Tuesday, January 15, 2002

Tabloid-TV Queen Broke Jacko Arrest, Beats the Networks

Copyright 2003 The New York Observer, L.P.
New York Observer

December 1, 2003

Joe Hagan

On Monday, Nov. 24, exactly 153 hours after the Michael Jackson media maelstrom swallowed the TV-watching populace whole -- threatening to "suck all of civilization into its maw," as a New York Times editorial had it -- the woman who set the whole fracas into motion, Diane Dimond, a 51-year-old tabloid-news veteran, was sitting in the Third Avenue offices of Court TV, recalling the day the story broke.

"It was like the skies opened up and everyone and their mother wanted to talk to me," said Ms. Dimond, who was wearing a bright blue First Lady -- style dress suit, her face still caked in on-air makeup after a three-hour show.

It was Ms. Dimond whose camera crew first captured shots of the police cars entering Mr. Jackson's Neverland estate on Tuesday, Nov. 18, and it was she who first reported -- on Larry King Live -- that a warrant had been issued for Mr. Jackson's arrest.

Ms. Dimond, a contributor to Court TV, told her colleagues it would be "the mug shot heard around the world," and she was right. Consequently, Ms. Dimond's own mug came in a close second, appearing on NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox, MSNBC and CNN, not to mention a half-dozen foreign outlets. On Monday, she acted as a correspondent for ABC's Good Morning America. Ten years ago, Ms. Dimond's dogged coverage for Hard Copy of Mr. Jackson's first child-molestation charge earned her a certain reputation -- as a dogged tabloid reporter. Since then, the mainstream media has fully and completely embraced her kind of story: the pungent, tacky, rubber-necking spectacle of celebrity under extreme distress.

"I think it's inevitable," said Ms. Dimond. "I think too many people wrinkle their nose at the word 'tabloid.' It is what it is. And if people didn't respond to it, it wouldn't exist. But it does. Their denial that they've stepped into that realm is laughable. It's laughable. And it's not something they should be ashamed of -- news isn't news if nobody watches. If you get on the air and start boring people with a script that makes them fall asleep, what good is that?"

Such was the Jackson story's draw that it bumped coverage of the conflict in Iraq out of the 24-hour news cycle -- ABC's Nightline replaced coverage of President Bush's speech in Britain for Mr. Jackson -- and even clawed its way above the fold in The Times two days in a row.

Ms. Dimond certainly got some level of satisfaction seeing her story flood every zone imaginable. Over the years, she said, she's been rebuffed by mainstream newsies because of her tabloid background. A decade ago, she said, Victor Neufeld, the longtime producer of 20/20 and now a morning producer at CBS, told her, "'You know, if you hadn't worked on that show [Hard Copy], you would have won a Peabody,' and I said, 'Well, O.K., maybe.' But from that point, 1994, I watched 20/20, Dateline, 48 Hours -- all of these shows -- get more and more tabloid. They won't admit it, they wouldn't call themselves 'tabloid,' but that's exactly what they are. I would go to do stories and knock on somebody's door, say, 'Hi, I'm Diane Dimond,' and they'd say, 'Oh, I can't talk to you, I promised Diane Sawyer I'd talk to her.' I mean, that seriously was said to me.'"

Susan Zirinsky, the executive producer of CBS's 48 Hours -- which also covered the Michael Jackson story on Saturday, Nov. 22 -- had no comment on being labeled a tabloid show, but she did admit that the public's appetite had changed over the years.

"I believe that the public's interest in things has varied," she said. "There is this incredible currency in celebrity, and magazine shows that are interested in stories that people are interested in are going to hit on these subjects. It's what we're supposed to do."

Ms. Zirinsky defined "tabloid" as a newspaper or TV show that is "likely to take things that are not truthful and, even with the barest of sources, promote that information." She also pointed out that The Times had run with the story, too.

The executive producer of Dateline NBC, David Corvo, also ran with the Jackson story and credited Ms. Dimond with breaking it in his program. He called her a "tenacious reporter." But Mr. Corvo said his show mixed popular stories with serious ones, which wasn't, by his definition, "tabloid."

"I'll have to leave it to Professor Dimond to decide what a tabloid is," he said. "There are techniques that tabloids use, like paying for interviews, which we don't do."

