Sunday, February 04, 2007

Sex, Lies & Video Tape Equals Blackmail: The Making of the Next Long Island Sex Scandal

I am sure many of my NY and Long Island Readers (all 5 of you) have seen the headlines (here,here, here,here and on the TV as well)
The deal was easy. Meet lonely hearts on the Internet through groups like Adult Friendfinder or Craigslist, engage in sex acts taped on the sly, build a relationship with the victims so that you know lots of stuff about them, then tell them to pay up or you're gonna give the stuff to their kids or bosses or spouses.
Not a pretty sight.

I have been involved in the representation of people in the adult entertainment community for my whole career. It is not glamorous work nor is it very lucrative. It is however a part of the world that desperately needs legal representation. Because of the mores of the world we live in, these people are very susceptible to being abused, attacked and sometimes blackmailed. I have come to know the actors, the dancers, and the strip and swing club owners. I have been present in the middle of the nights at the raids on their clubs, and I have watched this group of people abused by police, prosecutors and the press, in the past. I have been at the side of their hospital beds as they suffered otherwise alone because they had been abandoned by family and friends.

Earlier this week, Blackmail came to haunt the sex community on Long Island. Without accusing or condemning (yet) the accused blackmailers, I can say that as word of the tapes got out, a general panic arose in the swinger community. It seems one of the defendants had over 100 hours of tape of people having sex with his "partner." It further seems that these defendants have been attacking the "opportunity" in many different forms. My office recieved phonecalls from people who knew these people and from friends and family members who called on behalf of others who were too scared to call themselves.

On Thursday February 1st I got a call from a reporter, who is aware of my long term representation of this community. He asked me what I knew which, at that time, frankly wasn't much. I knew people were frightened and that they wanted to know if the Police would come to their door or their businesses. They were afraid of being victimized twice. Once by the blackmailers and then by the police.

The people I spoke to were sick to their stomachs. They were worried about disease and they were worried about breaking the hearts of people they had no intention of hurting. Some had become attached to the accused blackmailers. They thought they were dealing with a friend and lover, the pretend people that the two accused said they were. These folks felt more than just fear, they felt a sense of loss and disbelief that they could be taken in.

I agreed to speak to the press at that point, so that others would know that they were not alone. I also spoke to the media so that these same victims would know that there was a law office they could come to that would not judge them and would be there for them should they chose to cooperate with the police, or decline to do so.

I have not accepted one cent from anyone who has called. I do not intend to accept one cent. I will, if I am asked to do more than advise these folks on their legal rights. Many may have a right to sue the individuals involved in deceiving them. I will take that case if I find that there is a chance to make these victims whole. It is what I do.

Under the guise of "No Good Deed Goes Unpunished" I have read that I am "just another ambulance chaser". I want to point out a few things to the people saying that about me:

1. I did not hold a press conference, or send a press release or even call one single reporter to speak to this case. They each called me, ask them. Most of them either had covered other cases I had worked on and knew I worked on this type of stuff, or they had spoken to reporters (or read their articles) and were following up on their leads. There are just not a lot of lawyers who will admit to handling these cases.

2. I have not asked for a penny from anyone.

3. That I have no purient interest in this case. In a lifetime of working with this community, I have seen all that I ever wanted to and far more, I am concerned that the people who are involved, are not preyed upon by ANYONE. Bad guys or good guys.

4. My family suffers as much as anyone does when I decide to take on cases like this. The get teased and sit through the funny looks and the "dirty jokes" we hear when we go to the diner or pizzaria. My family however knows that, especially in a case like this one, my active participation could mean the difference between someone hopeless, killing themselves and that same person going home to their family that night. They didn't sign up for the duty, but they carry it out really well and with a lot of understanding and I love them for that.

I do not have any idea how this will shake out in the end. I know that if we continue to worry about who is on the tape rather than bringing the case to justice, that we are just a bunch of nosy body gossips.

If the press wants to cover a story, they and you should be asking me about the medical dosing abuse at the Nassau County Correctional Center or about the abject torture of female prisoners in the Federal Medical facility in Texas. They can ask about people who have paid their debts to society only to be forced into a life of crime by otherwise law abiding people who feel no guilt over breaking the law to discriminate against them.

We can talk about a lot of things. Who has sex with whom should not be one of them.
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