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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Justin Berry Story: Webcam Porn

Posted by on December 21 at 13:45 PM

With all the news about Bush and illegal spying, this front-and-center Pulitzer bid by the NYT, published on Monday, has gotten lost in the mix.

Basically, the reporter stumbles upon a repentant longtime teen webcam porn star and turns him into a de facto undercover super sting operative. It’s an amazing turn of events. Thanks to the intrepid NYT, the feds now have a series of sex predators in their snares, including the boy’s father. It’s a righteous and riveting story….but….

There’s something weird about the story. I can’t quite put my finger on it.

First from a reporting standpoint. There are a couple of oddities: The story never fully explains how the financial mechanics of the boy’s business worked. That is, how he actually managed all the money. (For example, how was he avoiding paying taxes on such a lucrative business?). Also, his mom’s absenteeism is curious. The kid purchases loads of tech equipment and rents an apartment near his house, and the mom is oblivious.

Intellectually, the story also raises more questions than it answers.
For a great deal of the time, the teen didn’t have a pimp type adult forcing him into this life. So, it’s not exactly clear to me what the grave issue is. Yes, it’s legally child pornography (so, that’s obviously a problem), but it raises a thorny issue around moral judgment: Who’s the victim? Adults shouldn’t be paying a 17-year-old to jerk off on-line, but, again, it was his own business, and he was quite savvy and proactive about luring people onto him. (He even uses cutthroat tactics to put a competitor out of business.)

Eventually, his estranged father enters the picture and starts procuring prostitutes for him, so he can have on-line sex, and yes, at that point in the story, there’s definitely some fucked up, illegal shit going on. The teen also has adult fans who fly him out for trips to Vegas and abuse him…and that’s fucked up child abuse.

But the on-line stuff is still a bit gray to me. I know that adults have money and power to lure the kid, and the article addresses that, but it also raises some (unintentional, I believe) questions about civil liberties on-line.

Did anyone read this story?

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I read it. I was also confused by it a little bit, but not about his parental involvement. I mean, my dad knew about everything I did, but, let's face it, there are some negligent parents out there.

What I wanted to know more about was how the NYT reporter managed to convince this kid he was doing the wrong thing. I mean, he was getting laid and making money at it, and then all of a sudden he doesn't want to anymore? When you are a teenager, you think you are old enough to do anything you want, and you think you are always right. I feel like the NYT bribed him so he would go clean or something.

I thought that too, Ari. For all the details they shared about everything else, they sure did skip over that aspect of the story pretty quickly.

That said, if the kid was randomly popping bible verses etc onto his website to mess with people, that's a good sign that he was pretty torn up about what he was doing.

Still, kinda wish I'd thought of this when I was 15.

I read the piece and was totally confused. First of all, in typical NY Times fashion, it presented the concept of cam whoring as something new and startling. For those of us who have been online for a long time it's a "NO SHIT!" moment. Uh, yeah, people whore themselves over web cam. They have for many many years.

But there was definitely some strangeness in the way the reporter got involved in the story. And the fact that the article included the requisite shot of the kid at church, now fully repented.

Seems like a lot of child porn/ computer plots have been appearing on TV shows like CSI, Law&Order, and Without a Trace.

My theory is that the shows (and now a major newspaper) is trying to drum up interest with a certain demographic: parents of small children.

As a parent of twin toddlers, it's very easy to get caught up in fear about the safety of my kids. I get emotional when, on tv or in a film, I see kids cry or be abused even while I know I'm being manipulated.

Seems like the article is written specifically to get people worked up.

Yes, sexual predators are out there. And Justin is the real victim. But the real problem in his life was the lack of good parenting, not the Internet or webcams or money.

I didn't say this in my initial post, but Touchstone, um, touches on it...and that's this: One thing that also struck me as odd about the story was the story selection itself. It almost cried out:

"Hey, even though we're the liberal NYT, and we're busy breaking this liberal wet dream story about Bush illegally spying on Americans, we're also concerned about family values and kids, and so, here's a bone to our more conservative audience."