Then he added: "It was on the front page of The New York Times, for crying out loud!"

Ms. Dimond said that even the wizened news gods at 60 Minutes were, for all intents and purposes, doing what she considered tabloid journalism -- but, she said, unlike their counterparts at other newsmagazines, executive producer Don Hewitt and co-editor Mike Wallace would readily admit it.

"Mike Wallace would be the first one to say to you, 'Yeah, I do tabloid,'" she said. "'I package it real nice, and look at my promos: They're tabloid through and through. They're the best in the business.'" Ms. Dimond said she was a friend of Mr. Wallace's, having worked with his stepson, film director Eames Yates, at Hard Copy in the early 1990's. Mr. Wallace was unavailable for comment, but a 60 Minutes spokesman said, "Not only did we invent the genre, we're still the gold standard by which other newsmagazines are measured."

Ms. Dimond got her start in television news at WCBS Channel 2 in New York in the mid-1980's, where she covered the "Baby M" surrogate-mother case. She went national with Hard Copy in 1990, covering the William Kennedy Smith rape trial, and then hit critical pay dirt with her coverage of the first Jackson case, which earned her star status in the tabloid market. It also earned her the ultimate tabloid accolade, a $100 million lawsuit by Mr. Jackson himself in 1995 against Hard Copy, which aired Ms. Dimond's interview with a woman who claimed a video existed of Mr. Jackson having sex with a 13-year-old boy. The judge dismissed Ms. Dimond from the suit.

Since then, she's worked closely with Geraldo Rivera at CNBC, hitched her wagon briefly to Roger Ailes' Fox News Channel, and most recently had her phone tapped by private investigator Anthony Pellicano because of her involvement with the Jackson case.

Despite the fact that the Jackson story made the cover of The Times, Ms. Dimond did distinguish between the newspaper's news values and her own.

"I'm in a different type of journalism," she said. "I don't know how many people are exposed to their product as opposed to my product, but I'm sure they've got a lot more supporters with a lot more education than the people who listen to mine. But I don't know ... I don't want to slam The New York Times."

Ms. Dimond said that populist news like the stuff on Fox served a purpose -- it got people to watch news, which was why it was good.

"Everybody bemoans the fact that Fox News network is getting people to watch it," she said. "You know what? That's a good thing. Because at least they can form an opinion. If it's not an opinion that The New York Times happens to like, or the liberal media elite likes, well, that's too bad. America is not about one point of view. It just isn't."

While she may not get hired on 60 Minutes anytime soon, Ms. Dimond's latest coup has not gone unrewarded: On the day she spoke to NYTV, Court TV announced that Ms. Dimond would soon anchor its Thursday night prime-time program, Hollywood at Large.

Dimond Leads Coverage of Jackson Story

David Bauder (ap)

A few months ago, reporter Diane Dimond told Court TV Chairman Henry Schleiff that she was working on a great story and would need him to commit money and manpower to help dig it out. But even in the privacy of his office, she wouldn't tell Schleiff what the story was.

Intrigued, he gave Dimond the go-ahead. Schleiff was rewarded in late November when she broke the story of authorities searching Michael Jackson 's Neverland ranch for evidence, the precursor to molestation charges filed against the pop star.

Dimond's work has put the network out front on what is certain to be one of the biggest legal stories of 2004 — no small matter when you're a news network devoted to crime and punishment.

Her tough reporting has also left Dimond vulnerable to charges that she's too identified with the prosecution, and that Court TV's coup could crumble if the case against Jackson does.

Jackson's arraignment on charges of molesting a boy under age 14 is scheduled for Jan. 16.

"There are a lot of people who adore him," Dimond said. "He's like Jesus Christ. I've become the vilified one, because I've dared to report it. I don't give my opinion. I put things in perspective."

Court TV has eagerly hyped its work on the story. In television's incestuous world, Dimond has appeared on several other networks as a Jackson expert. When reports surfaced about Jackson allegedly being treated roughly by Santa Barbara authorities, one of the first calls another news network made to check it out was to Dimond.

She was drawn in to Jackson's world a decade ago, when reporting for "Hard Copy" on the first molestation accusations against him.

Dimond, an Albuquerque, N.M., native, worked as a radio reporter in Washington in the 1980s before becoming bored with government news. She was a local TV reporter in New York, then landed at "Hard Copy."

