charges will stick.

    Don’t do it for TV ratings, and don’t do it to put your city on the map.

  15. amandacobra says:

    Yeah I just don’t think the Perverted Justice guys should have been nor were qualified to be going after these people. They seem like the Bernie Goetz of the webz.

  16. DallasWill says:

    Way to get ir right, Bethany.

  17. Tim Rogers says:

    Thank you, Bethany. That’s exactly my point.

    Jason, let’s try to stay away from ad hominem attacks. I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t do everything we can to bring sexual predators to justice; I’m just saying we shouldn’t make of those efforts a television program meant to entertain us.

  18. Chris says:

    The pervs at perverted justice are exactly that. You know that got off on those chat sessions. And the d-bag that runs the whole thing is the one that needs to be in jail.

  19. DA says:

    It all comes down to the fact that the reporters AND the cops were doing good TV, NOT good police work. Arrests are easy. Yes, convictions DO matter because if you can’t get the conviction, the arrest doesn’t matter – the perv will be right back out on the street. Yes, nail these bastards, but do it the right way so they are off the streets once and for all.

  20. James says:

    Preverted Justice should be the name of a ride at the Texas State Fair this year! 8 ticktes of mind blowing fun!

    Ps. Don’t forget to vote

  21. Jason says:

    @ Tim Rogers

    Don’t be so dramatic. When you have dramatic blog postings – expect the same in return. “Fighting the good fight” so what you are saying is that it is NBC’s fault for turning him into the police. It is the police effort that is at fault for his suicide?

    The core issue is about men doing wrongful acts – that is a black and white issue in this case. How the media puts their icing on it is – well – the problem with your media people. The media exploits people for entertainment on all levels. Because NBC is “exploiting” sexual predators into viewable TV that all of a sudden the predators are victims?

    @Chris
    Do what exactly is PJ doing that makes you think they should be in jail and not a 50 year old lawyer that shows up a house with condoms and alcohol to have sex with a 12 year old boy?

  22. trey garrison says:

    So black and white they could hardly get any convictions?

  23. Bethany says:

    Jason – did you read the story – or any of the stories about this case, for that matter?

    NBC didn’t just “turn him into the police.” They pretty much insisted that he be taken down, and according to their timeline. When he cut off contact with the decoy, and erased his Myspace page, it became clear they weren’t going to have their awesome headline show up at the decoy house. So they pushed for the warrant, and for it to be served, while they were still in town.

    There’s plenty of fault to go around, yes – but it’s particularly telling that the Collin County DA’s office could not make any of the charges stick because of the glaring technical errors involved in all of those arrests.

  24. amandacobra says:

    Jason –

    There are sooooooooo many grey areas in this whole To Catch a Predator thing. Not black and white at all. Honestly, reading up on it would probably be eye opening for you if all you have to go on is watching the show. There was a whole hell of a lot of manipulation on the part of Perverted Justice and the network.

    Remember, this is from the person who was saying that she didn’t mind the general principle of actual child molesters being shamed on national TV. But following that link may enlighten you as to why a major TV network would settle this case for an undisclosed but probably hefty sum.

  25. Tobie B says:

    I won’t even take the time to read thru all the comments. I’ll just parcel out my two cents and move on.

    I TOTALLY disagree with your view about the show being the worst show ever. Although I never watched it (because I hate tense situations such as the show presented), I was glad for what it stood for.

    And as for the sister winning…that’s a farce! When someone points out you’re wrong and then you kill yourself because of it…that person is not to blame, you are.

  26. Jason says:

    @Bethany
    So if I walk into the bank with an AK-47 and a black mask and decide that once I get to the front counter that this isn’t such a good idea – that I should be able to go home and have dinner with my family? Just because he didn’t show up at the house doesn’t mean he didn’t break the law. Would it not have happened if NBC didn’t give the cops the information? Probably not. He broke the law. How hard is that to comprehend? We are not talking about someone who didn’t pay a speeding ticket.

    @amandacobra
    You aren’t making any sense. So NBC made these guys have sexually explicit conversations and show up at their house? How are they manipulating the predators innocence into guilt? Show some evidence.

    Settling a lawsuit doesn’t come close to admitting guilt. Lawsuits like this can easily cost millions of dollars to defend. Deciding to settle can be sign of not willing to spend millions went it can go away today for a settlement. I have been involved in a patent lawsuit where we had to settle because it would have cost 10x to go through trial. This is how screwed up our legal system is.

  27. Tobie B says:

    And one more thing, Tim, I don’t think this particular dateline series was meant to ‘entertain us’, It’s my opinion that the series was originally developed to serve as a warning. To show parents the imporance of being vigilant in knowing what their child does both offline and on.

    Those who find it entertaining….welll…yeah, not so much!

  28. Bethany says:

    Jason:
    You’re comparing two disparate things. And I never said he didn’t break the law. I said that the arrest and take downs were done so badly that all the charges will be thrown out on technicalities.

    Insistence on following proper police procedure is not turning alleged criminals into “victims” – it’s merely asking that the playing field be leveled, and that our law enforcement officials not get overly-excited in the presence of cameras and begin letting Chris Hanson run a sting operation, instead of trained professionals.

    That way, when these perverts get on the Internet and troll for underage tail, they get caught, can be charged with something that sticks, and go to jail for a very long time.

    Bungled messes like this do nobody any favors.

  29. Bethany Rules says:

    Very well said, Bethany (again).