I'm exaggerating, but it felt like a rampart as they prepared for an onslaught of "unpatriotic" cat calls for breaking the spying story.

Don't get me wrong. Powerful story. Just a lot of weird shit about it. Ari is definitely onto something with the NYT's ability to use the kid.

CNN ran the story last night. Apparently the kid decided to cooperate because he was given evidence of and started thinking about (either on his own or with adult encouragement) the fact that most of his customers were adult men with access to children in their day to day life.

From reading the slog posts, I understand that some feel that there are grey areas. Regardless, apparently Justin felt that since it *is* illegal and if these guys were breaking the laws against online child prostitution then they could be molesting children in their own lives.

The online pedophilia story is not new, though it may be a topic of the moment, in a way (though not necessarily a coincidence). Does the name Jim West ring a bell with anyone ...? Dateline also did a profile/expose recently about online pedophiles and had a camera at the "kid's" house when they arrived to have sex with him. This led to the outing, if you will, of teachers, a rabbi and an ER doc, among others. The Today Show also showed the Dateline story and had a discussion about this weeks ago, so it may just be something reporters in general are following.

happy new year to everyone out there !.when i caught wind of this story i wasn't surprised in the slightest, first thing because pornography has won grounds and extended throughout the world by using internet as a bridge ..and this is the price we pay for the advance of technology ... and just as many things in this world, it can bring us incredible advantages as well as downsides .Sometimes we're blinded by the usefullness,perfection and uniqueness of the latest inventions of humankind far as to ignore the consequences of either the misuse or the temptation involved with it .I do believe that there's both good and evil in everyone of us ..and that deep down our hearts there's a constant battle going on between these two essences ying and yang .I am 18 years old and as i teenager i have also been tempted by the same things ..i have won many wars and i have lost many ..and i must admit i have been guilty of viewing pornography and even showing more than i'm expected too on web cam when i first heard of this story i understood the way this boy ought to have felt ..all the embarrassment .and how can i make a judgement if i've sort of done the same thing ..fallen into the same trap??..when we dont do anything to stop this no one is safe from this calamity or pornographic worm ..we're just one click away .

i was suprise with the article that was published in NYT, really this guy is a victim imagine doing this in 5 years, oh god! how horrible, hope that this will end the illegal that happen in the web, especially the young teenagers who mostly suffers, their morale were corrupted at young age.

I have not read the story but I know Justin personally. I used to babysit himwhen he was about four years old. I just found out about this today and decided to see what I could find about it on the internet. I know his family and his parents. He was raised right by a good mother and excellent step-father. Sometimes things happen no matter how well you are raised. It breaks my heart to know that this was happening to Justin. I ask that we pray for him and his family. I hope that this will make parent aware of what their children are doing.

This comment is for Mercedes. If you see Justin or his Mom or step-father, please tell them that I am praying for the family and the whole situation. I am SOOOO sorry that this happened to Justin. I'm sure he really is a fine kid. It was good to read your comments, Mercedes, I am gladdened to know that he was raised by a good Mom and stepfather and that ultimately, it showed through Justin by his getting out of this horrible sad situation. Tell him things will get better for him and all other kids involved in this camming because Justin had the fortitude to come forward.
God Bless and prayers for all.

Fortitude to come forward? What are you talking about, from what I've gathered he had to battle hard to get immunity and become a federal witness - he was after all an adult and running a business using minors in porn. He had little choice - come forward and help the FBI or be prosecuted himself.

As Jack Shafer pointed out in Slate.Com, whatever else you can call the NYT exposee, it's certainly poor journalism. The author of this article got involved, decided what was best for his subject, & made it happen. This reporter tore through the veil of objectivity & didn't look back. However good his intentions, that can't help but taint his reporting.

