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Ernest Miller Ernest Miller pursues research and writing on cyberlaw, intellectual property, and First Amendment issues. Mr. Miller attended the U.S. Naval Academy before attending Yale Law School, where he was president and co-founder of the Law and Technology Society, and founded the technology law and policy news site LawMeme. He is a fellow of the Information Society Project at Yale Law School. Ernest Miller's blog postings can also be found @
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May 04, 2005

Star Trek and Pedophilia Claim Followup

Posted by Ernest Miller

Last week I wrote a post about a claim in the LA Times that of the more than one hundred arrested in the past four years by the Toronto Sex Crimes Unit Child Exploitation Section "all but one" were "hard-core Trekkie[s]". I thought the claim was improbable, so I called and spoke to an officer in the unit, who denied the specific accuracy of the claim, but not the high percentage of pedophiles arrested who were Star Trek fans (LA Times Claim About Pedophiles Wrong).

Yesterday, I received an email from the author of the article:

Mr. Miller,

After your email, I double-checked the statement with Lamond's boss,
Det. Sgt. Gillespie, and he stood by it "one hundred percent." I had
also heard the same thing from two other officers in the unit.
Gillespie knew of your conversation with Lamond, and thought there had
been some misunderstanding somewhere along the line.

It is important to note that they are not saying that every Star Trek
fan is a pedophile -- just that it was a surprisingly common element
among those they had arrested. The investigators said that many
suspects were into other fantasy or role-playing games, and that it
wasn't only Star Trek that caught their interest -- as you noted.

Thanks for reading so carefully.

Maggie Farley

"[S]urprisingly common element"? It is truly an amazing fact. After all, I could go to a science fiction convention and be less likely to find that 99%+ of the attendees were "hard-core Trekkies".

And, yes, correlation doesn't imply causation and the fact that "all but one" of the people arrested by the Child Exploitation Unit is a "hard-core Trekkie" doesn't mean that all Star Trek fans are child molesters, neither of which are issues I addressed. All I addressed was the sheer unlikeliness of such a high correlation.

I don't know about any misunderstanding with regard to Det. Lamond's statements to me over the phone. He was quite clear that there was a significant correlation between their arrestees and Star Trek fans. He did, however, deny the "all but one" figure.

I've left a message on Det. Lamond's voice mail to ask him about whether there was any misunderstanding and to look further into this issue, such as defining what the Toronto Sex Crimes Unit considers to be a "hard-core Trekkie". However, many hours later I haven't heard back from him.

I still consider Det. Lamond's statements to me to be more credible, but the LA Times is standing by its story.

If I hear from the Toronto Sex Crime Unit I will followup, but I wouldn't be surprised if they won't answer these questions.

UPDATE May 30, 2005. 1200PT
Det. Lamond tells another reporter that the "all but one" claim is hyperbole: Hopefully the Last Post on the Star Trek/Pedophilia Connection.

Comments (19) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Blogging and Journalism


COMMENTS

1. Nugget on May 4, 2005 04:30 PM writes...

While you are speaking to Det Lamond, you might want to ask him how many of these 100 men have been involved in actual child abuse?

The usual stat is 33%, derived from USPIS reports but these are generally as a result of highly targetted stings.

In the UK, it would appear that only about 1% of the 4000+ men picked up by Operation Ore were also guilty of actual abuse - this must be very close to the baseline that would be found if 4000 men were picked up at random.

Perhaps the common denominator between child porn and Trekkies is fantasy, rather than a strong sexual desire for children, although some degree of sexual attraction to prepubescents is surpisingly common - 25%+ in most studies of men between 20 and 60.

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2. henry on May 4, 2005 05:38 PM writes...

As an early boomer (born 1947) I am always astounded that people pay any attention to this rather dumb TV show. My only recollection of Star Trek is in college, when we were trying to escape tedious activities such as studying, we flipped on Star Trek because it was the only show, apart from I Dream Of Jeannie, on which you had a reasonable chance of seeing an adult woman's bare midriff.

Who knew that it was only the possibility of sighting a belly button, not all the pseudo-profound Sci-Fi junk, that would keep this aging turkey alive all these years?

