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Thu.Apr.06.2006

10:18 pm EDT        52°F (11°C) in St. Johns, MI

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It’s really rather … uhm, disconcerting, to say the least? … to find out that there are only two degrees of social separation between you and a pedophile. This, unfortunately, was the realization I came to last night, after doing some reading and research on what King Chimpy drunkenly refers to as the “Internets.” This is going to take quite a bit of explaining the background, so you’ve been warned this will probably get long pretty quickly.

Let’s start in the 1999-2000 academic year at the University of Michigan, where I would have been a sophomore at the time; I lived in campus housing, with a roommate by the name of Billy Gourlay, that year. Billy was a perfectly decent and normal guy, and aside from a few of the usual arguments that almost any set of roommates will have, I think we got along fairly well. (For what it’s worth, last I heard, Billy is now happily married to Kirsty, the U.K.-born young lady who paid a visit to our room in December 1999, and they have one daughter who I suspect may have been conceived while I was in the room — but I digress.) Billy had graduated from the now-defunct Holy Redeemer High School in Detroit, and his family still lived in a modest older home in southwest Detroit.

Billy had a cousin by the name of Ken Gourlay. Ken, who was not a U-M student, would stop by to visit Billy every now and then, and I would say I probably got to see him roughly a dozen times over the course of the year. The impression I got of Ken was that he was quite the computer/electronics geek, even more so than most of the people I knew in U-M’s engineering school, but that he was a friendly and otherwise perfectly normal guy himself. In any case, Billy and I went our separate ways — me to a summer spent working in Ann Arbor, him to a study-abroad program in the U.K. — in spring 2000, and I haven’t seen him or Ken in person since.

At this point, we fast-forward to yesterday. I jumped on the Ohio Turnpike at the Interstate 76/Interstate 80 interchange northwest of Youngstown, and proceeded to turn on my SIRIUS™ Satellite Radio. Michelangelo Signorile’s four-hour program was on Sirius OutQ (channel 106, the GLBT-oriented channel) at the time, and his topic for the hour was Tuesday’s Congressional hearing on possible regulation of the Internet to assist in the tracking of online child sexual predators. One of the people who testified before the investigative sub-committee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee was 19-year-old Justin Berry, formerly of Bakersfield, CA, whose sordid five-year story was profiled in the December 19, 2005 New York Times by reporter Kurt Eichenwald, and later featured on the February 15, 2006 episode of The Oprah Show.

Without re-writing Eichenwald’s New York Times article, I am going to go into some of the background on Justin Berry. In 2000, when he was 13 years old, he signed up for EarthLink internet service and received a webcam as a free gift from EarthLink. He proceeded to sign up for a service called Spotlife, which is essentially a directory of webcam users; as he told Eichenwald, he was hoping to meet girls his age and improve what he perceived to be a less-than-stellar social life. Instead, most of the people who contacted him were older men who he later learned were online child sexual predators.

The first request one pedophile made of Justin was to remove his shirt for three minutes, a task for which the pedophile offered Justin $50; the pedophile helped Justin to set up a PayPal account to transfer the money to him, and Justin eventually did remove his shirt on camera. As time went on, the requests became more and more sexual in nature: remove your pants, remove all clothing, masturbate to orgasm, etc., etc..

One of Justin’s “customers,” realizing Justin’s popularity, helped him to set up his own web site, justinscam.com. As almost any 13-year-old would be, Justin was blinded to what was really happening to him — exploitation at the hands of these pedophiles — by the insanely large amounts of money he could command for his webcam performances; he estimates he made “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in five years in the business.

At one point in 2003, when Justin was 16, his father, Knute Berry, contacted him for the first time in years. Knute Berry had been on the lam in Mazatlán, Mexico, attempting to avoid prosecution for insurance fraud back in the United States for some time, and Justin begged his mother to let him go down to Mexico to visit. The elder Berry (no pun intended) questioned his son as to why he had all kinds of money, and eventually, Justin told his father everything about his “business.” Instead of doing what any normal father would do and putting an immediate halt to such foolishness, Knute Berry instead offered to help his son “maximize his profits,” and father and son eventually set up another website, mexicofriends.com, which among other things featured Justin having sex with Mexican prostitutes.

