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Thursday, September 1, 2011

Master Balloon Entertainer Watch

Posted by on Thu, Sep 1, 2011 at 7:46 AM


A Baltimore balloon entertainer faces up to 10 years in prison after signing a plea agreement in which he admitted traveling to Lake County for sex with a 14-year-old boy he found through an Internet personal ad. A Lake sheriff's detective, part of an operation probing the Internet for sexual stalkers of children, placed the ad on Craigslist in the Orlando-area "Men Seeking Men" section. It was labeled "bored nephew." In the agreement, filed in federal court in Orlando, Howard Scott Kalin, 48, a lawyer and owner of Funhouse Entertainment Agency in Baltimore, pleaded guilty to one count of attempted enticement of a minor.... [Kalin] asked if the boy were "legal" but worried that he was chatting with a cop. The detective replied that the boy was 14 and "very curious." Kalin asked for pictures. "Wow … he is really cute," Kalin wrote after the detective sent an age-regressed, digital image of a fellow officer.

First off: I have no sympathy for middle-aged men who trawl the internet looking for minors, and you really gotta wonder about the IQ/desire to self-destruct of any man who encounters a 14-year-old boy or girl in an online chat room—or someone claiming to be the uncle of a 14-year-old boy—and doesn't immediately assume, as Kalin first did, that he's talking to a cop and then acts accordingly (closes the chat, shuts his laptop, burns his harddrive). But you also gotta wonder about the amount of time and money that the police pour into nailing these guys:

From January until his arrest in May, Kalin, who had returned to Maryland after the convention, chatted through Yahoo! Messenger with the detective, thinking he was communicating with the boy's uncle. They also traded text messages and spoke seven times on the phone.

The police spent five months cranking up this balloon twister. Anyone who publicly question the wisdom of that investment of time will immediately be accused of being soft on pedophiles and Internet predators. But is this really the best use of police time? Yes, there are men out there who want to have sex with minors, and not all of these guys are youth pastors or Catholic priests, but am I can't be the only person who wonders if all these guys wouldn't have acted on their desires if it weren't for all the cops being paid to sit at computers stirring pedochum into online chat rooms. Maybe these guys deserve to be trapped, and arguably any actual 14 year olds out there lurking in the "Men for Men" sections of Craiglist are safer when guys like Kalin are trapped, but at what point does setting traps become entrapment and does the money being spent actually make kids safer?


Comments (28) RSS

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When I was 14, I remember filing into my school at night for a dance.

Since we were an all boy Catholic school, we opened up the doors to members of our sister school...Mary Louis Academy. We (boys) entered in our polyester flowered shirts and platform shoes. The girls came in yellow halter tops and tighty fitting bell bottom jeans.

As I was passing, one of the Brothers who taught there said, am I getting older, or are the girls getting younger?
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://_ on September 1, 2011 at 7:59 AM · Report this
mixy 2
Pedochum.... gross.
Posted by mixy on September 1, 2011 at 8:01 AM · Report this
Sargon Bighorn 3
Police lie? Shocking.
Posted by Sargon Bighorn on September 1, 2011 at 8:02 AM · Report this
Eastpike 4
That's not even close to entrapment. He was in an internet chat looking for some action. If they had popped up an ad while he was browsing eBay, sure. The law is not unclear on entrapment.
Posted by Eastpike on September 1, 2011 at 8:14 AM · Report this
sirkowski 5
Gotta wonder how many of these pedo hunters are pedophiles themselves.
Posted by sirkowski on September 1, 2011 at 8:18 AM · Report this
rodolfo 6
You did a column a while back about a non-predatory pedophile, a guy who understood his attraction to children but knew he could never act on it, or something like that. I remember his letter when I read stories like this one about the balloon guy. Was he the kind of pedo that would never touch a child, but whose defenses were weakened by an especially aggressive uncle?

And then there was the guy who killed himself during a taping of To Catch a Predator. He chose *not* to meet the cop he thought was a kid, so the police (and camera crew) went to his home. Was the guy just whacking off to some inappropriate internet exchanges? Did he set up the meeting while his balls were boiling and then come to his senses when the blood flow returned to his brain?

Preaching to the choir, I realize, but this is one of those topics that bugs the shit outta me.
Posted by rodolfo on September 1, 2011 at 8:26 AM · Report this
rob! 7
Why couldn't the guy just be NORMAL and perv on all the sweaty, fuzzy-headed, twenty-something jugglers, acrobats, and buskers who were surely all around him in the park?
Posted by rob! on September 1, 2011 at 8:35 AM · Report this
That man needs to have time added to his sentence for misquoting the Mame line as "Life is a buffet and most poor slobs are starving to death!" Idiot.

Back on topic: the boss of the agency that ran the sting was the Lake County sheriff, who wants to be reelected as much as any incumbent. His constituency already admires him for annoying the ACLU by detaining illegals for up to two weeks without charges just to give immigration a chance to deport them out of his jurisdiction.…

And we've learned a big voter-pleaser is when electeds highlight their efforts to protect kids from sex predators. No matter how much of the Florida sheriff's budget went into arresting that Mame-misquoting bastard, it'll be worth its weight in gold to the sheriff come election day.

It works outside the Bible Belt too, as Rob McKenna and those other AGs know. Rob can't be the only one running for higher office this year, can he? As the mayor showed recently, press conferences decrying child sex predators always draw the friendliest kind of media attention, happily distracting from whatever other issues of the day the candidates might not be doing so well on at the moment. Craigslist never imagined it would get such overwhelmingly negative media attention as last year when twenty AGs and our own fundie harridan Linda Smith tag-teamed Craig Newmark into shuttering his adult-services section. At the time the AGs warned backpage it was next, and so here we are, closer to the next elections, ramping it up again.

Taxpayers may question some of the money spent, but to electeds it's the perfect investment in their futures at the ballot box.
Posted by gloomy gus on September 1, 2011 at 8:46 AM · Report this
ryanayr 9
"30% of all perpetrators of sexual abuse are related to their victim, 60% of the perpetrators are family acquaintances, like a neighbor, babysitter or friend and 10% of the perpetrators in child sexual abuse cases are strangers"…

So, we are spending a lot of money going after that 10%. So I would say, no, it's probably not the most cost-effective way to reduce the total rate of child sexual abuse. However, I'm sure it's politically difficult and bad PR to reduce the hours spent on this endeavor.
Posted by ryanayr on September 1, 2011 at 8:53 AM · Report this
Do 14 years actually go on the internet looking for action? Has anyone seen a case or news story on this??

All these internet cases appear to be cops posing as kids. Whenever I read about an actual criminal action, it seems there is some familiarity between the perp and the victim.
Posted by rbaron321 on September 1, 2011 at 8:58 AM · Report this
#9 beat me to it
Posted by rbaron321 on September 1, 2011 at 9:03 AM · Report this
Dan, you just don't have the hang of being a sexually hysterical American. Doesn't the mere existence of sexual predators occupy your every waking thought? There really is no amount of money and no amount of retribution that is too much to throw at these people.
Posted by Mr. J on September 1, 2011 at 10:14 AM · Report this
I feel like there's already a pretty decent model for the private sector taking over all predator catching, you just gotta film it and sell the advertising. Pays for itself.
Posted by Taurine on September 1, 2011 at 10:17 AM · Report this
John Horstman 14
This kinda reminds me of the sting operation the SPD did against that underground party/club group on which The Stranger reported a couple months ago.

@9: On the nose.

@10: I'm not sure, though I do know that the overwhelming majority of child-abuse cases involve family members or other familiar authority figures. See #9.
Posted by John Horstman on September 1, 2011 at 10:17 AM · Report this
ryanayr 15
@10 - I believe there was a Savage Love Podcast about a guy who called up who had many issues surrounding his past, who as a 14 year old (approximate, I don't remember the exact age - anybody remember the episode?) he sought older men to have sex with online, which were strangers, and went through hell with the Sheriff's department and his parents going through the legal proceedings. Make no mistake, abuse does happen with strangers online, there just appears to be a disproportionate response by law enforcement, that appears to have more to do with emotion than public safety.
Posted by ryanayr on September 1, 2011 at 10:58 AM · Report this
Tim Horton 16
@9 - I respectfully dissent. I applaud this sting.

This child predator was caught as one of the 10%. But since he is both sexually attracted to children, and is willing to act on it, what is to say he isn't already part of the 90% who know or are related to their victim? Plus, the predator had plenty of time to think "what the fuck am I doing" after his balls were drained, and, you know, STOP contacting the assumed 14 year old. But he didn't. He made several attempts to meet the 14-year old so he could sexually abuse him.

Also, he is a freaking balloon artist, as in he works in close proximity with kids. So I think the cops likely saved some innocent victims here.

As for whether there is better use of police funds - come talk to me when we end the war on drugs/prostitution.
Posted by Tim Horton on September 1, 2011 at 11:39 AM · Report this
thatsnotright 17
Aren't there scads of volunteers who work with police depts pretending to be under-age boys and girls on-line? One hears about them on shows like "to Catch a Predator" If there are volunteers who will work for free, why are paid officers spending time doing it? The police would have the same transcripts for nothing. Waste of time and waste of money.
Posted by thatsnotright on September 1, 2011 at 11:54 AM · Report this
I agree with Dan and @9 (and disagree with Mr Horton, @16). Indeed, it's too much effort for too little result (cf. @9's numbers). This shouldn't be discontinued, but the emphasis placed on it has more to do with emotions and outrage than with getting actual worthwhile results.

Sure, the wars on drugs and on prostution are even crazier and consume much more money. This doesn't argue in favor of it, though. The fact that money is being stupidly spent on one thing doesn't mean money isn't being likewise stupidly spent on other things. Actually it even makes it more likely (if you're stupid once, why not be twice?).

Ah, America, sex, and children. Lots of emotions, not enough rationality. Who knows where this mess will end up.

Posted by ankylosaur on September 1, 2011 at 4:43 PM · Report this
Tim Horton 19
@18 - I am admittedly at a loss to why I am in the minority opinion on my outrage. Is it because the fictitious victim was 14 as opposed to 10 years old? Was male instead of female? Would you feel the same way if the police set up a trap posing as a 9 year old girl on a Justin Beiber fan page?