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3. Rorbert T Childers on May 4, 2005 07:18 PM writes...

I happen to be a roleplayer, sci-fi/fantasy reader, wargamer, and watcher of Star Trek as well as other SciFi shows. I have been playing wargames that were mostly of historical nature, and varous rpg's since the late 70's. I can attest that what I found was a wide range of people, from all levels of society. Because of this I wonder about the nature of their data.

What I think is happening is that we are seeing a filtering of the whole population to a subset of the population. If you have a subset of a population then any members of the second subset that fall into this subset will just be that a small subset. Thus I believe what is happening is that by the methods that they are using they are collecting only a specific set of pedophiles not a cross section of pedophiles.

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4. Colby Cosh on May 5, 2005 04:52 AM writes...

Note, though, that the sampling bias here cannot conceivably be large enough to account entirely for the allegedly observed 99:1 ratio between Trekkie pedophiles and non-Trekkie pedophiles. The latter figure would suggest that the hardcore Trek crowd is overrepresented amongst sex abusers by a factor of many thousands. The fraction of the general public that uses the Internet--or even the fraction that habituates esoteric Internet manifestations like chatrooms and BBSes--is surely too great (probably no less than 1/100 unless you're going to get ridiculous about it) to allow for the scaling back of that factor. Even if the Trekkies all use every corner of the Internet, they couldn't possibly outnumber us normals there--but they appear to, dramatically, in the world of child pornography users. Which suggests, in the words of Mickey Kaus, that we really do have "a bizarre correlation that seems to cry out for explanation" here.

I presume the Klingon-speakers out there will ruefully agree, even if some of them are under the impression--as commenter "Nugget" seems to be--that the trade of child porn does not amount to "involvement" in the abuse of children. (I know what he means, but yuk.)

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5. Jeanette Peeples on May 5, 2005 06:41 AM writes...

What do they do? Have the person fill out a questionnaire of their hobbies and personal interests? Every one of them just happens to mention they are a hard core Trekkie? It certainly is a troublesome thought, but you need significant numbers for anything like this to have statistical relevance. In the meantime, fans of Star Trek are overshadowed by a stigma that is anathema to anyone who cares for human rights and the welfare of children. It is bad enough for fans to be portrayed as strange because the fringe element chooses to wear bizarre costumes and make up, but worse when fans are aligned with something as repugnant as pedophilia. Fandom has also produced a love of NASA, significant improvements in medicine and science, better relations with other races, creeds, and religions, concern for the environment, and a general hope for the future of mankind. Hopefully the positive aspects of being a Star Trek fan will outweigh the negative ones.

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6. Daniel Ream on May 5, 2005 09:42 AM writes...

Unfortunately, you're all missing one very big element here: The Toronto Sex Crimes Unit/Sexual Exploitation Squad lies like a rug all the time about their busts. They've become masters of manipulating the fact that no one will call them on their exaggerations for fear of being labelled "pro-pedophilia". There's a reason that officers are fighting like mad to get transferred into the SES; it's the career-making unit du jour (has to be, with practically every other unit being mired in corruption scandals).

Here's a common example: the standard line they use when they arrest someone for possession is that their computer contained "tens of thousands of images, not all of which may be illegal." That is a semantically true statement - "none" is certainly contained within "not all". But it leaves the reader with the impression that tens of thousands of porno images were found on the defendant's computer, when in fact what they found are tens of thousands of bullets, dots, and header gifs in the web cache. But that language makes it easier for them to get bail denied and force the defendents to plead out rather than go to jail awaiting trial, which is virtually a death sentence on charges involving children.

There's a lot going on inside the SES that no one knows about, because they operate under cover of publication bans and sealed records - "necessary to protect their ongoing investigations". A journalist willing to risk their career could win a Pulitzer by looking into how the SES manufactures their cases.

