NBC on Tuesday settled a $105 million lawsuit brought by a woman whose brother committed suicide amid a raid involving the series To Catch A Predator. The man, an assistant county prosecutor, had engaged in a sex chat with someone posing as a 13-year-old boy on behalf of Predator, and an NBC crew accompanied police as they raided the man's home, where he shot himself. Probably as part of settlement, NBC scrubbed nearly all mention of the case from the Predator website. But the news network left copies of key documents scattered around the internet, including a blog post and an ardent defense of the suicide case.
The defense, drawn up in response to an episode of ABC newsmagazine 20/20, can be found intact on non-NBC servers with a Google search. The article, entitled "Setting the record straight," argues forcefully that police were the driving force behind the deadly raid. It reads, in part:
The 20/20 broadcast was seriously flawed. Below are some of the most glaring reasons.
ABC claims the decision to obtain an arrest warrant for Assistant District Attorney William Conradt was made at the suggestion of Chris Hansen.
Fact: Chris Hansen never asked police to take any action.
Fact: Former Murphy police officer Sam Love, whom ABC interviewed, never said Hansen wanted to do anything beyond interviewing Conradt if and when he left his home.
Fact: ABC used NBC video to suggest Hansen influenced Murphy police to obtain an arrest warrant. The video was actually recorded AFTER police had gotten an arrest warrant. The video simply shows Chris Hansen reporting on police actions, not directing them.
A 2006 blog post by correspondent Chris Hansen has also been pulled from NBC's Web servers, but remains in the Internet Archive. Like the 20/20 defense, the blog post emphasizes the role of the police, as opposed to the TV network, in planning the raid. It even hints that the police action, undertaken against a fellow member of the criminal justice community in a neighboring county, may have been carried out irregularly (emphasis added below):
The Murphy police obtained an arrest warrant for Conradt and did something we've not seen before: They contacted the local authorities in Conradt's town and knocked on his door.
Conradt didn't answer, but police said there were signs he was still inside. So a tactical team was called in. The officers lined up in formation then broke through the back door. But before they could make the arrest the assistant D.A. pulled out a gun and pointed at his head. Lieutenant Adana Barber was there.
"As they made entry they confronted the subject, I believe he was in the hallway... he told them he wasn't going to hurt them and then shot himself in the head," says Barber.
Hopefully for NBC News, terms of its settlement require the network only to delete articles about the suicide case from its own Predator site. The many copies floating around elsewhere online would prove legally and technically difficult to erase, particularly given the newsworthy and controversial nature of the episode.