"You hear the word `tabloid' now and it doesn't make people wrinkle up their nose in disgust the way it used to," she said. "I think that's because, whether they want to admit it or not, the networks have embraced a kind of populist journalism."

In her reporting, Dimond said she's been frozen out by Jackson's representatives, who don't return her calls.

She has pointedly cast doubt on contentions by the Jackson defense. For example, last February child welfare officials said they had been told by the alleged victim and his mother that nothing inappropriate had occurred, a story the family has since changed. Dimond said this initial investigation came before the boy told anybody, including his mother and therapist, about the alleged abuse.

Dimond has reported that the boy and his family were essentially held captive at Neverland for weeks. She questions Jackson's accusations that police roughed him up by saying he didn't appear in pain when waving to his fans.

Her reporting has been detailed and informed with an insider's knowledge that few others in television have matched.

"Obviously, what she has accomplished here is so superior to everyone else. She must be good and she is good," said attorney Brian Oxman, a Jackson family friend who has represented some of them in court.

Although he has high regard for her work, Oxman said Dimond's good sources in the prosecutor's office have blinded her to weaknesses in their case.

Dimond said she had heard from friends that Oxman spread rumors that she had an affair with Santa Barbara District Attorney Tom Sneddon — among the most vicious insults to a reporter. She denies any such impropriety.

"The only thing I've said is that's she's pretty cozy with the DA," Oxman said. "If someone thinks that means something else, I suppose people might interpret that to think there's something else going on. I don't know. I just know that she is very cozy with the DA."

Dimond said she doesn't mind people believing that she's tight with the prosecution.

"I've got sources everywhere," she said. "Let 'em (think that). They're not right. It's good to let people think they have you figured out."

Schleiff said he admires Dimond's reporting. A week after the Jackson story broke, Court TV expanded her role at the network to include a regular anchor job for "Hollywood at Large."

"I think she's been aggressive, I think she's been solid and I think she's been fair," he said. "I know she's been diligent."

Dimond won't reveal her opinion on Jackson's guilt or innocence.

"I've learned a lot that I've put on the air and learned a lot that I could never put on the air because I couldn't substantiate it," she said. "But I'm going to keep my opinion to myself."

She's never met Jackson. They had one close call: while waiting outside of a California arena where Jackson was to accept an award a few year ago, she spied him getting out of an SUV with tinted windows.

Accompanied by her "Hard Copy" crew, Dimond shouted a question at him. Jackson turned toward her, stared briefly, then walked away.

She feels sorry for Jackson and his inability to have a normal life.

"Look at him," she said. "Look at what he's done to himself. He must be so full of self-loathing to carve off the tip of his nose and plant things in his cheeks. My overwhelming feeling for him is pity."

Jackson's camp says the family of the alleged victim is out for the pop star's money. Dimond said it's possible the boy's mother, who has filed no civil suit seeking damages, is just waiting for the moment when she can profit the most.

"But that's not my information," she said.

Reporter on Jackson Case Quietly Ends Court TV Term

From The NY Times August 31, 2005 Wednesday - Late Edition
Written by Felicia R. Lee

She is just about the last person you would expect to go quietly. But she has. Diane Dimond, whose dogged coverage of Michael Jackson was a controversial signature for Court TV throughout his recent trial, has left the cable channel -- amicably -- to focus on writing a book on Mr. Jackson's legal challenges.

Over the years, Ms. Dimond's critics have said her coverage of Mr. Jackson was strident and pro-prosecution, criticism that only sharpened during her two years as an investigative reporter for Court TV. But both she and the channel say the complaints had nothing to do with her departure this week, a few months before her contract was scheduled to expire in December.

''Diane came to us with a story,'' Patty Caruso, a spokeswoman for Court TV said. ''That's what we hired her for, and the story's over. We love her. We're hosting her book party on Jackson in November. We did not give in to the Jackson camp.''

In July, Court TV renamed its daytime schedule ''Court TV News,'' with coverage of legal news and trials, and began ''Court TV Seriously Entertaining,'' with new nonfiction series, specials and original movies for evenings and weekends. In the process, the channel said, it was restructuring its investigative unit, which Ms. Dimond headed; she said the unit was being shut down.

