If the Internet sex cases against two Wisconsin men go to trial, the prosecution’s star witnesses won’t be professional detectives but modern-day vigilantes who went looking for them in online chat rooms, says the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Antony Periathamby was arrested after a woman in Michigan told police that the Marquette University researcher made a date to meet her in a parking lot after she met him in an Internet chat room while posing as a 13-year-old girl. Sheriff’s detectives showed up at Joseph Kinney’s front door with a search warrant after a man from a citizens group based in Oregon reported that he received a vulgar streaming video from the man while posing as a 13-year-old Menomonee Falls girl on the Internet.
The Michigan woman belongs to U.S. Cyberwatch, a group with an Internet home page featuring, among other things, a bald eagle in stars and stripes and the motto, “Exposing Internet Predators. Protecting Your Children.” The man responsible for the case against Kinney belongs to Perverted Justice, a similar band of Internet trollers whose home page is topped by the image of a shadowy, sinister-looking figure and the vow, “As long as our children aren’t safe from predators, predators aren’t safe from us.” The group’s founder, Xavier Von Erck, said, “We’re becoming bigger and more established by the month.” He claims responsibility for 30 convictions since June 2004. His group’s Web site details dozens of encounters with purported perpetrators, a “Top 5 Most Slimy” and a “Merchandise Depot” peddling goods from coffee cups to underwear with catchy slogans to “help defray the operational costs of running a rapidly-growing anti-pedophilia online watchdog group.”