By LAURIE KELLMAN, Associated Press WriterTue Apr 4, 11:11 PM ET
Berry, who for five years starred in his own Web cam child pornography business,
told a House panel Tuesday that the Justice Department is moving too slowly to
round up 1,500 pedophiles whose information he surrendered last year.
believed that the government would protect the children being abused. I believed
they would act quickly," Berry, now 19, told the House Energy and Commerce
Committee. "I was wrong."
Justice Department spokesman Bryan Sierra
disputed that, citing a threefold increase in federal prosecutions of child
pornography and abuse cases nationally over the past decade. The unit
investigating Berry's case, which Sierra could not discuss, has seen its
workload increase 450 percent in the last four years.
"One of law
enforcement's highest priorities is the protection of innocent children from
sexual predators who lurk on the Internet," Sierra said.
committee will hear from the Justice Department, among other federal agencies,
Berry's story of a lonely teenager who sought friends on
the Internet but instead grew rich attracting pedophiles was reported in
December by the New York Times after a six-month investigation. Its author, Kurt
Eichenwald, told the Energy and Commerce Committee on Tuesday that Berry is the
first such teenage witness known to turn over such a vast cache of evidence to
But even Berry's catalog of his clients' names, credit
card numbers and other details has resulted in only one arrest, he and
"From the time that the government was notified of
Justin's information to the point where the children in direct danger were
saved, more than 50 days passed," Eichenwald told the panel. "Some people
identified as perpetrators literally could not get themselves arrested if they
Berry embarked on his sordid journey into the world of
pedophelia and drugs when at 13, living in Bakersfield, Calif., he acquired a
Web camera as part of a deal with an Internet service provider. A lonely kid of
a divorced family without many friends, Berry hoped to use the device to make
friends his own age.
Instead, a pedophile sent him an instant message
within minutes of Berry's image landing on a Web site called Spotlife.com(by the
way, don't even thing about it, its not there anymore!-polybi). More followed;
then men worked to earn his trust.
"At 13, I believed these people were
my friends," Berry told the panel. "They were kind. They complimented me. They
wanted to know about my day."
A few weeks later, he said, "everything
changed" when one man proposed to pay Berry $50 to take off his shirt for a few
minutes in front of the Web cam. The man helped Berry set up an account with
Paypal, an online money payment system.
Last June, Eichenwald approached
Berry for a story he was doing on Internet pornography. Berry agreed to help
with the story and tell law enforcement what he knew about other children being
But the Justice Department and other massive federal agencies
were slow to respond, Berry and Eichenwald told the panel. Berry said he has
feared for his life.
So do I have a problem with this? Yes.
A few weeks later, he said, "everything changed" when one man proposed to pay
Berry $50 to take off his shirt for a few minutes in front of the Web cam. The
man helped Berry set up an account with Paypal, an online money payment system.
In other words, little Justin TOOK THE MONEY!
There was no seedy pimp maniulating this poor boy;s morals, selling his body to the highest bidder. Or at least the pictures of said body.
And he continued to do it...raking in the bucks. I would assume that the shame he started feeling coincided with the moment the cuffs were slapped on his teenaged wrists.
And this is the thing most people do NOT want to hear....that this enterprise was produced, directed, starrred, and profited by the very same type of teenager we have tried to "protect." Add this to the teacher-sex scandals, the MySpace contriversies, various and sundry executives, goverment workers, and celebrated people, and you get a pretty good idea that, not only are the last taboos about to go by the wayside, but that we now have to seriously deal with the increasing complxity of teenage (and in some cases, subteenage)...gasp!....sexuality!
This is something that will not be solved by trying to throw it under the rug, planting stings of adults looking for minors (although, it would be interesting to see what a reverse sting would net), and forcing a "abstainance only" curruculum and policy that obviously is being ignored wholesale.
We have run away from this for too long, and like most problems it will rear its ugly head in the most inopportune places and times. It is time we dealt with this in a way we never have: honestly, without judgement or recrimination. To do that, there are facts that we have to face about our sexuality, our society, our kids, and ourselves.
It may be something we do not have to courage to do. Not just yet.