It was during this time in Mexico when Justin was contacted by Greg Mitchel (according to the Times, that is the correct spelling), another pedophile from Virginia. Mitchel would eventually help Justin set up yet another web site, justinsfriends.com, which, in addition to Justin, also showed other underage boys doing all sorts of sexual things. As the co-proprietor of justinsfriends.com, upon turning 18, Justin had become an adult perpetrator of child sexual exploitation himself. However, he was starting to despair of the porn-business lifestyle and his addictions to cocaine and marijuana. After meeting Eichenwald in summer 2005, Justin sobered up and eventually “flipped” on Mitchel, giving the FBI information on Mitchel and nearly 1,500 more of his “customers” in exchange for immunity from prosecution for his own role in justinsfriends.com.

In any case, Justin Berry told this story to the Congressional sub-committee on Tuesday, and I heard about the whole thing on Signorile’s radio program yesterday. I decided to go seek out the New York Times article that had first brought the story to light, and later happened across the Louisville Courier-Journal’s account of Tuesday’s Congressional hearing through some random Googling. I took the following screen capture of the Courier-Journal’s article on this, but I will repeat the relevant portion in text below it. (Clicking on the screen capture will yield a full-size version which is 1280×772 and 338KB.)

Louisville Courier-Journal screen capture

As Berry concluded his testimony, Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., asked him: “Is there anyone in this room whom you believe molested you?”

Berry replied: “Yes, Ken Gourlay.” The young man then pointed into the audience.

Moments after Berry left the witness table, Gourlay, who lives in Michigan, was sworn in and sat down. Gourlay has not been charged with a crime but was subpoenaed by the committee to testify.

It took me a while to realize it, but at first, I was like, “hey, I know that name.” My next reaction was, “oh my fucking God, no fucking way, that can’t be him!” To find out, I proceeded to search Google’s news portal for Ken Gourlay. Only a couple listings came up, and I ended up clicking on the link to KGET-TV, the NBC affiliate on channel 17 in Bakersfield, CA (Berry’s hometown). The KGET web site had a link to a streaming video of the segment they aired on Tuesday’s news broadcast, so I watched that. At one point, they showed roughly four seconds of Gourlay’s testimony, during which he did nothing more than invoke his Fifth Amendment right not to self-incriminate. Sure enough, it was the Ken Gourlay I knew, as seen in this screen capture of KGET’s web site. (Again, clicking on this one will yield a full-size image which is 1263×771 and 347KB.)

Ken Gourlay on KGET-TV screen capture

Lest anybody think I’ve just been taken in by the story of Justin Berry because I think he’s hot (well, he is a hottie now that he’s 19, but that’s completely beside the point wink) or something, there is yet more damning evidence against Ken Gourlay here. This next screen capture is of the New York Times article by Eichenwald; you can see the actual page by clicking the link I provided above and then going to page 5 of that online version. Again, you can click on this image for a 1280×771, 367KB full-size one, and as I did with the Louisville Courier-Journal screen capture, I will repeat the relevant text below it.

New York Times screen capture

Justin says that he did not fully understand the dangers his fans posed, and before he turned 14, he was first lured from the relative safety of his home. A man he met online hosted Justin’s Web site from Ann Arbor, Mich., and invited him there to attend a computer camp. Justin’s mother allowed him to go, thinking the camp sounded worthwhile.

Another time, the man enticed Justin to Michigan by promising to arrange for him to have sex with a girl. Both times, Justin said, the man molested him. Transcripts of their subsequent conversations online support the accusations, and a video viewed by The Times shows that the man, who appears for a short time in the recording, also taped pornography of Justin.

Let’s take a minute to put two and two together, combining some things from the Times story and the Courier-Journal report on Tuesday’s hearing. It appears that Ken Gourlay was the “customer” in Ann Arbor, MI, who hosted justinscam.com, and according to Justin’s sworn testimony, he also molested Justin on two separate visits Justin made to Ann Arbor. At one point, the Times article indicates that Justin’s date of birth was somewhere in early August 1986 (it refers to September 7, 2005, as “[a] little more than four weeks after his 19th birthday”); considering that the article also states that Justin’s first encounter in Ann Arbor occurred before he turned 14, this would mean that Justin first physically met Ken Gourlay within a mere three months of the last time I had seen either of the Gourlay cousins!

Again, I can’t put enough emphasis on the fact that Billy Gourlay, my roommate, had nothing at all to do with his cousin Ken’s activities. I can say with a good degree of certainty that Billy wouldn’t have stood for such a thing, and would have turned Ken in to somebody had he known about any of this. I also have to say that I got the impression that Ken was a decent enough guy to hang around with, and there is absolutely no reason that I would have any axe to grind with him. It just freaks me out all to hell that during the time I was associating with him on an occasional chit-chatting basis, he was getting his jollies from a 13-year-old boy who (in my opinion, at least) looked like a nine-year-old at the time!