''I had a tremendous ride at Court TV,'' Ms. Dimond said. ''It was terrific. I was in that courtroom every day for 14 weeks. But it cost a lot to have an investigative unit. The unit was there because of me. I was a freelancer for them, and I came to them with a story.''

For more than a decade, Ms. Dimond's name has been linked with that of Mr. Jackson, who was acquitted in June of all charges in a child-molesting case.

In a 1993 case, Ms. Dimond, then a reporter for the tabloid TV show ''Hard Copy,'' broke the news about accusations of an inappropriate relationship between Mr. Jackson and another young boy. Mr. Jackson eventually settled that case out of court for millions of dollars.

The settlement, Ms. Dimond said in a recent interview, only piqued her interest in the pop star, so when he was charged with child molesting in late 2003, she jumped to cover the story.

Ms. Dimond's recent coverage, though, drew fire, both from some members of the public and from other reporters, said Laurie L. Levenson, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles who often appeared on CNN as a Jackson trial analyst.

Indeed, while covering the case this year, Ms. Dimond -- a mother and grandmother whose more than 20 years' reporting experience has included stints at Fox News, CNBC and MSNBC -- said she was stalked by an undercover private investigator and verbally abused by some Jackson fans.

''I defy any of these people that say I'm pro-prosecution to point out one program where I don't give both sides,'' she said in the interview this spring, just after Mr. Jackson's acquittal. ''I've never said he's a pedophile. I've never said he's guilty. I've said it's inappropriate for a 46-year-old man to sleep with other people's children. He says he's innocent. My response is that society doesn't see it that way.''

Ms. Dimond has a contract with Simon & Schuster to write an account of Mr. Jackson's legal battles from 1993 until now, to be called ''Be Careful Who You Love: Inside the Michael Jackson Case.''

An audience of Dimond diehards will be watching for it; a Yahoo TV group message board has been buzzing with dismay over Ms. Dimond's parting of the ways with Court TV.

''I am a fan of CTV but I will tell it like it is,'' one message stated. ''I think CTV made a BAD choice, and I don't think they will ever have a reporter like Diane Dimond EVER AGAIN on their network.''

Sunday, January 13, 2002

How to Talk It Over Yourself:
Advice from Lee Jay Berman

13 Tools for Resolving Conflict in the Workplace, with Customers and in Life Published in Brilliant Results Magazine. By Lee Jay Berman

Selling Your Case A Different Way. Effective Mediation Calls For Advocacy Skills, Even If They're Not The Kind Litigators Use In Court. By Mark Hansen

Avoiding Workplace Litigation Published in the Los Angelas Business Journal - September 1996. By Lee Jay Berman

Louise Palanker

Louise Palanker is a writer/producer/performer/author in the
arenas of radio, television, stand-up comedy, documentary film
making and middle grade fiction.

Louise is the Award Winning author of Journals: Middle School Love and War. This title has been developed into an App (iPhone, iTouch, iPad) which, in addition to the book, includes a personal diary and an Ask the Author feature where kids can write in with questions about growing up.

Louise’s goal is for the book to foster communication between kids and their parents about the tough stuff of growing up: boys, girls, dating, love, romance, sex, friends, bullies, and complicated things like life.

Within the app, Louise has been answering questions from kids, the world over, on these very topics.

The letters pour in daily and thousands of questions and answers can be read inside the app.

Journals: Out Loud, an extension of that work, is Louise’s third acclaimed podcast. Previous shows, include Weezy & The Swish and Talk it Over.

Journals: Out Loud, The Podcast brings this dialogue to a whole new level. Louise, together, with a team of teen panelists, give listeners the opportunity to learn what kids are thinking and wondering while encouraging them to join in the conversation.

Louise is currently directing and producing a documentary about the

famed 60s family pop band, The Cowsills who were the real-life
inspiration behind The Partridge Family. Her first documentary film
effort, “We Played Marbles: Remembering a Stolen Childhood” explores the lives of Holocaust Survivors. This film premiered at the Santa Barbara Film festival in 2007.

As a co-founder and the creative director of Premiere Radio Networks, the nation’s largest radio syndicator, Louise wrote, produced and/or performed in over 30 radio programs and services while overseeing a department of talented writers, producers, and performers. The company was founded in 1986 by Louise and three partners and was sold to Clear Channel in 2000.

