Thursday, January 17, 2008

Carl Courtright - Repeat Sex Offender - Stalking kids on MySpace

The case of a Granite City man arrested last year for allegedly producing child pornography is highlighted in a new report from Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan about MySpace use by registered sex offenders.

The report, released Tuesday, documented MySpace use by 1,558 sex offenders registered in Illinois, including rapists, child abusers, pornographers and three murderers.

Among those was Carl Courtright, 36, of Granite City. Illinois officials say Courtright may be the first sex offender in the nation to be nabbed for a new crime through subscriber information disclosed by the social networking site.

Courtright was already on Illinois' sex offender registry when he was re-arrested in his home in August, after authorities linked his computer address to Internet trading of child pornography. That link came after the Illinois attorney general's office subpoenaed MySpace records to find out which of the state's 22,000 registered sex offenders might be using the massively popular site to stalk children.

That concern has become a nationwide debate. It culminated with an agreement announced this week between MySpace and 49 states — including Illinois and Missouri — that will entail new age-verification methods and other safety measures at the site.

Meanwhile, Courtright — one of more than 1,500 Illinois sex offenders found to be using the MySpace site — remains in custody without bond, awaiting trial next month on federal charges of production of child pornography.

"It's an underworld that you know is out there," said Granite City Police Chief Rich Miller, whose department worked with state and federal officials on the case. "… But we were still kind of surprised at what we found."

Madigan's office in recent months has secured repeated subpoenas of MySpace records in an effort to study the online activities of registered sex offenders. They aren't automatically barred from using computers, but they can face parole violation for involvement in child pornography or other online activities.

The subpoenaed records showed that Illinois sex offenders with MySpace accounts included Courtright, who was on the state's sex-offender registry for having had sex with a 16-year-old when he was 27.

Officials haven't alleged that Courtright was using the MySpace site for any illegal purpose. But when the MySpace records were analyzed against other investigatory records, they found that Courtright's Internet Protocol address — a numeric code that identifies individual computers on the Internet — matched an IP address that had already been flagged by a different investigation on Internet child pornography.

Police subsequently searched Courtright's home, seizing four computers and what officials say is evidence that Courtright produced child pornography at home with a minor female acquaintance.

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