You also have to give Justin Berry credit for the sheer merecenary zeal with which he approached his business. He didn't simply passively receive cash & gifts for his webcam performances, he cajoled & haggled to get good prices... At some point, it has to be acknowledged that he has some personal responsibility for his actions. As distasteful as their interests are to the majority, the men Justin Berry dealt with were in a vulnerable position as well. Like the clients of any dealer, they craved what he provided, and he was able to draw hundreds of thousands of dollars from them. In some cases, he commanded more than $3000 for a single visit. The situation was more one of mutual exploitation than anything.

Lastly, the sensationalization of cases like this can actually do harm to the struggle to prevent child molestation. Most children are molested by people close to them, not strangers. And, when people look at Justin & the way he not only took massive profits from his activities but also procured others into doing the same thing, their perspective will always be tinged by his complicity and affirmative acts in furtherance of his business. This boy is crying wolf, and I can't see that it's good for actual innocent victims of abuse for him to be their standard-bearer.

Here is a timeline of Justin Berry's activities over the last year or so. The information is primarilly taken for the forums on

July 24, 2004, Justin Berry turns 18.

Dec, 2004. Justin finds Jesus and his websites go dormant. People get upset because Neova keeps charging them for the inactive sites.

May, 2005. Kurt Eichenwald discovers Justin and starts communicating with him. Justin supposedly has no idea that Eichenwald is a reporter. At this point Justin is a retired "camwhore" as he has no active sites.

June 19, 2005. Justinsfriends suddenly becomes active again. Casey (Tim Richards) and Justin whoop up the site and Justin starts doing shows. EB15 advertises

June 30, 2005. Eichenwald meets Justin in Los Angeles, and supposedly gets Justin to agree to quit (What the hell, he's only been back in business for 11 days!!!!).

July 3, 2005. Justin puts on a show at (So much for his promise).

July 5, 2005. Justin claims his evil business partner Greg Mitchel is chasing him because he has quit (but he hasn't) and Eichenwald flys Justin for Texas for rehab etc.

A retired camwhore isn't much of a story. Did Justin re-start so Eichenwald could have a better story???? Then was Eichenwald Justin's co-conspirator or his dupe?

Hey Justin, i dunno you but i thought i would jus comment you, on the show you did on Opra ! WOW that was a amazing show, that is really awsome how brave you were i bet that was a hard thing to talk about to so many people around the world! but i give u mad Props and respect for what u did it was awsome

I can NOT belive that anyone could see Justin as anything but a victim in this situation. He was after all a child when this all started. He was "seduced" by these people and will have to suffer the consequences for the rest of his life. Has our society become so numb to this type of abuse that we now accept it and ridicule the children..The "people" as some of you refer to them who were in vulnerable positons...they seek out these children, let me repeat children,for their own personal satisfaction. There is NOTHING vulnerable about that...that is called being a predator. While I agree that Justin's parents share some of the responsibility for what happened to him, we as parents want to trust and believe our children and allow them to be children...unfortunately we can no longer do that because of the "vulnerable" people who might exploit them.

Weird... is still up and running. Is this guy fully out of the business?

I watched the show and think there is more than what meet the eye. I have been on a live gay sex site since I was younger like him and no one seduced me. I was born gay and I was having sex before I did my first online show. And I look at Justin and I see a horny boy who was greedy and just decided to get out one day and now he has a big story and probably a book. But he is always going to be looked at like the gay huslter that he is! And he is still huslteing everyone! Iwould give you the name of the website i am on but if you want to find it, you will find it!

victim hell his no victim the men on his site is the victim just think about it 13yrs old horny and money damn theres no victim the men online got what thy wanted and he get what justin wanted. now his been on oprah show i see book dill comeing up soon. more money for him. and he will start up a new site in about a year or so just give it time.justin is very,very,very smart he knows what he is doing. its all about the $$$$$$$$$.