(That’s not intended to be any kind of a slam on Justin, saying that he looked about 9 when he was actually 13. Having seen some pictures of him, both from then and now, in the various news articles I have researched, I must say that he is one of those people who is gifted — or cursed, depending how you look at it — with the looks of somebody about four years his junior. Even now, if you just showed me a picture of him and didn’t tell me he was 19, I would probably venture a guess that Justin was about 15. At least he has the opposite of my “looks” genes — I am 26, but random people who guess my age always seem to come up with something in the 30s, and I distinctly remember having my age guessed as 12 on one occasion when I was 8.)

There are a number of morals to this story about Justin Berry that I think are quite important. Since most every major mainstream media outlet that has covered this has worked the “how to protect your kids” angle ad nauseam, I’m not going to go into that, but I do need to make a couple very salient points. First, almost anybody you can imagine could very well be hiding a sexual interest in children from you. I would never have thought that my roommate’s tech-geeky cousin could be a pedophile, but if everything in this story is true, it seems that he is one. (In fairness to Ken Gourlay, I must reiterate that he has not yet even been charged with any crime, much less found guilty — at this point, he merely remains under the threat of an FBI investigation.)

Also, there is another lesson in this story that proves yet again how Wacko Satanic Anti-American Righties constantly violate God’s Eighth Commandment, “thou shalt not lie,” in regard to God’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender children in the human race. From what I remember of Ken Gourlay, if he did present any kind of normal adult sexual orientation in all of his dealings with me, he certainly came off as a straight man just like his cousin Billy. Never once did I get even the slightest inkling that Ken Gourlay might have been gay — and believe me, being gay myself and therefore possessing “gaydar,” I (if anybody) would have been able to pick up on signs of being gay.

What this means is that Wacko Satanic Anti-American Righties like Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Fred Phelps, and an overwhelming majority of so-called “fundamentalist ‘Christians’,” are blatantly and flagrantly lying when they say, suggest, or even think that all pedophiles are gay and that all gay people are pedophiles. Ken Gourlay was most certainly not gay by any standard definition of the term, yet according to the New York Times article linked above and the testimony Justin Berry gave to Congress under oath, it most certainly appears that he was/is a pedophile. The truth is just what I said in my essay “How to Out-Argue a Fundamentalist”:

I cannot deny that SOME child sexual abusers are in fact homosexual it would be dishonest of me to say otherwise but homosexuals are certainly NO MORE likely to molest a child than are heterosexuals. If you agree with my estimates that the straight/gay split in the general population is 95% straight to 5% gay, then by logical extension, 5% of pedophiles are homosexual, and 95% of pedophiles are heterosexual.

This means that, to use some of Robertson’s most favorite rhetoric, anybody who believes or spreads the lies about supposed inherent connections between homosexuality and pedophilia is going to “burn in the lake of fire” for all eternity. And before any of you so-called “Christians” cite NAMBLA as “proof” of your beliefs, let’s get the facts straight: NAMBLA is an organization of pedophiles, a few of whom undoubtedly do present a homosexual adult sexual orientation, but most of whom probably don’t have any adult sexual orientation at all — and all of whom are well aware that it is much easier to victimize prepubescent boys than girls because of our culture’s overly aggressive promotion of “macho” ideals to boys.

The vast majority of members of NAMBLA are a lot like Edgardo Díaz, the manager of the well-known ‘80s boy band Menudo: once a boy sprouts his first facial hair or hits his voice change, they no longer have any use for or attraction to the boy — they are attracted primarily to children and child-like traits, and like I mentioned in the last paragraph and explained in much greater detail in “How to Out-Argue a Fundamentalist,” it is easier to victimize boys than girls. A lot of pedophiles and NAMBLA members are married men, and most of these married pedophiles also enjoy sexual relationships with their wives that I think almost anybody would call standard heterosexual relationships. At the same time, it would be dishonest of me to ignore Davis Carpenter and Joshua Brown, the gay Arkansas couple whose violent three-way S&M sex play led to the death of 13-year-old gay teenager Jesse Dirkhising in 1999, but it is equally dishonest when so-called “pro-family” groups and WingNutDaily types insinuate that all gay people — or even any significant percentage thereof — are just like Carpenter and Brown.

Well, you can’t say I didn’t warn you this was going to run long. I’m pushing 25KB, which makes this probably my longest News section update ever, and rivals a few of the long essays found in various sections of this site. That said, I think I’ve said about all there is to say for tonight, and it’s time to get this freight unloaded before I head home tomorrow.