said he was 15 years old, 5 feet 7 inches tall and 132 pounds. Dano responded by saying he was 32 years old, “6 feet, 2 inches, 190 pounds, with reddish/blonde hair and green eyes.” He described himself as “smooth” and said he had a camera and a picture of himself. “I am from Nebraska,” he wrote. The correspondence almost immediately turned sexual in nature, with “Jake” asking what age of guys Dano liked. Dano: so have u messed around with many older guys? Jake: not yet Dano: I like younger guys, oh, I would say 14-21 Dano then asked “Jake” if he would like to see an X-rated picture of himself.
That began a process in which Dano transmitted several pornographic pictures that appeared to be children under the age of 18 engaged in sex acts. Daniel R. Sigmund, 32, of Bellevue, was later charged with possession and distribution of child pornography. Evidence in his apartment revealed he went online as “Dano.” His online conversation included references to a previous sexual relationship with a 16-year-old, but police have not been able to find or identify the boy. 112
Catching sexual predators on the Internet can be difficult. One officer said, “It takes about 30 seconds to find a hard-core conversation or full-color image and six months to build a case.”113 To be arrested, child sex abusers must transmit obscene images of children that are provable to be underage, or solicit sexual acts from children.
Even when arrests are made judges and juries do not always see the harm done by predators to children. In Canada, a journalist, Thomas Brockelbank, aged 32, admitted having a “sexual liaison” with a 13-year-old girl he met in an Internet chat room. He met the girl four times. In one email message he encouraged the girl to bring her younger sister, so they could have “group sex.” Although convicted, the judge ordered him to serve only two years probation. 114
Avoiding Accountability and Deflecting Blame
When child rapists and predators are found using the Internet a common response of Internet industry and government officials is to blame someone else, or say that nothing can be done to stop it. Government officials blame foreign based Internet servers for displaying the child pornography out of reach of their laws, saying they are powerless to shut down computer servers in other countries. Internet providers avoid responsibility by saying that there are so many web sites, bulletin boards, email lists and chat rooms that they cannot be held accountable for monitoring them or removing material. Laws are said to be meaningless because they are different in every country and sometimes, even within countries.115 Representatives of the Internet industry always aim to protect the image of the Internet and resist regulation or accountability. To do this, they often try to minimize the extent of the problem. For example, after the discovery of the child pornography ring in the Netherlands, the Chairman of the Dutch Association of Internet Providers, Fred Eisner, commented, “This is giving the impression that the Internet is loaded with child pornography. That really isn’t the case. You have to consciously hunt it down.” 116