If Detective-Vicar-Sergeant Gillespie told me water was wet and the sky was blue, I'd look for independent confirmation. Given such a ridiculous claim, and the fact that a bunch of middle-aged cops can hardly be expected to understand the difference between a hard-core Trekkie and any other kind of Trekkie - or any other kind of fan - why isn't anyone demanding they back up this comment with some actual evidence? To Colby Cosh, whose blog sent me here: why are we discussing sampling bias when the doctrine of the lesser miracle says that it is more likely the cops are full of it?

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7. Steve on May 5, 2005 11:27 AM writes...

Colby Cosh has made an error in his reasoning. The 99:1 ratio is highly suspect. If this ratio falls apart then so does Cosh's reasoning from begining to end. From Mr. Miller's first post,

Nevertheless, Detective Lamond does claim that a majority of those arrested show "at least a passing interest in Star Trek, if not a strong interest."

In other words, there really isn't much there, there if the above is true. I'd say that the number of people who have a passing interest in pretty substantial (i.e., watched one or more of the series fairly regularly).

The conlcusion of hard core trekkie = pedeophile is thus very similar to: hard core bread eater = pedophile.

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8. Ben Riley on May 5, 2005 12:22 PM writes...

One possible explanation is that a certain "path dependency" formed at the Toronto Police Sex Crimes division after they busted a couple of kid-porn Klingons some years ago, and the division has subsequently targeted Sci-Fi conventions ever since. That would explain the unusual correlation AND the Toronto Police's reluctance to explain their numbers (lest they be accused of geek discrimination).

And one wonders what would've happened if they'd investigated a "Beanie Baby" gathering first...

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9. Colby Cosh on May 5, 2005 03:01 PM writes...

My point is that the highly specific statement given and defended by the senior officer here cannot, on its own terms, be explained away very easily. If one is prepared to presume that it's a lie, very well; lying is certainly something cops are good at. I make no informed warrant as to Gillespie's honesty, though I see no obvious reason here to prefer Lamond's less specific and vaguely agnostic revision. And the direction you think Occam's razor cuts here would seem to be a matter of predisposition, not true ontological parsimony.

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10. Crosbie Fitch on May 5, 2005 03:47 PM writes...

Guys, we're dealing with human hysteria here, not objective science.

Paedophilia is a cancer of society, and society will happily chop off a limb just to be on the safe side - just because that mole looks a little bigger than usual today...

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/wear/4517189.stm

Justice is too good for 'em!

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11. Daniel Ream on May 5, 2005 05:17 PM writes...

To Mr. Cosh: You're right, I'm wielding Occam's razor with a mad, mad gleam in my eye, but that's because I've been following the SES' exploits for about three years now and the more I hear the more it curls my hair. Just what the SES releases to newspapers doesn't stand up to a critical eye, and once I started talking to some of the lawyers involved I began to seriously question whether some of the people arrested by the SES ever committed a crime. I've already mentioned the extremely misleading way they craft their press releases and bail hearing testimony; on top of that in the wake of the Holly Jones murder I received telemarketing calls from the local branch of the OPP shilling for donations, and when I demurred I was asked if I wanted pedophiles to go free on our streets (and I don't even live in Toronto). I've heard disturbing reports from some lawyers that the SES may be colluding with specific judges to get bogus search warrants signed and then sealed, and preliminary/bail hearings "cooked" so as to make it impossible for the people they arrest to defend themselves (I'd write a book on this, but none of the lawyers I spoke to will go on record - they know it would mean their careers). I've seen a couple of the search warrants that got unsealed - and if those are what passes for probable cause these days, I'm barricading my doors and mining the front walk.

The numbers the SES releases on how many people they've arrested vary wildly depending on who you talk to and what day of the week it is. As of 2003, the Toronto police were claiming 10 arrests. Ah, but that was during a news cycle when they needed more money. When they want to defend their crusade, the numbers suddenly balloon to show how necessary their work is.

(http://www.injusticebusters.com/2003/childporn_witchhunt.htm)

Just based on reading their own public news reports I don't believe Gillespie's adamant "all-but-one" claim, unless one of the retired 63-year-old dentist with the porn vault in his basement and the 57-year-old former mail carrier was a "hard-core Trekkie".

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12. J Mann on May 6, 2005 10:22 AM writes...

