NJ man runs his own sting, confronts guy trying to meet ‘energetic’ 15-year-old
LOWER TOWNSHIP — A man caught on camera saying he wanted to meet an "energetic" young man — a fictitious 15-year-old created by the cameraman, running his own "To Catch a Predator"-style operation — has been charged with luring.
The Cape May Prosecutor's Office says it and Lower Township police began investigating 56-year old John Deangelis July 24 after "being informed of a video that was circulating on social media." Two days later, Deangelis was arrested and remains lodged at the Cape May County Correctional Center pending Court proceedings, the prosecutor's office said.
That video, posted by Mantua resident Robert Davis, has been viewed more than 63,000 times on his Facebook page.
"So you didn't say you were going to meet a guy and play around, a 15-year-old child," Davis is heard saying from behind his camera. Deangelis tells him: "I don't know who you are."
There's cross-talk throughout.
"I work with a thing on the Internet, where I catch predators. I'm not going to get you locked up. I just want to know why you're doing this — why are you meeting young kids on the Internet?" Davis says.
Throughout the video, Deangelis stands with his arms crossed.
He first says "It was said ... it was 18-years-old. He was supposed to be 18," Deangelis says.
Davis challenges him: "But the kid says he was 15." Deangelis starts to say he was told the person he was meeting was 16. "No, he said he's 15 turning 16."
"I saw 16," Deangelis says. "Show me where he says 15."
Under New Jersey law, a 16-year-old can generally consent to sex with an adult, if that adult does not have supervisory power over the minor, as a teacher or counselor would.
They continue to argue, until Davis says he was the "15-year-old" on the other end of the conversation.
"I was messaging you? You're, you're, you're, ah, portraying somebody else," Deangelis says.
"No, I catch predators on the Internet. That's what I do," Davis tells him.
"So when I said 'Are you a cop?' you said no," Deangelis says.
"I'm not a cop. I told you I'm not a cop," Davis says.
Davis tells Deangelis he'll let him go on his way — if he explains "why you're doing this."
"I just wanted to meet someone who's young, who's energetic," Deangelis says.
When Davis asks him if that means someone underage, Davis says "not necessarily," but "16, yeah." Challenged again on the age: "All right, he said he was 15, OK."
And asked why he can't meet someone 18 or older: "I chat everybody."
Asked if he's learned anything: "Not to do it."
Taking matters into his own hands
Police, in their announcement of Deangelis' arrest, didn't mention Davis' video by name. And Davis told New Jersey 101.5 Sunday police threatened him with a cyber-harassment charge for taking on the operation on his own.
"The cops were kind of mad that I did this," he said. "I'm not going to stop doing it. They were actually trying to lock me up for this. ... They wanted me to take the video down."
Davis told New Jersey 101.5 he met Deangelis through the app Grindr, a dating application that caters to the LGBT community.
"I basically wait for these guys to message me. I basically tell them I'm underage, and I make sure they're OK with me being underage," he said.
Davis said the Deangelis sting was his first, but he's planning more. Davis said he understands police would rather he not take such stings into his own hands — and that he could be jeopardizing his own safety by confronting people. He said his intention isn't to notify policy of his activities — but to let them come to him after his videos get noticed
"Prosecutor (Jeffrey) Sutherland advises any individuals who have information regarding alleged crimes to contact law enforcement officials and not take matters into their own hands when approaching individuals who may be involved in criminal activity," the prosecutor's office said.
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