Prison Pedophiles’ Online List a Parents’ Nightmare
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) _ When Sandy Baso’s children were growing up, they basked in the limelight of little Eagle Bend, population 524. Her daughter was crowned Snow Day’s Queen, and her son took part in spelling bees and the Knowledge Bowl.
As in many small towns, the community newspaper recorded the children’s achievements with photographs and glowing articles.
``In a small town, you can almost watch someone’s children grow up through the newspaper,″ Baso said.
Neighbors weren’t the only ones watching.
At a prison near Minneapolis, someone was using Baso’s hometown newspaper and others to compile a catalog of children, apparently for pedophiles. It includes personal details such as ``latchkey kid,″ ``speech difficulties,″ ``cute″ and ``Little Ms. pagent winner,″ The New York Times said Monday.
The catalog includes 3,000 children from 67 mostly small towns around northern Minnesota and runs to 52 pages in a computer printout obtained by the Times, the newspaper said.
Investigators found the list _ including Baso’s children _ on a computer used by a convicted pedophile working in a prison business. The same computer was used to exchange messages and pornographic images with pedophiles on the Internet.
There are no allegations the list was used in any crimes.
``I was worried about my daughter away at school,″ Baso said upon learning of the list. ``You start thinking, are they stalking her? I thought back to the many times my children rode their bicycle to T-ball.″
``It’s an invasion of privacy,″ Kari Lehmann, a mother of two girls in the town of Fertile, told the Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald. ``Our children aren’t safe. They should have contacted the parents on that list. We should have known.″
The FBI investigation is looking at George Gerald Chamberlain, who at the time the list was compiled was at the medium-security state prison at Lino Lakes for abusing teen-age girls, the Times said. Chamberlain was computer manager for Insight Inc., a prison business in programming and telemarketing that had a Fortune 500 client list.
The FBI and the Minnesota Department of Corrections would not comment Monday on the case.
Chamberlain has maintained his innocence, and a state prison disciplinary hearing in 1995 cleared him of any wrongdoing.
Chamberlain’s attorney, Jordan Kushner, said the list and the pornographic materials were linked to another inmate, William Arthur Couture, who also worked for Insight and had a reputation as a computer genius. Couture has since been paroled.
``Once this stuff got discovered, the person who was responsible shifted the blame onto him,″ Kushner said. The computer business has since reopened under the management of non-inmates, and the prisoners no longer have Internet access.
Michael Moore, editor of the weekly Fertile Journal, said names and dates on the list matched those in ``Citizens of Tomorrow″ _ an annual spread featuring photos of children in the community. The list included Moore’s daughter, who was 8 months old when it was compiled, and his two boys.
Moore told the Herald: ``I felt violated, betrayed, when I learned about the list.″ But he added that the last entry on the list involving someone from Fertile was made in 1991 and that nothing harmful has ever occurred.
Moore said the paper will continue to publish the annual feature and other community news considered a staple of small-town weeklies.
Diane Silbernagel, who edits and publishes Eagle Bend’s Independent News Herald with her husband, said that is the approach her paper will take.
``You can’t just quit doing it because you’ve had an unfortunate situation,″ she said. ``You’re a bit careful and hope it was an isolated incident.″
Others downplayed the computer connection. Bruce Koball, an engineering consultant in Berkeley, Calif., said the incident is not much different from others where prisoners conduct scams through the mail or by phone.
``The Internet is really a sideline,″ he said. ``I would object to painting it as some evil tool that has suddenly facilitated a new form of crime. This guy was compiling this stuff in the 1970s in notebooks.″