Lawsuit Settlement for "To Catch a Predator" Suicide
When Texas prosecutor Louis William Conradt Jr. set up an appointment to meet someone online, their identity was the furthest thing from his mind. Thinking he'd set up an appointment to meet a 13-year-old boy, Conradt had no idea that he was falling into a trap sprung by a decoy for the reality-television show "To Catch a Predator" segment of the NBC news magazine show, "Dateline."
When he skipped the appointment to arrive at the decoy house manned by the NBC camera crew with confrontational host Chris Hansen, the crew decided to show up at Conradt's house the next day. The cameras were rolling when a police tactical force squad forced its way into the home, and still rolling when Conradt, confronted by the officers who were to place him under arrest, used a handgun to shoot himself. He died later in the hospital.
Reportedly, footage captured at the scene featured a police officer making the off-the-cuff remark to one of the "Dateline" producers, "That'll make good TV."
A lawsuit filed by Conradt's sister seeking $105,000 has now been settled for an undisclosed sum, but the disturbing incident leaves many questions in its wake about the segment and its effect on all involved. Patricia Conradt alleged in her lawsuit that NBC interfered with police duties by turning the arrest into a television spectacle and then failed to protect her brother's safety.
A U.S. District judge ruled that the case could go forward on the claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress and violation of civil rights. Judge Denny Chin ruled that NBC had "placed itself squarely in the middle of a police operation, pushing the police to engage in tactics that were unnecessary and unwise, solely to generate more dramatic footage for a television show."
He furthermore stated that a jury should have the chance to decide the matter if the case were to go to trial, believing that "a reasonable jury could find that by doing so, NBC created a substantial risk of suicide or other harm, and that it engaged in conduct so outrageous and extreme that no civilized society should tolerate it."
Lawyers from both sides reported that the two had reached an "amicable agreement," though it's hard to see how any arrangement for Patricia Conradt could have been so. In the lawsuit, she claims that NBC, in committing its egregious actions and airing them on television (though the death was censored), proved that it was "concerned more with its own profits than with pedophilia."
And this statement reveals the widespread effects of the tragedy committed at the hands of NBC and the "To Catch a Predator" producers. Their efforts to try to catch and arrest those preying on underage children, though noble in intent, were reportedly based on exploitative and demeaning tactics that played to the basest impulses of the reality-show television audience. It even makes you wonder which "perverts" were more vile: the pedophiles captured by the show, or the show itself?