Perverted Justice-WFAA, Channel 8, Dallas
More Murphy sex sting criticism arises with video
11:04 PM CDT on Thursday, May 31, 2007
By BYRON HARRIS / WFAA-TV
WFAA-TV Also Online
Byron Harris reports
After a series of Murphy sex stings that were played on television last fall, the Collin County district attorney said the cases in all 24 arrests made were not adequate for prosecution.
While the Murphy Police Department resubmitted sex sting cases in April, the Collin County district attorney said it still will not prosecute.
Uncut video from the sex stings led to more questions about who actually ran the stings.
It might be called the final scene.
The NBC video footage for a another sting, highlighted for To Catch a Predator, was shot on a Sunday afternoon last fall in Terrell, south of Dallas. But this scene would end with a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
TV crews and producers from the NBC Dateline show sat outside the house as the host stood with Terrell and Murphy police.
It was all supposed to be about justice.
Defense Attorney David Finn, a former prosecutor and judge, reviewed case documents for News 8.
“It’s a prosecutor’s worst nightmare,” he said. “In fact, I’ve had this when I was a federal prosecutor. The last thing you want is the news media or reality TV shows to be involved in the prosecution of a case or the investigation of the case.”
Some said they saw flaws in the procedure before the sting began.
An email revealed that the Plano Police Department wanted no part of the operation.
“The chief wants to ensure we have no one assisting, consulting or being involved in their operation with Dateline,” it read.
A letter from the assistant Collin County district attorney to Murphy police said they were in the law enforcement business, not show business.
“You’ve got problems from beginning to end,” Finn said. “This whole scenario is garbage-in-garbage-out, and here we sit with a pile of garbage.”
Murphy went ahead anyway with a sting they said they worked on for two months. However, News 8 learned that Murphy’s lead investigator, Snow Robertson, didn’t work for Murphy until one day before the sting began. That put more pressure on the group Perverted Justice, a group which NBC pays to conduct internet chats with alleged sexual predators.
The group’s methods have long been questioned.
Marsha Bartel, a former NBC producer, is suing NBC for $1 million after she was fired when she voiced concerns about To Catch a Predator’s ethics.
Her lawsuit alleged that Perverted Justice chats are “trolling operations” in which chatters “sometimes beg individuals to come to the sting locations” so they can be captured on camera.
“[NBC] unethically provides local law enforcement with video equipment and video tapes” in exchange for dramatically staged arrest video, the suit said.
During the stings, Murphy police appeared to wear NBC cameras. Neither NBC nor Murphy police would comment.
“In regards to the series itself, we have been transparent about our reporting methods, including the role of law enforcement and Perverted Justice,” said NBC. “…NBC News is proud of its reporting, and this lawsuit is without merit.”
Before the final scene in Terrell, NBC was briefed on how they could get pictures of the man, Bill Conradt, inside the house.
Conradt, a former Kaufman County district attorney and, at the time, current assistant Rockwall County district attorney, was to be To Catch a Predator’s last and most notorious Murphy target.
“These people were acting not only as police, but judge, jury and executioner,” said Patricia Conradt, Bill’s sister.
Perverted Justice chatters, posing as a young boy, said Conradt solicited them on the internet and then talked to an NBC decoy on the phone, which led to the sting that Sunday.
When he didn’t answer the door, police decided to phone him with the number they got from NBC.
“If you have a suspect who’s not responding, do you storm his house?” Mrs. Conradt said. “I don’t think so.”
After phone contact failed, the Terrell police’s tactical team was called in to serve a search warrant. When they broke in the door they heard a single shot. Conradt shot himself in the head.
“It was about headlines,” Mrs. Conradt said. “Making a splash. Making a story. Jumping to conclusions. We’ve got something that is really going to bring up our ratings.”
As a matter of disclosure, News 8 competes against KXAS channel 5, which is partially owned by NBC.