Is Noble County the only county where Bikers Against Predators has trouble getting cases filed because of the way the group collects “evidence” in its child solicitation stings?
No, Allen County Prosecuting Attorney Karen Richards said, adding that every county should have a problem, because the rules of evidence are the same for every county in Indiana.
Elkhart County Prosecuting Attorney Vicki Becker agreed.
So did Marshall County Prosecuting attorney E. Nelson Chipman Jr., who hasn’t dealt directly with the group but has had interactions with an organization which uses similar methods.
At best, the Bikers Against Predators’ stings can initiate real police investigations. At its worst? Predators may be tipped off and avoid prosecution altogether, according to Richards.
“They can foul up more things than they can solve,” Richards said.
“Generally speaking, what they are doing is not prosecutable,” Becker said. “If these people really want to make a difference, become law enforcement.”
Bikers Against Predators began its sting operations in February of 2021. Since that time, the group has posted more than 100 videos of meetings with grown men set up by decoys pretending to be underage girls. Soliciting someone a perpetrator believes is an underage girl is a Level 4 felony — regardless of the age of the decoy.
The group’s president, who only identifies himself as Robert but is known online as “Boots,” said Bikers Against Predators does not track what happens after evidence is turned over to police, making it impossible to verify social media claims made by supporters regarding convictions and the number of cases actually being filed.
Goshen-based Bikers Against Predators was in Kendallville May 31 after having set up a meeting between a Kendallville man and a decoy posing as a young girl at the Cole Center Family YMCA, allegedly for an illicit encounter.
Following a series of events which led to no one being arrested, the internet was abuzz with people alleging that the Kendallville Police Department doesn’t do anything to protect the city’s children from child predators. Bikers Against Predators organizer Robert then posted a follow-up video which was critical of the police response, insinuating that Noble County was the only county where his group was having difficulty getting cases filed.
That’s just not true, area prosecutors said.
Becker and Richards both said there are a couple of cases instigated by Bikers Against Predators stings working their way through the court system in their respective counties. All of them required follow-up investigations by regular law enforcement officers.
Both Becker and Richards said there have been other cases which could not be filed because of how Bikers Against Predators collects its “evidence.”
Becker said there have been instances where police investigators have told her that Bikers Against Predators have been cooperative. There have been other instances in which the group has been “less than cooperative.” Richards said she has had much the same experience.
“Those cases are extremely problematic,” Richards said of Bikers Against Predators’ methodology.
Richards said legal issues with the information provided by the group include:
• Bias. Information from the police is commonly accepted in court because investigators are impartial third parties collecting the evidence. Because investigators are independent of bias, juries can assume the evidence is collected objectively. Robert has stated publicly that he got involved with attempts to expose predators because a close family member was contacted by an online predator. That close family member association taints any evidence he collects and would be pounced on by a defense attorney to discredit the state’s case.
“Bias is never a good thing,” Becker said.
• Entrapment. According to Indiana Code 35-41-3-9, entrapment is “using persuasion or other means likely to cause the person to engage in the conduct.” Entrapment is prohibited by state statute. That fine line can be walked by fully trained police investigators who work hand-in-hand with prosecutors to know the exact legal threshold.
Becker said Bikers Against Predators lacks the training to collect evidence in a way that makes it admissible in court. Chipman agreed.
“We rely on sworn police officers, not amateurs,” Chipman said.
Bikers Against Predators has initiated investigations which have led to arrests recently.
A Kosciusko County man was arrested the night of a string operation after allegedly confessing to the crime to a police officer who responded to the scene.
This week, a couple were arrested in Plymouth two days after a sting. At least one of those parties also confessed.
But barring an immediate confession, the “evidence” is more likely to lead to a formal investigation than anything else.
And if the alleged perpetrator is not arrested immediately, the sting could lead to real evidence being destroyed, ruining the chance for prosecution.
Richards said she could appreciate the zeal and mission behind groups like Bikers Against Predators, but the end result could lead to predators not being prosecuted.
Becker and Richards both expressed concern that the “meetings” between decoys and alleged predators could lead to violent confrontations.
Source: The News Sun
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