  30. amandacobra says:

    Again, NO ONE here is saying that a guy who shows up with the intentions of having sexual contact with a minor is a “victim”. However, the grey areas lie in:

    – the sensationalism of the show

    – the fact that the premise of the show toes the line of entrapment

    – the fact that Perverted Justice seem to be almost as creepy themselves

    – the fact that instead of handing over the Murphy case to the hands of the law enforcement after it the account had been deleted and computers had been wiped clean (ie “oh my god, what have I done? I have made a horrible mistake and I cannot proceed any further”) the show pushed to have a dramatic confrontation for the sake of good television which ended in suicide

    – if the evidence gathered by the show and Peverted Justice is so ironclad there should be a near 100% conviction rate, which there isn’t

    There are just better ways to go about pursuing and convicting these matters.

  31. DM says:

    You know what this means, right?

    We’ll be seeing endless SUV safety tests all over again.

  32. Towski says:

    @ Tobie

    You seem to have a bit of a misconception as to what the role of televised media is in our society. I’ll give you a hint – it’s not to “serve as a warning”.

  33. Bethany says:

    Hmpfh….tell Pete Delkus that.

  34. Jason says:

    @Bethany
    Good points. I never said that NBC didn’t step over the line as it relates to the guy that killed himself. The guy didn’t kill himself because NBC helped track him down, the guy killed himself because he knew he was guilty, probably saw the film crew and knew he would be shamed to hell and back. This is not the worst thing a person has done, but he chose to kill himself. It is not NBC’s fault for God’s sake. This is my point.

    Tim Rogers would want you to think differently and thinks a predator’s family is justly due money. This is my beef with Mr. Rogers when he doesn’t recognize personal responsibility. It is poor social behavior.

  35. BF says:

    I thought the show was fascinating, albeit a little creepy. But if people don’t want their mugs showing up on “To Catch a Predator”, don’t be a predator. They deserve the scarlet letter of publicizing such sick misdeeds. If you don’t want people to know about creepy things you do, don’t do them.

    So now is the former Prestonwood Baptist pastor going to sue the local media for telling his predatory story in the media?

  36. Obvious Man says:

    Perps will be perps. NBC will be NBC. Vigilantes will be vigilantes. What is so sad here is that cops were anything but cops. I think the Collin County DA got it exactly right, and tried to tell them so all along the way. They had joined the frikkin Dateline cast. The second the Murphy Police Chief took possession of his ride around Expedition, he crossed the line and never looked back. What an ignorant, arrogant bastard. It’s so sad that because of his position, justice had to take the walk right along with him.

  37. trey garrison says:

    Wait a minute, Jason. Tim’s career is built on poor social behavior.

  38. Bethany says:

    I’m not going to try to speak for Tim, Jason, but I think I understand what he was trying to say, coming from the journalistic perspective.

    In J-school – very early on, you’re taught to not become the story. You don’t manufacture circumstances to make a story. This is where Dateline veered off the path of being this being journalism, and became pure tabloid sensationalism.

    If they wanted to make a TV show about chasing down Internet pedophiles, fine. But don’t try to call it journalism, and don’t try to hide behind the cloak of public service.

    No, they didn’t Conradt in front of a computer and force him to lie about himself and troll for boys. That’s on him. But they did create a perfect storm of circumstances that didn’t have to happen. And if those things hadn’t happened – and if reporting the story had been the focus, and not making it – perhaps Conradt would have looked out his window that day and viewed one, lone squad car and two officers, answered that initial knock at the door, gone in quietly, and taken his lumps. Lord knows what would’ve followed would have been plenty to report.

    But we’ll never know.

  39. Jason says:

    Bethany

    Good points on J-school, but the media doesn’t follow that. One could argue if people didn’t watch their shows, then the media wouldn’t be the way they are. That is a round-robin argument there.

    Your “perfect storm” rationalization is a B.S. excuse. THIS IS ABOUT PERSONAL RESPONSBILITY.

    We live in a modern world with mobile phones and cameras, user generated content (YouTube, Blogs, Twitter, social networks, etc.), and the ability to broadcast quickly. Everyone runs the risk of being recorded and broadcasted. Translation = don’t commit crimes if you are worried about the consequences. You might get away with it – you might not.

    To blame NBC for publicizing a crime is wrong. And to speculate that he would have acted differently if NBC wasn’t involved is – SPECULATION.

    This guy is not the first person to kill himself after being exposed for a crime. Get over it.

  40. El Rey says:

    Best line from the article:
    “But did his actions merit the response to them? Before answering this question, a man should take stock of the history of the desires he’s never acted on, and whether he should ever have to defend that history in court, or see it detailed on television.”

  41. Dave Thomas says:

    I’ve been torn about this whole incident.
    I generally like the “To Catch A Predator” shows. They are good TV and facinating to watch. The journalism involved is very questionable.

    The fact that NBC paid a group of vigilantes to set up stings with police departments bothers me right off the bat. If PV and the police had set the stings up first and invited NBC to shoot it, I’d have less problem with that. It’s the exchange of money from NBC to PV that makes this whole thing stink.

    Clearly a number of things were done wrong in the Murphy case. There’s no question the police set up the elaborate arrest of Conradt for the TV cameras. Two cops could have showed up at his office the next monday morning and arrested him without incident. (it’s not exactly unusual to see cops in a DA’s office) Does that make NBC liable for this guy’s death? I think a jury might see it that way. That’s why NBC settled.

    Both sides had a lot to lose in this case. NBC and the police would have trotted out all the details of the chat logs. They would have shown all the porn and other sexually explicit stuff that was supposedly on Mr. Contradt’s computer. They would have tried to make the case that this guy was dangerous and needed to be captured quickly. I don’t think his sister would have wanted that. I also don’t think NBC wanted their business relationship with PV aired in court.

    I’m glad this is over and I hope we don’t see this sort of thing again.

  42. AmandaX9362 says:

    Didn’t someone in the DA’s office warn Conradt?