Sexual Predators—Really??

Last week, I had the pleasure of meeting and hearing Mark Bowden speak at William Mitchell Law School in St. Paul. As you may recall, Mark is the author of Black Hawk Down about the U.S. military’s defeat in Mogadishu in Somalia. It was also made into a film starring the Minnesota actor, Josh Hartnett.

Mr. Bowden’s most interesting comments came when he talked about his research for the book, including hiring his own security force in Somalia.

In the meantime, he has researched and written a fascinating article for Vanity Fair about cyber-porn and sexual predators…or are they really sexual predators? Find it at (When you get there, key in Mark Bowden in the search block)

He followed a story from Pennsylvania in which an undercover cop went cyber to entice a guy into having sex with her imaginary children. Once hooked, the guy was busted and ended up pleading guilty even though he maintained he never really wanted sex with kids–just the woman.

It interested me because of the murky area in which cops operate to catch supposed sexual predators. The article poses the question of when a cop, acting undercover, really lures an innocent person into a crime under false pretenses. In the Bowden article, the man insisted all along he wasn’t a child sex predator. But was he?

Much of the case is built on the texts between the cop and the “john.” You should read them to see how ambiguous they are. What did the cop mean and what did the “john” really mean? Was this truly a case of a child sexual predator or not?

The other thing that struck me–always has– are the jobs that cops have in this shady area of our society. Bowden points out that the female cop operated in a basement without windows and spent hours on the Internet trying to lure sexual predators out in the open to be caught. Although it’s an important job, I wonder what kind of person can do that work day in, day out. Odd…

In my own experience, I recall a campaign by the Minneapolis Police Department to crack-down on prostitution by busting the johns rather than the hookers themselves. They employed an attractive female cop to impersonate a prostitute. She dressed in short skirts, low-cut tops and cruised the streets that most johns drove on to find prostitutes. She’d wave them over and bend into the open driver’s windows. While she was miked for sound, she’d talk and try to get them to agree to sex for money, (the crime) and signal to her male back-ups to swoop in and arrest the john. She was immensely successful.

Through a friend, I met this female cop and had the opportunity to talk to her about the work. To my surprise, she loved it! Most women would feel demeaned by this kind of posing, but she reveled in the work. She liked dressing up (or down, I guess you could say) and flirting with the johns. She loved the power of busting them. She felt great about arresting men who exploited usually powerless women.

Murky, murky business, if you ask me.

Check out the article and the ambiguous world Mark Bowden reveals. What do you think? Who’s the real victim here?

About Colin Nelson

Colin T. Nelson worked for 40 years as a prosecutor and criminal defense lawyer in Minneapolis. He tried everything from speeding tickets to first degree murder. His writing about the courtroom and the legal system give the reader a "back door" view of what goes on, what's funny, and what's a good story. He has also traveled extensively and includes those locations in his mysteries. Some are set in Southeast Asia, Ecuador,Peru, and South Africa. Readers get a suspenseful tale while learning about new places on the planet. Colin is married, has two adult children, and plays the saxophone in various bands.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *