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Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Youth Pastor Watch

posted by on June 3 at 10:48 AM


Ex-youth director to serve 4 to 20

His lower lip began to quiver and Troy Deal wiped away tears as a judge told him what his prison sentence meant.

“If you commit a crime and get convicted of it, you have to pay the price,” Calhoun County Circuit Judge Stephen Miller said Monday. “And it’s sad for you and your wife and your children.” … But, Miller said, because Deal was convicted he must spend between four and 20 years in prison.

Deal, 35, was sentenced Monday on 11 counts of using a computer to solicit a child for sexually abusive material, distributing sexually abusive material and communicating with a child for immoral purposes.

He was convicted in April by a jury after he was arrested by the Michigan Attorney General’s office, which alleged he engaged in explicit chats over the Internet with agents of the AG’s office posing as 13 and 14-year-old girls. The agents testified they conducted Internet chats with Deal for more than 20 months before he was arrested in 2007.

Okay, um… gee.

I don’t want to be accused of being soft on adults communicating over the Inernets with children for immoral purposes. I take a hard line on that sort of stuff—particularly when the adult communicating a child for immoral purposes is a youth pastor, like Mr. Deal here. But investigators spent 20 months—nearly two years—chatting up this guy. He never once attempted to arrange a meeting with any of the “children” with whom he was chatting, he’s never been convicted of a crime, and there’s no evidence that he ever chatter with anyone other than an investigator.

There’s not a lot of sympathy out there for folks that are attracted to minors, but entrapment is entrapment even when we’re talking about creepy youth pastors. And I can’t help but wonder if this poor motherfucker wouldn’t be facing 4-20 if the police hadn’t invested so much time—and so much of the taxpayer’s money—in 20 months of online chats. I mean, who was grooming who here?

The judge in this case signaled from the bench that he too was uncomfortable with the investigation—and the stiff sentence that he was required to hand down:

Miller acknowledged a range of thought about adults posing as children and then arresting suspects who propose having sex with them.

“You can see the laws are harsh,” he said. “But there is a legitimate concern that people use the Internet to entice children to do strange things.”

He said the law and the sentencing guidelines, which are binding for judges, are passed by the Legislature, but no matter what people think about them, they are the law in Michigan.

Again, there’s also no evidence that Deal ever chatted with any other child, or anyone that he thought was a child, and I assume that the police ripped apart every computer that the man had ever touched. But the absence of this evidence, according to Michigan Assistant Attorney General Kelly Carter, isn’t evidence of absence.

“He was a youth pastor and was guiding the development of young people. It is disturbing that it was the same class he was chosen to mentor and guide,” Carter said, noting Deal suggested group sex and acts of sexual submission by children in his chats.

Yes, that youth pastor does have disturbing fantasies—but lots of adults have disturbing fantasies that they do no act on. Including, presumably, Mrs. Carter.

And Carter said while Deal was corresponding with adult agents, “his luck couldn’t be so bad that the only ones he was talking to were undercover agents.”

No I’m no lawyer, but it seems to me that the prosecutor here is arguing that there’s no such thing as entrapment. If an undercover police officer tempts you into committing a crime, she basically states, a jury can infer that you have committed the same crime at other times, and in other places, even if there’s nothing to indicate that you ever committed this crime without the police laying out the welcome mat. No further proof required, no more evidence need be presented.

RSS icon Comments


Those are some very good points. It's one thing had he acted further. These cases disturb me in that they seem to lure the perp in to an act he would quite possibly never do without the encouragement of the officers.

Posted by Jimmy | June 3, 2008 11:02 AM
Yes, that youth pastor does have disturbing fantasies—but lots of adults have disturbing fantasies that they do no act on.

Yeah, except he discussed these fantasies with people he thought were 13- and 14-year-old girls. I agree that this stuff is shady at best, don't even get me started on To Catch a Predator (I had never thought it was possible to feel sorry for someone who wants to fuck a 13 year old). But he still didn't merely have disturbing fantasies. If he wanted to discuss these fantasies online, he should have found another adult willing to pretend to be an adolescent.

Posted by keshmeshi | June 3, 2008 11:07 AM

While these investigations and prosecutions are rather specious, it is hard to let a guy that is so clearly horny for children (and in a position of trust over children) off the hook.

These cases make my head spin.

Posted by Mike in MO | June 3, 2008 11:09 AM

The entrapment question is not whether he only communicated with agents. It is in whose mind did the idea for a crime originate? You have to look at the actual dialog he had with what he believed were children. Did the agents first suggest something illegal? That's entrapment. If everything the agents said was innocent and the suspect was the first one to suggest something illegal, then it's not entrapment. And if he hadn't found those agents posing as girls, wouldn't he have kept looking until he found a real child?

