Slack-jawed astonishment. That's my reaction to details in the case against Brian Doyle, the Department of Homeland Security deputy press secretary who was arrested last night for allegedly attempting to seduce a child into sex over the Internet. But the child wasn't really a child -- on the Internet nobody knows you're an undercover police officer posing as a child in order to lure icky men into well-earned jail cells.
And that's the story with Doyle, according to the comprehensive press release (PDF) put out by the sheriff's office in Polk County, Fla., which conducted the bust. About a month ago, Doyle -- who's 55, is divorced and has children -- "contacted a 14-year-old girl whose profile was posted on the Internet, and initiated a sexually explicit conversation with her," the release states. Grady Judd, the sheriff, told CNN that Boyle "started immediately into pretty vulgar language. He explained in graphic detail the sexual acts he wanted to perform with this 14-year-old."
But it isn't just that Doyle is accused of having had a naughty AOL chat with someone he thought to be a young girl. Though that's revolting enough, what I'm most surprised, amazed and astonished by is Doyle's apparent brazenness and out-and-out carelessness in conducting these affairs.
I'm not saying I would have preferred if Doyle had been more careful in his attempts at sexual molestation (or alleged attempts, though that term is pretty much a technicality now, because Doyle has confessed to investigators). I'm just saying this: This man works for a law enforcement agency. It wouldn't be too much to ask that when he does something illegal, he at least not act so -- there's no other word for it -- stupid in his efforts.
But that's how he played it: According to the sheriff's office, Doyle contacted an underage "girl" on the Internet; told her his name and his occupation; gave her his office and cellphone numbers; sent her pictures of himself; sent her numerous explicit video files; talked to her -- a detective posing as a child -- on the phone; and promised that if she sent him dirty pictures of herself, he would return the favor. On the night he was arrested, he had rushed home early because the girl told him she'd be alone at her house and could give him a show on her webcam. "Many of the conversations he initiated with the 'victim' are too extraordinary and graphic for public release," the press release says. The sheriff told CNN, "I read the transcripts. I wanted to see if this was just as outrageous as the detectives depicted it ... It shocked all of us who have worked vice, narcotics, organized crime, homicides." Um, what was this guy thinking?
The Department of Homeland Security says that it takes these allegations seriously and will cooperate with the investigation. Doyle will be placed on administrative leave, though it isn't clear if he'll be paid or unpaid.
And there's really no reason to believe that the Department of Homeland Security may have a problem with hiring people like Doyle. In fact, the department has been very tough on people who sexually abuse children. In 2003, it launched Operation Predator, a multiagency task force to combat alien smuggling and child prostitution. A laudatory effort -- and we won't dwell on the fact that the operation was once headed by an official named Frank Figueroa, who was arrested in October 2005 at a mall in Orlando, Fla., after a 16-year-old girl told security that Figueroa dropped his pants and began masturbating in front of her. It later turned out that Figueroa had been arrested for something similar in 1977. He has pleaded not guilty.