The money spent here serves as a deterrent as well. Note this predator questions whether this was a sting. Wonder how many other predators refrain from contacting minors on-line for the fear they are being monitored.

If I were to prioritize police funding, preventing harm to children would be first. If I am being accused of being irrational about would-be child rapists I plead guilty.
Posted by Tim Horton on September 1, 2011 at 5:25 PM · Report this
Gou Tongzhi 20
See, my best friend, a criminal defense attorney, is against these situations -- in which there is no child involved, only an adult representing a child -- calling them thought crimes and entrapment.

I, on the other hand, being a male early-childhood teacher, say: entrap 'em, round 'em up, and burn 'em. Every single child-hurting youth pastor, coach, and balloon twister. Fucking sickos.
Posted by Gou Tongzhi on September 1, 2011 at 6:55 PM · Report this
long-time reader 21
@16: We don't really know that he was "willing to act on it". The only way to prove that would be to let the suspect actually touch a child (which obviously no well-designed sting would ever let happen).

As a thought experiment, suppose there's another well-meaning but misguided do-gooder along the lines of Pete Townshend (who accessed a child pornography website for research in his anti-child-porn advocacy). Suppose somebody just like this guy pretends to want to have sex with a child, because he actually wants to talk some sense into the kid when he actually meets him. Such a person would probably end up in jail along with the actual pedophiles. I think this thought experiment pretty well demonstrates that what is actually being prosecuted here is a thoughtcrime.
Posted by long-time reader on September 1, 2011 at 7:17 PM · Report this
Gou Tongzhi 22
@ 21: "Suppose somebody just like this guy pretends to want to have sex with a child"

I'm all for criminalizing pretending to want to have sex with a child.

And most of these guys show up at these stings with damning evidence, like stuffed animals and sex toys. They're not there to only sorta, just-kinda almost-maybe go through with it. They are there to rape children.
Posted by Gou Tongzhi on September 1, 2011 at 8:56 PM · Report this
OK, Gou@22, how about criminalizing pretending to want to rob a bank? How about criminalizing pretending to want to kill someone? How about criminalizing pretending to want to... oh, I don't know, any crime?

As someone stated up above, there are pedophiles (those with the INTEREST in sex with children) out there who know what they are, know they should never act on it, and never WOULD act on it - unless, in the course of TALKING about it (which shouldn't be a crime), they get pushed harder and harder by someone on the other end encouraging them, saying come on, you know you want to do it... like the police in this case, pretending to be the kid's uncle... until the guy cracks.

It's like police trolling a chat room where drug addiction is discussed, zeroing in on a recovering addict, and offering him free crack, non-stop, until finally he gives in - and then they arrest him for trying to obtain illegal drugs.

Dan knows, and I know, and a lot of people who DON'T have their heads stuck up their asses know, that there are plenty of guys who have fantasies about all sorts of things that are illegal and shouldn't be done - from pedophilia to necrophilia to autoerotic asphyxiation - and plenty of those guys are content to fantasize about it until a cop lures them into acting on that hidden desire. And as others have noted, it's all about the publicity and the re-election campaigns.
Posted by cowboyinbrla on September 2, 2011 at 1:47 AM · Report this
Thing is, they don't spend five months chasing this guy. A particular division of police - not allocated to murder, or drugs, or whatever, but to this - spend all of their time chasing hundreds of pederasts. On any given day the officer exchanging messages with this douche is exchanging messages with a hundred other douches. The evidence comes together over five months, but they don't spend five months on this case, as it were.

As for the "good" pederasts, I wish there were some way of having a pop-up on these sites offering therapy to guys about to do something like this. Those who decide to go ahead with it anyway have no defence.
Posted by Fishface on September 2, 2011 at 4:16 AM · Report this
venomlash 25
@23: If you pretend that you're going to rob a bank, that's a conspiracy charge right there.
Posted by venomlash on September 2, 2011 at 7:25 AM · Report this
Gou Tongzhi 26
@23: "and plenty of those guys are content to fantasize about it until a cop lures them into acting on that hidden desire"

This is just absurd blame-everyone-but-the-actual-sicko rationalizing. Blah, blah, blah. Your defense of pedophiles is sure boring and slightly repulsive.
Posted by Gou Tongzhi on September 2, 2011 at 2:36 PM · Report this
@23: Exactly right. Good to see some sanity here.

@25: Actually, conspiracy requires an agreement between two or more people, not just one person, and it has to be a real agreement, not a joke. If you and I jokingly pretend to agree to rob a bank, we're not guilty of conspiracy.
Posted by BlackRose on September 2, 2011 at 6:39 PM · Report this
This creature had over 1000 images of child pornography at his office dating back to 2007 and posted numerous accounts of his sexual encounters on-line. This information was redacted from public view until last month. Fortunately the judge handed down a 10 year prison sentence followed by 20 years of supervised release.
Posted by Joan Kalin on June 4, 2012 at 8:29 PM · Report this

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