And even if he himself never set up a meeting, if he is grooming young girls for this, he's preparing them for another man to come along and take advantage of them.

Might still be a harsh sentence, but you need more information than what you've got here.

Posted by elenchos | June 3, 2008 11:12 AM

It is interesting that the youth pastor did nothing illegal, yet he could face prison time for doing nothing against any law. The Criminal Justice System in America is indeed broken.

Could anyone of us pose as a minor and entrap the police?

Posted by Sargon Bighorn | June 3, 2008 11:15 AM

The broader YPW point is that he was working as a youth pastor and actively indulging child-sex fantasies (over the internet). This was clearly the wrong kind of person to hold a position of trust with children.

Posted by Hernandez | June 3, 2008 11:36 AM

YPW has no point, because it's anecdotal evidence tainted by selection bias.

Posted by elenchos | June 3, 2008 11:41 AM

I find this post rather funny, only because, if the police hadn't been chatting him up for 2 years and had just kinda gone," Oh well he's not doing anything" and months or even years later he had abused a minor, wouldn't people on this board be screaming for the police officers' heads who let this man off the hook?....

Posted by Marty | June 3, 2008 11:44 AM

Not new, but do read "Bound and Gagged" on the subject (forget the author). Criminalizing fantasy has been in the works for a while..

Posted by Olechka | June 3, 2008 12:02 PM

A cop pretending to be a child and seducing adults online is not a child. The cop wanted the youth pastor to be attracted to his pretend-child self, encouraged him, and acted at every stage to further the relationship.

Would the youth pastor have seduced a real child? We'll never know, because a scheming, manipulative, deceptive cop isn't a child.

Posted by blank12357 | June 3, 2008 12:14 PM

@ 8: Since when do we throw people in jail for something they'll probably do?

Posted by Mike in MO | June 3, 2008 12:17 PM


Hit the nail on the head. Next thing you know I'll be going into a bank to withdraw some money and get arrested because I was "probably going to rob the place because I was talking about wanting money from them."

Seriously- while I agree this man is fucked up and should NOT be in charge of children, I also believe that 20 FREAKIN' MONTHS and no plans whatsoever to actually meet up may have actually been evidence enough that this guy WOULDN'T do it. Honestly- 20 months. That's as close to a picture perfect case of entrapment as I've seen. And- while stressing that I agree that what this guy was fantasizing about was wrong- the only time that such fantasies become issues is when they are acted upon. And from what I can see in this case- 20 months of police actively working to expose this guy- he didn't seem likely to ever really do it.

Posted by MarsAttack | June 3, 2008 12:50 PM

@4 Actually elenchos your definition of entrapment is off by a little bit, in criminal law at Seattle U last year I was instructed that the standard for entrapment was that the investigator had to "overcome the will" of the defendant, that means that the investigators can introduce the idea of the crime to the subject. To be entrapment the investigators have to be so coercive or forceful that they got the defendant to do something that he/she would not have normally done.

Entrapment is an incredibly high standard to meet, much higher than most lay people think.

Posted by vooodooo84 | June 3, 2008 1:37 PM

The guy pled guilty. He could have gone to trial and tried to prove it. He didn't. He probably got a plea offer that reduced his sentence some in exchange for the plea.

Police and DAs do this in drug cases also, making multiple buys in order to jack up the sentence, then arguing at sentencing about all the innocent people hurt by drug deals. They could take the guy off the streets earlier; they choose not to.

Posted by Algernon | June 3, 2008 2:22 PM

I play an online game that some children play. It mainly caters to adults, but adolescents are present as well.

I started chatting with this kid. He was not very good at the game and I was giving him some pointers. He eventually turned the conversation to his bad home life and general reckless skater kid ways.

For a while I tried to be a mentor of sorts for him and encourage him to stay in school, do his homework, talk to his mom and that sort of thing.

Eventually he gave me a link to his myspace page. It was filled with shots of him topless and posing in somewhat suggestive ways. It freaked me out. He also started talking about his sex life.

I continued to try to be a positive adult in his life since according to him he basically did not have anyone like that.

At this point my wife suggested that he could be a cop trolling for pervs. That freaked me out even more than the myspace page, so I stopped communicating with him.

The question is: Did I dodge a bullet by ceasing to communicate with a cop (although I never suggested any kind of sexual conduct, and in fact lobbied for responsible behavior on his part) or did an honest kid who needed an adult he could talk to lose that because of internet trolling cops?

Posted by Jim | June 3, 2008 10:53 PM

Damned pre-vert! He probably smuggles French lace, too!

Posted by CP | June 4, 2008 8:10 PM

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