Prior to founding Premiere Radio, Louise was a writer and segment
producer for PM Magazine and then spent three years as the head writer for Rick Dees and The Weekly Top 40.”

After leaving Premiere in 2000, Louise launched a charitable

foundation dedicated to benefiting children’s causes. She combined her teaching degree with her love of comedy and began The
Kids Comedy Club, a stand-up comedy program for children, at Los
Angeles area Boys & Girls’ Clubs and The Jewish Federation of Greater Santa Barbara where kids learn to write and perform stand up and Improv comedy. Through this program, Louise has been teaching and mentoring children for over ten years.

Louise was born and raised in Buffalo, New York and since 1980 has lived in Los Angeles, CA.

For more information please visit Weezy's personal website: LouisePalanker.com.

Further reading

Matt Sigman

Happily married with two children.

Employed by Premiere Radio Networks as a Staff Engineer.

B.A. (1992) Radio and Television Production and Management, California State
University, Northridge

Further reading

Diane Dimond

Diane Dimond is a modern day journalist who defies a category. She’s been called “A renaissance broadcaster” for her versatility on-air and “A reporter’s reporter” for her consistently high-quality investigative storytelling. Dimond’s greatest talent may be her ability to communicate complicated stories in an understandable, common-sense way.

Diane utilizes multi-media platforms to tell the stories she finds so fascinating. Her nationally syndicated weekly crime and justice newspaper column is distributed by Creators Syndicate and she maintains a column archive at her official website at www.DianeDimond.com . She is a frequent contributor of articles to the innovative news-based Internet web site The DailyBeast.com. In the field of radio Diane was co-host of Greenstone Media’s syndicated morning radio talk show in 2007. She can often be heard filling in on other major radio talk shows. Demos of this work can be found on Dimond’s website.
When there is a breaking crime story you can often see Dimond’s thoughtful commentary on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, Court TV (TruTV) and other cable outlets. She’s been a substitute anchor on cable as well. Dimond is also an accomplished narrator and voice over artist and is the voice of the long running “Disorder in the Court” on TruTV.

Diane Dimond may be best known for first exposing then explaining to the world the child molestation charges against Michael Jackson. Dimond’s coverage of Jackson’s criminal trial was seen by millions on Court TV, NBC’s Today Show, MSNBC, Larry King Live and news outlets worldwide. Her book on Jackson, Be Careful Who You Love: Inside the Michael Jackson Case, published by Simon and Schuster/Atria Books and released in November 2005, is an explosive tome detailing Dimond’s exclusive revelations from 1993 when she first broke the story – to the case 10 years later when, once again, Dimond was the first to report the charges against Jackson.

Diane’s latest book Cirque Du Salahi – Be Careful Who You Trust published by CreateSpace and available at Amazon.com, delves into the shoddy journalism that catapulted the erroneous “White House Gate Crashers” into the public square. The book provides an exclusive look at the couple at the center of the scandal, Michaele and Tareq Salahi, and dissects where the truth and the lies intersect in the saga. It’s also a scathing indictment of the Washington D.C. social/political scene as well as Reality Television - both those who appear in it and those who produce it.

Diane has been at the center of countless major news stories during her award winning career. She was the first to report the story of rape at the Kennedy compound in Palm Beach, Florida and to identify William Kennedy Smith as the accused. And Dimond has been praised for her hard-hitting interviews with a number of infamous prison inmates including: Pamela Smart, a school teacher serving a life sentence for enticing her high school lover to kill her husband; James Earl Ray, the convicted assassin of Martin Luther King Jr.; Jeffery McDonald, the convicted “Fatal Vision Killer”; Kenneth Bianchi, the convicted “Hillside Strangler” and Dimond is the only reporter to have ever interviewed Richard Allen Davis, the convicted killer of Polly Klass.
She began her broadcasting career in Albuquerque, New Mexico. At the fifty thousand watt KOB Radio she wrote and anchored the morning newscasts and her investigative series on corruption within the local sheriff’s department earned her the prestigious Silver Gavel Award from the American Bar Association.
In 1976, Dimond moved across the country to Washington, DC to anchor newscasts for National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered.” In 1980 she became Correspondent for the RKO Radio Network, assigned to cover Capitol Hill, the White House and various Washington agencies. She became the networks National Political Correspondent and covered the campaigns of both President Ronald Regan and his challenger Walter Mondale.