Random question: Why does the cop have the Klingon "sash and shield" on his wall? Is there some Canadian law that allows the police to sieze a sex offender's Star Trek paraphenalia? Are the police just allowed to take stuff, or was the sash condiered evidence?

Not the most important detail, but it strikes me as wierd.

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13. Daniel Ream on May 6, 2005 10:42 AM writes...

That's an easy one, J Mann, and it doesn't even have to do with the SES. Evidentiary laws in Canada basically allow the police to seize whatever the want when they toss your home, and they are _supposed_ to return anything not determined to be material evidence, but good luck getting it back unless you're prepared to sue them for it.

The sash and shield, for instance, is a trophy. It can't possibly be evidence because evidence would have to be stored properly in case of an appeal. Now, in the specific case of the SES, it's likely that the original owner doesn't particularly care if he gets it back since he's got bigger problems. If he spent any time in jail as a result of the SES, there's a non-trivial chance he's dead anyway.

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14. Steve on May 6, 2005 11:44 AM writes...

My point is that the highly specific statement given and defended by the senior officer here cannot, on its own terms, be explained away very easily. If one is prepared to presume that it's a lie, very well; lying is certainly something cops are good at. I make no informed warrant as to Gillespie's honesty, though I see no obvious reason here to prefer Lamond's less specific and vaguely agnostic revision. And the direction you think Occam's razor cuts here would seem to be a matter of predisposition, not true ontological parsimony.

Funny that Mr. Cosh would invoke Occam's razor when given the inconsistent statments on Trekkies and those arrested. It seems that at the very least one should put less credence on the 99:1 claim, which would also have the secondary effect of weaking Mr. Cosh's arguments.

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15. Matthew Hooper on May 9, 2005 07:48 PM writes...

Let's for the moment pretend that everyone involved here is telling the truth, if for no other reason than it's hard to see what beneift a lie provides. (Granted, the Toronto unit might be lying about their arrrests. But why lie about them all being Trekkies? It doesn't provide any benefits to the cop. If he is lying, he's better served keeping his story more banal than that.)

I think the follow up e-mail pegs it; the pedophiles in question aren't "hardcore Trekkies" as much as they all have some Star Trek collectibles or material - in essence that they're sci-fi fans of some stripe. The police aren't deep enough into the sci-fi culture to destinguish between casual fans and "trekkies".

Regrettably, I think they may have a point, but that comes more from personal knowledge myself. I live in Atlanta; Google Dragon Con and one of its founders, Ed Kramer, and make your own decisions.

If nothing else, as my friend just pointed out over my shoulder, it's a fine community to look for vicitms in. Sad, but true. Sharks go where the fish are.

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16. Amanda on May 9, 2005 08:19 PM writes...

The question has nothing to do with probability or correlation. From the data I have seen, we have no evidence that a correlation exists. Here's the critical question:

If you took a sample of 1000 people in the US, regardless of pedophile status, how many would have a "passing interest" in Star Trek?

I mean, really, who hasn't watched one of the Original series, just to laugh at Kirk's dialogue? If "a majority" of these 1000 people have a "passing interest", then there is nothing to explain; exactly the same number of normal people like Star Trek as pedophiles.

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17. V. Garcia on May 10, 2005 09:39 PM writes...

Back in the late 70's or early 80's I attended a Star Trek Convention in San Diego. I felt strangely out of place there. Everyone was dressed in costumes from the ST show, Logan's Run or Star Wars. I wore regular clothes because I had not been told of what went on there. The one thing I remember is the feeling that most of the people there were 'fringe people' and outcasts. They seemed childish and immature. I felt like I was the only 'Party Person' there. A cold beer and good company was my usual M.O. Maybe I cannot relate to those people because real is one thing and fantasy is something else. I'm convinced that those trekkers or trekkies are wierd to begin with so why wouldn't they be into anti social behavior like molestation? "Warp Eight, Mr. Zulu!" Maybe he should have said, Warp 99%!

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18. Tim on May 16, 2005 12:02 PM writes...

I work in marijuana law reform, and I'm used to police hyperbole. But this really shocks me.

