Monday, November 3, 2008

Michael F. Shaler - Internet Predator - BUSTED


Prosecutors were to allege today that a Bridgeport Township man passed himself off as a Saginaw comedian to try to lure into a sexual encounter an Internet decoy playing the part of a 14-year-old girl.

Kent County sheriff's deputies arrested Michael F. Shaler, 32, and 20 others during a Grand Rapids sex predators sting last month.

He faces a preliminary hearing in Grand Rapids on two charges of conspiring to commit child sexually abusive activity using the Internet, each with 20-year maximum jail penalties; and three charges of attempting to transmit sexually explicit matters to a minor, each with 4-year maximum jail penalties.

Deputies arrested Shaler at a Grand Rapids Township home after police said he made numerous sexual advances toward the undercover officer playing the part of a girl.

The Oct. 17-19 operation was a partnership among, Michigan attorney general's agents, the sheriff's deputies and Perverted Justice, a non-profit vigilante group that targets Internet child predators.

Television watchers know Perverted Justice for its work with Chris Hansen on Dateline NBC's "To Catch a Predator."

Kelli Alflen, a 63rd District Court clerk in Grand Rapids, confirmed that Shaler remained in custody pending payment of a $50,000 cash bond a judge set when Shaler pleaded not guilty at his Oct. 20 arraignment.

Gretchen W. Villarreal of Attorney General MIke Cox's office provided The Saginaw News a 216-page chat log that she said documents conversations from Aug. 22 through Oct. 9 between Shaler and the Perverted Justice decoy using the guise of 14-year-old "Trisha."

The night they met online, authorities claim, Shaler spent three hours communicating with the decoy and revealing he was a 31-year-old aspiring actor and comedian from Saginaw earning his living stocking toys.

The decoy asked to hear some of Shaler's jokes. One jesting reply from Shaler, according to the log: "i was on myspace cuz I'm a pediphile in training."

Shaler, a 1995 Bridgeport High School graduate, used the screen name "korn76_99," investigators contend, and says he "feels like an outsider" because he was born with a hearing impairment that rendered his right ear "pretty much useless."

During the fifth conversation, Shaler moved beyond platonic dialogue, according to the log: "trying to get into my 14yr old frame of mind :-? so u wanna go make out behind the bleachers?"

The graphic nature of the chat logs increases, and Shaler sent explicit Web Camera footage of himself Sept. 7, Sept. 13 and Oct. 12, investigators claim, adding that he initiated and advanced each conversation. The decoy did not discourage Shaler but never explicitly contributed to the sexual content of the conversations.

Shaler's defense attorney, Philip R. Sturtz Sr. of Saginaw, would not comment on the pending matter.

"Immediately, as soon as they walk in the house, we arrest them," said Matt Frendewey, spokesman for Cox. He said the conviction rate is between 90 and 95 percent with these types of cases.

"We'll ask for the most (jail time possible)," Frendewey said.

"Assuming they have no criminal records and they are first-time offenders, (they'll face) somewhere between a year to six months, plus probation, which can be anywhere up to five years or more," he said.

Police add convicted offenders' addresses to the State Police Sex Registry, where they remain indefinitely.

"If anything, take this Internet predator sting as a reminder that predators come from all walks of life, from all across the state, and parents who are vigilant and heed caution will be able to better protect their children," Cox said.

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