Finally making a move into television in 1986 Dimond’s first news job in television was at the flagship CBS Station in New York. At WCBS she earned several awards for covering such groundbreaking stories as the “Baby M” surrogate mother case.

Dimond went into syndicated television in 1990 when she became the investigative reporter for the program Hard Copy. Time Magazine cited Diane’s continuing coverage of the Michael Jackson story as among “The Best TV of ’93.” Dimond also made headlines when she acquired and aired the actual interrogation tape of OJ Simpson being questioned by the Los Angeles police department. She then anchored the nationally syndicated program EXTRA and made headlines with her expose of the deceptive practices of the Jerry Springer show, among other investigative reports.

In 1998 Diane moved to NBC and partnered with Geraldo Rivera to co-anchor CNBC’s nightly newscast, UpFront Tonight. Among other top-shelf stories she anchored extensive live reports from Washington on the impeachment proceedings against former President Bill Clinton. After moving to MSNBC Dimond hosted the series, “Missing Persons”, anchored major news blocks and, among other stories, covered the 2000 presidential campaign, traveling at various times with three of the candidates, George W. Bush, Al Gore and Ralph Nader. Dimond also became known as the correspondent who spent 35 straight days outside the Vice President’s residence in Washington as the nation awaited the final, controversial recount of the vote.

After the September 11th 2001 terror attack in New York City Diane anchored live programs on the Fox News Channel where she specialized in the network’s continuing coverage of the war on terrorism. Her live interviews with military and policy news makers were often quoted by other news organizations.

Diane Dimond lives in Rockland County, New York with her husband, fellow broadcast journalist and voiceover artist Michael Schoen.

Professional affiliations:
Member in good standing of:
American Federation of Radio and Television Artists
Director’s Guild of America
Friar’s Club of New York

For professional inquiries contact:
Wayne Kabak (212) 300-8938 – wkabak@waynekabak.com

Further Reading
Cirque Du Salahi: Be Careful Who You Trust By Diane Dimond
War On Pedophiles By Diane Dimond
NY Times Article About Diane by Felicia R. Lee
Dimond Leads Coverage of Jackson Story By David Bauder (ap)
Tabloid-TV Queen Broke Jacko Arrest, Beats the Networks By Joe Hagan

Lee Jay Berman

Lee Jay Berman is recognized as a national and international leader in the field of mediation. Since 1994, he has been a full-time mediator, successfully mediating over 1,200 cases. He is on the mediation panels of the American Arbitration Association (AAA), and the CPR Institute’s National Panel of Distinguished Neutrals. He is a Fellow with the International Academy Mediators, a Dispute Resolution Expert for the United Nations Development Programme, and a Diplomat with the California Academy of Distinguished Neutrals.

Lee Jay is highly sought after as a trainer in the fields of mediation, negotiation and conflict management. He is Director of the “Mediating the Litigated Case” program for the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution* at the Pepperdine University School of Law, he is on the Advisory Counsel for the Harvard Negotiation Insight Initiative, and he teaches “Mediating the Complex Case” for the Institute for Conflict Management at Lipscomb University in Nashville. Lee Jay has also conducted mediation trainings for judges in Delhi, India, judges from The Kingdom of Jordan, mediators in post-war Croatia, for the AAA, and multiple bar associations, courts and mediation organizations. The inaugural ADR Director for the Santa Barbara Superior Courts, he also chaired or co-chaired the Training Committee for the ABA’s Section on Dispute Resolution from 2003-2007, and is a member of the California State Bar’s Standing Committee on ADR.

Mr. Berman enjoys a thriving commercial mediation practice, while continuing to meet the demand for his public and private sector training courses and public speaking invitations.

* Pepperdine Law School’s Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution was ranked #1 nationally by U.S. News & World Report once again in 2007, making Pepperdine #1 for four years in a row and six of the ten years in which they have conducted the survey.

Further reading

Saturday, January 12, 2002


Diane Dimond

It’s time for America to get obsessed again.

It was once acceptable to slam down a few drinks at the local watering hole then climb into our cars and drive home.