I was watching the show on Oprah with my nephews and nieces ranging from the same age as when Justin began this venture to late teens. We are all amazed that this kid has the nerve to make us all beleive that he was a victim. My nephew being 14 has a web cam and would never ventur into gay web sights leading us to beleive that this kid was indeed gay and courious. second, If some one claiming to be your friends as Justin claimed he was making would ask to take off our shirts for money ALARM bells would sound. I don't know about this kid but what friends of ours would want to pay to see us strip?, Alarm bells would sound again. Third what mother in thier right mind would send thier son to Vegas without checking who he is going with and talking to the parents of these friends. NON of my nehews or nieces would be alowed to go anywhere that far without an organized trip with adult supervision. So after watching this story on Oprah we have come to the conculsion that this kid Justin took all the initiatives into his own hands was a very smart boy knowing how much money he could make and also being gay enjoyed what he did. He in no was was lured, manipulated or a victum, He was smart enough to start up his own porn site and make money off it. Although he felt moral guilt and his morality told him it was wrong but at the same time he was luring other kids into his world. I disagree with some that the family was sound. I truly beleive that Justin was a loner and had very few friends and was probably confused about his sexuality. He also lacked attention from his mother and stepfather. In all it was his choice he could have said NO,he spun the web he made. We all hope that he has cleaned his act but we feel that money will lure him back

Mr. Berry realized the jig was up on him the second he found out he was talking to a reporter. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that if he didn't do what the reporter wanted him to do, he would have to take responsibility for what he did, as a minor AND as an adult. The reporter held all the cards. Mr. Berry cunningly realized jail could very easily be in his future. Being the business man he was he knew fairly quickly what his options were to avoid that altogether.

As a minor, this kid wasn't lame (honors student) OR innocent. He knew exactly what he was doing and what he was doing it for. Money. Lots of it. This doesn't take into account the high dollar gifts he received as well from his Amazon "wish list", which he was very astute in setting up.

The selective memory of most adults these days about their own childhoods and what they themselves were like and capable of never ceases to amaze me. Don't kid yourselves folks, this guy is no angel and probably neither were you. He is/was a conniving little punk who got caught and is now playing the poor little me card to get out of having to take any responsibility for his own actions. Note how careful he has been avoid any mention of the money he still HAS that he didn't blow on drugs, whores and booze?? We aren't talking about a couple of hundred bucks here, we're talking several hundred thousand. Odd he hasn't been asked to pay taxes or otherwise remit his ill gotten gains to law enforcement or anyone else, huh?

I have ZERO sympathy for "poor little Justin". I do have plenty of disgust for him and the fools who fall for his current dog and pony show as well as his johns. Unless he finds a way to make Jesus pay off for him as handsomely as being a cam whore did, that too, will fade out. He played the Oprah thing like a fiddle and all her "followers" right along with her.

And just so everyone reading knows, I also have NO sympathy for the idiots who partook of Mr. Berry's "services". Mr. Berry is a filthy piece of trash and so are they. They deserved each other. Here's hoping Berry gets his right along with them.

ok first off i am sick of all the people sympathising with poor little ho, we have tons of them inoklahoma they are called wreck room twinks, they are pro's at using and manipulating middle aged men, JUST AS women do, they are whore, and jerks and not innoscent, we need to stop just blaming the pathetic gay guy or straight guy who is stupid, and letting the poor teenage ho get away with it and give them tons of attentiona and time and so much happy fake support, this kid was just as much to blame for promoting child porn as the adult, no teenager is innoscent in america have any of you who believe that ever talked to a kid or been around them in public they are more sexual and manipulative than any adult i know and they are a bunch of spoil brats who dont want to work and want use people no matter the orientation

I don't understand how someone like this could take this to congress. He made the decision to take money for showing is "assets". Lonely or not!!! Second, what were his parents thinking? They are just as much to blame for this as anyone. THEY should be the ones the courts are looking at not the ones who chose to pay for the "asset" view. Last! I don't feel sorry for him at all. My honest opinion is that he is out to try and get the same attention he wanted when he started all this crap. And unfortunately, he is getting exactly what he wants.

