NAMBLA Buster 

Perv vigilantes prove a mixed blessing; Senate candidate plays polling tricks; EBMUD wants its gadfly report, dammit! And a racy play title creates PR problems.

Did you catch Dateline's third installment of its "To Catch a Predator" stories? The TV newsmag went undercover with the help of a peculiar organization called Perverted Justice, an online vigilante group dedicated to catching predatory pedophiles.

Don't do this at home, local police say. Why not? Because while one local Web crawler did manage to snare himself an alleged pedophile, Contra Costa County authorities say this fella's lack of police training resulted in another one going free.

Let's call our vigilante Gilbert because, well, that's his name. As Walnut Creek Police Detective Bryan Vevera tells it, Gilbert decided to pose as a young teenager after buying something on Craigslist. Vevera says the seller told Gilbert about the seamier side of Craigslist, including the ads where older guys solicit teenage boys for sex. Gilbert, who has a teenage son, decided to pose as an adolescent responding to one of those ads. It didn't take too long to find one: "DAD SEEKING A REAL YOUNG COCK TO ORALLY SERVICE (Walnut Creek)," the post was titled.

Gilbert, according to Vevera's search warrant affidavit, initiated a dialogue with the "dad" saying he was a fifteen-year-old boy. "Dad" allegedly sent him a naked photo of himself (waist down), and boasted of having given or received oral and anal sex with boys as young as thirteen. The detective was able to identify the dad, but ultimately Assistant District Attorney Dodie Katague, who specializes in computer crimes, decided not to press charges. He felt Gilbert had crossed the line into entrapment because in some instances the vigilante had initiated the pitches for sex and used all the dirty language himself.

But police did arrest another purported predator Gilbert discovered on Craigslist. This one was charged with attempting to commit a lewd act with a minor under age fourteen and distributing lewd materials to a minor. In this case, Katague says, Gilbert responded to an ad titled "Dad seeks lad." So why did this guy get charged? The prosecutor replies that Detective Vevera took over before the investigation was tainted. The problem with Internet vigilantes, Katague grumbles, is that they don't understand the law: "This private citizen practically ruined the investigation for the police."

Three's a Crowd

In the past month, southern Alameda County politico Ellen Corbett has been passing around her campaign's polling results at various functions with the apparent motive of forcing one of her two opponents in the District 10 state Senate race out of the running.

Corbett, a former assemblywoman from Hayward, is up against current Hayward Assemblyman Johan Klehs and former Fremont Assemblyman and real-estate mogul John Dutra to replace termed-out Democratic lawmaker Liz Figueroa. Conventional wisdom predicts Corbett and Klehs, who share similar liberal politics and hometown geography, would split their votes, handing victory to the more moderate Dutra.

As you might expect, Corbett's own poll shows her out in front with 28 percent, Dutra second with 22 percent, and Klehs a distant third with 11 percent. What's more interesting, though, is that the poll also purports to show that Corbett would dominate any head-to-head race, but Klehs would lose to Dutra in mano a mano combat.

Dutra, who doubts the accuracy of his foe's numbers, says it's clear Corbett is attempting to get Klehs out of the picture. Why, he asks, would she bother to poll a hypothetical matchup between him and Klehs? Dutra's answer is that Corbett hopes to send Klehs a message: "Johan, if I get out of this race, John wins. Do you want that?"

Christine Gasparac, campaign manager for Klehs, says the poll won't stop her guy. With the primary four months away, and the campaign not yet fully under way, she says, it's too early to tell who's really ahead. Indeed, the true winner of Corbett's poll was "undecided," with 38 percent. Gasparac also notes that Corbett trails in the money department with $271,251 in cash on hand compared to Klehs' $409,000 and Dutra's $900,000. "The fact is," Gasparac sniffs, "she can't raise any money, so she isn't a viable candidate."

Corbett's political consultant, Parke Skelton, insists that the poll results weren't released to get Klehs out, although he concedes, "I do think we benefit if Klehs is out of the race. ... We'd benefit if Dutra was out of the race."

Who's Watching the Gadfly?

Greg Chan read Feeder's item a couple of weeks ago about Oakland City Hall gadfly Sanjiv Handa bugging Mayor Jerry Brown and decided to pay me a phone call. "If he's the gadfly," Chan inquired, "who's watching the gadfly?"

Chan, a community affairs specialist for the East Bay Municipal Utility District, thinks Handa is shortchanging EBMUD on its $995-a-year subscription to Sanjiv's weekly newsletter. Chan says he first signed up for the newsletter in August, but since then has only received two issues -- outdated ones at that -- and a list of Oakland public officials he says he could have gotten free online. Chan says he's confronted Handa several times and that Handa has essentially just shined him on. "He's pushing the city around, saying they can't do this and that, and he can't even deliver a paper," Chan says.

For his part, Handa says he's had major computer troubles, which have been compounded by beefed-up spam filters -- including EBMUD's -- that block his e-mails. "I've tried to explain with him [Chan] till I'm blue in the face that I'm trying to work out the bugs," says Handa, who insists he's sent Chan seven issues of his newsletter. In any event, Handa thinks he's fixed everything and won't be starting the clock on EBMUD's subscription until March.

The Vagina Spamalogues

Speaking of spam filters, Kathy McCarty, artistic director for the Galatean Players Ensemble Theatre in Concord, reports having run into some technical difficulties in promoting V-Day, a local benefit production of Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues. Apparently, several news organizations didn't receive her original press release because their electronic spam filters categorized it as unwanted pornographic fucky-sucky ads. "I had many returned e-mail press releases regarding the Eve Ensler collection of monologues containing a word in the title that many newspaper spam filters reject as being naughty," she said.

So McCarty sent out a carefully worded follow-up that didn't mention the play's title. She went on to ask people who didn't receive the announcements to contact her and work out "an alternative way" -- i.e., those less-prudish fax machines -- by which the releases could be transmitted.

McCarty's original Vagina e-mail did manage to penetrate the Express' spam filter, which makes sense, of course, given the escort ads in the back of this fine paper.

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