Once it was acceptable – even fashionable! – to smoke cigarettes.

And it used to be we never gave seat belts in our vehicles a second thought. Before they became required equipment in American cars, who ever thought we even needed them?

But because Americans became obsessed with safety, today designated drivers are the norm, smoking is passé (and besides we all now realize it will kill you) and few of us get into an automobile without fastening our seatbelts and those of our kids in their special safety car seats.

Over time those things we used to not want to think about – drinking and driving, smoking and wearing seatbelts – came to be top of mind. Our collective habits were changed and lives were saved.

Can’t we do the same for our children?

There is a plague of pedophilia across the country that we need to face. It is an ugly topic but when a 29 year old convicted child molester from Oklahoma can pass as a teenager and register at middle schools and troll for victims there is a problem. That actually happened recently in Arizona. Neil H. Roderick didn't bother to follow the law and register as a sex offender in his new state. Neither did the other convicted child molesters he lived with.

We need to put our squeamishness aside and talk about what can be done to stop these diseased individuals from staining our children’s souls.

If any good can come from the horrific case of Shawn Hornbeck and Ben Ownby in Missouri it might be that it could be the catalyst for a renewed, focused and definitive conversation on what to do with serial child molesters.

If what prosecutors in Saint Louis charge is true, our worst fears about the Hornbeck/Ownby case have been confirmed.

71 charges of forcible sodomy.

Prosecutors say four times a day for four ghastly days it happened to young Ben at the hands of 41 year old Michael Devlin, a three hundred pound behemoth. The balance of the charges applied to the hell Shawn endured for over four years.

Unfortunately, the Missouri case may not be unique. As we notice all the missing children on milk cartons and television announcements who can say that some of those young souls aren’t living through the same kind of torture? Maybe those children aren’t dead, as we feared. Maybe they are very much alive and just wishing they were dead – hiding in plain sight like Shawn Hornbeck was forced to.

We need a change in our national consciousness so that an alarm goes off when a young boy suddenly appears from out of nowhere to cohabitate with a grown man. Why didn’t someone in Devlin’s sphere call the police? Why can’t we train ourselves to spot possible molestation the way we’ve taught ourselves to be on the lookout for possible terrorism?

It is a subject that is hard to talk about, to be sure, but nothing in life changes – no perceptions shift – unless the population comes to a group understanding about the problem. Pedophiles are a major problem.

What drives them? Can they be cured? Why do they do the things they do? How should society punish them?

As a reporter who has covered lots of cases about crimes against children, I can tell you that burying our heads in the sands of ignorance will only deliver us more young and damaged victims. It is time for the nation to declare war on pedophiles!

The sad truth is that sexual deviants who prefer young children are driven by a demon we can never fully understand. Every one of their actions is driven by the unquenchable desire – the obsession – to be near the young and innocent. It is impossible for them to change their desires. They do not see their actions as criminal. They will not stop until society makes them stop by locking them away.

As retired FBI profiler Ken Lanning once told me, “I had a case with a pedophile who was in his nineties and he molested boys until right before he died.”

Agent Lanning, the author of the bureau’s guide, “Child Molesters: A Behavioral Analysis” also told me average male molesters victimize between 200 and 300 children in a lifetime!

It is well known that those who molest were often molested themselves. It is a cyclical crime that is spinning out of control. Think of it: One pedophile can create 200 to 300 ticking time bombs who may very well go on to molest another 200 to 300 children! And so on and so on …..

This has got to stop. We changed our ways about smoking and seatbelts and driving under the influence, can’t we change this awful spiral too?

Not so long ago many jurisdictions in the United States decided if a criminal used a gun in the commission of a crime the judge was required to tack on an extra five years to the sentence. Why can’t we give a convicted child molester an extra 5 or 10 years?

And, while we’re about fixing the system let’s dump the statue of limitations on sex crimes against kids. I can think of no other crime in which a perpetrator’s past is so relevant. That legal loophole has provided an escape hatch for many a pedophile including Catholic priests.

Here’s the harsh truth: Once a person goes down the path of pedophilia, we cannot trust him again. It should be required that a prosecutor reveal to juries everything about such a suspect’s past.

It is time society got serious about this – before more ticking time bombs are let loose upon the innocent. It’s time we declared war!


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