well i sure am glad i found somewhere to blog about my own disgust with this little twerp! dont know where i was a few months ago when this first hit but after watching this "born again" porn star (and dont ALL the losers turn to god when theyve mucked up their lives?)addressing congress i wanted to vomit.
NO ONE told him to do what he was doing...he GOT OFF on people watching him...he SPENT al the money didnt he? even setting up special pay sites along with his "wishlist" from amazon that his tricks would buy for him.
NOW i am against child porn - dont get me wrong.
BUT i know, from my own experience and those of friends, adolescents are sexual beings.
WE, in america, wont TALK to our kids about sex, let alone the "scary" stuff so of course kids will be kids. some WILL go overboard, like this twit justin, but not ALL do.
the reporter was a weasel but what do you expect from NYTimes muck-rakers - they want to tell a story with a "happy" ending (from PORN to BORN again)get over it.
so, justin, wherever you are out in the world - you are a mess and should be ashamed of what youve done by all this "coming clean". WHO CARES? not that it matters but i would have had much respect for someone who just turned their own life around and shut up about it. you COULD have done wonderful things - worked with homeless kids, kids into sex work, many things you COULD have done to contribute to society but NO, you had to whine and tattle, oh yeah, go on oprah and make some more money too huh? youre a loser for the road youve taken - not to mention the lives of the people, lonely scared people, out there who's only joy in life may have been from looking at a fantasy that they would NEVER partake of - and a little cam-whore like you filled their sad pathetic lonely lives - now you'll put them in jail as child molesters to be killed in prison.

good going whiney little freak!

The real tragedy in this story is that Mr. Berry will not have to serve any time in prison for manufacturing and distributing child porn. As gullible Congressmen apparently gave him immunity in exchange for his testimony. Mr. Berry committed serious felonies for many years, and made a lot of money in the process. What bleeding heart liberals fail to realize is that young children accused of serious crimes are tried as adults all the time, and are also sentenced as adults.

Whoever signed off on this immunity deal should be impeached. As the correct course of action would have been to convict him and give him 75 years in federal prison -- but with 25 years taken off in exchange for his testimony. But as it is, thousands of young teens will get the idea that they too can star in their own child porn web cam business and retire when they get too old for the pedophiles. I can just hear the pedophiles telling them how much money Justin made, and that they can’t get in any trouble, citing Justin as an example.

Hopefully, the FBI will find some way to prosecute this child porn entrepreneur for his crimes, without violating the immunity deal. Especially after he so openly criticized them for failing to bust his customers in a timely manner.

People who view Justin Berry as a victim are suckers, pure and simple. This gay boy prostituted himself and collected money from pedophiles to view him while he did things that he would have been doing anyway. When he lost his ‘young boy’ appearance, he was forced out of the business and snitched on his pedophile friends in order to seek fame and fortune in the national spotlight.

The fact is that when he was 17, he was selling child porn. And 18-year-olds are old enough to ship off to fight in wars. So don’t tell me he’s an innocent victim -- as he was clearly old enough to know what he was doing.

Lots of perpetrators on this blog, I see. To all of you who blame Justine; every stopped to wonder why you're so angry at him? Your attacks include his character, motives, sexual expertise, rampant ambition and on and on and on. Judging from the vehemence of the emotion, some writers seemed to feel, themselves, victimized by Justine's courageous actions. To you I say, if only someone had helped you before your long slide into your own inhumanity. Whether you know it or not -- and you may not -- something bad has happened to you for you to write these vile things. Get help!!

I find the whole story a case of make believe.

He started showing himself on his webcam at thirteen and then proceeded to reveal more of himself.

Then futher into prositution and meeting his benefactors in person and have forced sex with them.

Before I posted this with all the hype surounding his story i found no evidence of his online activities.

Once something is online it's there for ever. Since I cannot find no recording of his web cam activities on line only news article i say it's all a myth.

Just the state using him to go after and entraping law abiding people.

Who i figure out of the goodness of thier hearts tried to help him.

I mean it is said that in returned for the monies and gifts recievied he perform strip acts.

Thats a bald face lie and somewhat exspected from a hack reporter from the NY Times.

If he did perform strip shows then where are they what proof is there that he did anything with his web cam.

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