Rage and Rants

Justin Berry: From ‘camwhore’ to water-baptized witness for the State

Today I felt my heart lifted even as my gut was wrenched.

Kurt Eichenwald, writing for The New York Times, broke so-called rules of journalistic ethics by becoming a part of the story he was covering, and The NYT backed him every step of the way. Three cheers for the NYT!

The Story:

Researching background material on a fraud case, Kurt Eichenwald found references to Justin Berry, a teen porn star operating his own online business. The story tweaked Eichenwald’s fraud attenae, and in the following days and weeks, he uncovered a story that would only serve to sicken and depress me, were it not for the footnote of redemption and Eichenwald’s intervention.

What unfolds from Eichenwald’s story is a gut-twisting story of naivete and seduction, it’s a visceral illustration of how the unwitting use of a powerful tool has profound, life-shattering effects (see my paper: “Integrity on the Internet”). Young Berry, encouraged by the flimsy anonymity of a screen name and a webcam, believed he found genuine paternal friendship in the drooling pederastic grins of predators. Step by step, by degrees of compromise, he descended into a pit of evil. (A theme repeated everywhere by men and women snared by the lure of anonymous sexual exploration online.) Berry ultimately set up a series of webcam-based child-porn businesses, calling himself a “camwhore,” because he would do just about anything in front of a web-camera for the winning bidder.

Fast foward six years: Nineteen-year-old Berry finally wanted out. Having learned to fear the predators he performed for and took cash from—he finally hated what he had become. But not had his lifestyle trapped himn, by now he was bound by cocaine and marijuana addictin. When Eichenwald first contacted him as a journalist, Berry suspected he was actually FBI, and ignored him. Later, Eichenwald approached Berry as an anonymous fan, without the “journalist” hat on. Within weeks, Eichenwald suggested meeting face-to-face at an airport in LA. Berry was susicious again, but decided it didn’t matter anymore. Deep inside, he wanted release:

“[P]art of him hoped he would be arrested, putting an end to the life he was leading.”

In LA, Eichenwald immediately identified himself as a reporter, and Berry didn’t run. They continued talking. And over the next few days, Eichenwald encouraged Berry to shut his website down, to stop answering his cell phone, to stop answering Instant Messages, and to end the drug use. Amazingly, Berry not only agreed—he complied. With The Times’ consent, Eichenwald brought Berry to Washington, set him up in a new residence, provided medical and psychological care, and began documenting the case. Again, Eichenwald goes a step beyond: he convinced Berry to turn his transcripts and payment data over to the FBI and become a witness.

More than 1,500 men are now under investigation.


I wish there was more coverage of this tantalizingly brief line near the end of the story:

“He has sought counseling, kept off drugs, resumed his connection with his church and plans to attend college beginning in January.”

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Update on Golden Murder

This is an update to: Youth pastor slays wife, confesses. Why, oh why?

Eric Brian Golden had his first day in court yesterday. Golden’s confession was read the the court by Detective LaPrentice Mayes, and other testimony was apparently provided, including some of Golden’s statements to the police outside the transcript. (Remember, “anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law…�). Judge Lawrence Dillon is sending Golden to the grand jury with an charge for murder. I’m not sure how this goes, but based on my extensive reading of popular crime novels and my years spent observation fictional TV crime shows (read: I have no idea what I’m talking about) I’m guessing the grand jury will meet (within a couple months), hear the evidence again, and decide whether or not the “people� of the good state of Georgia are going to try him for murder. Right now he’s only charged, the grand jury would indict (or not). An indictment is not a sentence.

New information paints a more disturbing picture of the Golden family life. According to Brian Golden, his and DeeDee’s marriage had already been “rocky� for two years—with the trouble apparentlly beginning after their move to Southside. There was drinking going on (Golden claims DeeDee had already been drinking by the time he arrived home after work at five pm on that day), and they fought over some unidentified member of the youth group who Brian had taken to the mall.

Youth pastor slays wife, confesses. Why, oh why?

I struggle whether to blog on tragic news events with real victims still suffering, and about which I can do nothing. I am not a journalist, the story is not local, and I don’t want to prey off of other’s sensational misfortune just to garner a minor increase in blog traffic. But, being a Pentecostal (Assemblies of God) blogger, I do feel that when something newsworthy happens in our niche of culture, it’s worth at least knowing about if only for reflection and with a view toward “big picture” issues.This should go without saying, but I will say it anyhow: please pray for the church and families involved in what I am about to describe. My commentary and reaction follow my summary.

The News

Around 10-10:30 on Thursday, November 17, Southside Assemblies of God youth pastor, Eric Brian Golden, fought with his sweetheart bride, Deadra “DeeDee” Marie Golden. Their Savannah, Georgia, neighbors were not alarmed. Police were not called. Michael, their 15-year-old son, slept soundly through the battle. But before dawn DeeDee would lay at the bottom of a shallow grave outside Fort Stewart, Georgia with a broken neck. She had been strangled to death.

PETA, goldfish, and stupidity … or ‘Why I eat animals and don’t brag about it in the press.’

There’s a rash of fishy news stories on Google lately about a minor skirmish between a 300-member Assembly of God church and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA—not to be confused with “People for the Eating of Tasty Animals”). The score: PETA 1, People 0, Comet Goldfish -12.…

Internet disintermediation angst … or we discover that relationships require face-time

According to WebUser.co.uk, PlusNet (a UK ISP) has released a study concluding what many have said for years: Nearly a third of people say their relationships have suffered because their use of digital technology means they ‘talk less’. Among other “ground-breaking” conclusions: 90% said email, text, and IMs make communication less…

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