Two years ago, when the laws against possession of marijuana were struck down in Ontario, these guys were claiming "long hot summers of violence" and alluding to the fact that an airline pilot could now "get high" and fly. Now they're trying to imply that growing pot in your basement is more dangerous than growing orchids. (Dry that one out and you can fertilize the lawn)

Just thought that perhaps they would be more open and honest with REAL crime like this. Guess I was wrong.

Insiders tell me they're still working off the backlog of credit card numbers seized in Operation Avalance a couple of years ago. Other then a few token "sting" operations (having cops pose as kids in chatrooms and bust people that solicit them) they've done little real work .

That poor kid who was found this week was already saved, the perp in that case having been sent away for a long time last year for having porn.

Child pornography is a very convenient way to get back at political enemies. I give everyone who works in any area that opposes police work the same advice: watch where you surf, get a good wiping program, and SCRUB YOUR CACHE WEEKLY!

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19. Stephen on May 18, 2005 06:17 AM writes...

    Back in the late 70's or early 80's I attended a Star Trek Convention in San Diego. I felt strangely out of place there. Everyone was dressed in costumes from the ST show, Logan's Run or Star Wars. I wore regular clothes because I had not been told of what went on there. The one thing I remember is the feeling that most of the people there were 'fringe people' and outcasts. They seemed childish and immature. I felt like I was the only 'Party Person' there. A cold beer and good company was my usual M.O. Maybe I cannot relate to those people because real is one thing and fantasy is something else. I'm convinced that those trekkers or trekkies are wierd to begin with so why wouldn't they be into anti social behavior like molestation? "Warp Eight, Mr. Zulu!" Maybe he should have said, Warp 99%!

Wow!!!? I can’t believe I just read this! Are you really trying to say because Star Trek fans are a bunch of freaks (In your opinion) clearly there is some truth to the statement by the police?

I can understand you feeling out of place, the first time you went to a science fiction convention. I would feel out of place the first time I was to go to a church gathering, a university campus, or a soccer match in the UK. That's normal if you're not part of the community. How can you judge someone after one experience, where you make it clear you made no effort to be a part of the community because they wouldn’t have a beer with you?

As for what you saw in San Diego event, "everyone dressed up in costume." This is NOT my experience and not what you will see on any TV coverage (look at all the normal people in the background). Maybe it's California, maybe it's the fact you are talking about 30 years ago or both, but as a person who runs a 2500+ Science Fiction event (the main part being Star Trek) and attends many other. At tops 15% people dress in costume. Of the groups who do go in costume by far most, have taken the time to learn to make it them-selves. That is develop a skill. I see more people go in costume going to a sporting event; you know everyone dressed up in a team jerseys with their favourite player on the back. Yelling, "We're #1, We're #1!" (sarcasm on) Clearly, these individuals think they are their favourite star, that they are someone how a part of the team (by using the word "we're" and have no grip on reality like science fiction fans. (ok enough sarcasm)

A few more bits of information for folks about OUR event: over 60% of the attendees are female (not male), the audience age-range is 35-40 (not kids). Some of the most popular events are our Convention Suite (with Beer), karaoke (at a Bar), Room Parties and the Dance (with an open Bar) - social activities. I’m really tired of the stereo-types – and when you get a stupid article like the one above that just add to it. Are we suddenly going to have vigilantes showing at conventions to protect their children from these awful people. (Ask Newsweek what difference getting your facts straight makes.)

Having said all that, yes there are SOME people who attend our event who are little less developed socially. I agree with you here. However, isn't that the good thing about our group - we are accepting people and help them be a part of society versus ostracizing someone.

To be clear, I’m not condoning or am I accept of Pedophiles. I’m outraged by the article and the follow comment that APPEARS to justify the comments, because Star Trek fans are some “group of weirdos”

I really be curious to see of these pedophiles were of the Christian faith? How many own cars? Own a rock and roll music? Ate at McDonalds in the last year? Etc. I bet I could find other popular culture activities all 100 have in common. You cannot make a conclusion on this information! I so hope this was NOT at all what you meant.


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