To catch a predator, there must be prey

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To catch a predator, there must be prey

Mon Jan 05, 2009 @ 12:56AM PST

 

Dateline

By Matthew Belloni

Dateline's "To Catch a Predator" series always fascinated us, and not just because we can't believe there are still men out there who don't realize that soliciting a teen online might result in an appearance on Dateline's "To Catch a Predator."

The show was perhaps the most fiery collision of entertainment and law enforcement (even "Cops" never lets the subject lie in waiting for the Gotcha moment). And even though NBC isn't producing new episodes (likely a result of the $105 million lawsuit from the family of Bill Conradt, who shot himself in the head as a SWAT team and Chris Hansen waited anxiously outside his Texas house), we couldn't help but wonder how a recent spat of Indiana Court of Appeal decisions would affect the sting operations that made "Predator" such great TV.  

In two separate rulings, courts have overturned convictions of men busted by online stings because there was no actual "victim" in the case. Attempted sexual misconduct with a minor, the courts reasoned, requires an actual minor, not an undercover officer. Now prosecutors might have to rely on charges of child solicitation, a lesser felony, causing victims rights advocates to predict the rulings could lead to more lenient sentences for online pedophiles. 

It also means that, should NBC's ratings get so bad that it considers dusting off the "To Catch a Predator" franchise, it shoud avoid Indiana at all costs.    

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The Hollywood Reporter
The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog focuses on how the entertainment and media industries are impacted and influenced by the law. It is edited by Matthew Belloni with contributions from veteran legal reporter Eriq Gardner and others. Before joining The Hollywood Reporter, Belloni was a lawyer at an entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. He writes a column for THR devoted to entertainment law. Gardner is a New York-based writer and legal journalist. Send tips or comments to Matthew.Belloni@thr.com

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