Wednesday, August 08, 2007

When Kurt Met Justin Redux

Eichenwald Saga Keeps Getting Curiouser and Curiouser

Kurt Eichenwald didn't play by the book when he wrote for The New York Times in 2005 about efforts to save a boy who was being victimized by pedophiles who paid to watch him commit sex acts online.
The searing, expose ran nearly 7,000 words, and included a chronicle of Eichenwald's efforts to help Justin Berry find a lawyer, meet with prosecutors and get him badly needed counseling.
Eichenwald was criticized in some quarters for stepping over that imaginary line of involvement with a source that reporters dare not cross. But this was a special circumstance, the Times recognized it as such. Thus emerged a remarkable and troubling story.
The real trouble, though, emerged when it was revealed Eichenwald actually paid Berry $2,000 -- which he said was actually a loan that he demanded be repaid and was by Berry's grandmother.
Still, it gave the appearance of paying a source -- a big-time no-no, though Eichenwald has vehemently denied he did anything wrong.
Now comes word that Eichenwald may have paid additional money to Berry and a man who ran the Web site where Berry appeared.
Richard Perez-Pena reports in today's Times that as much as $1,100 more was put into a PayPal account controlled by Berry.

“I have no independent memory of any payments I am alleged to have made in June 2005 through PayPal,” he said in a statement yesterday. “If these PayPal payments did occur in June 2005, I am deeply sorry that my inability to remember them has resulted in permitting a series of convicted felons to cast doubt on the nature of my wife’s and my efforts to save a young man who was caught in the grip of a cycle of drugs and abuse.”

Eichenwald, who now works at Portfolio, is referring to his contention that the initial $2,000 payment was made not as a reporter but as a person worried that Berry was in danger.

The statement to the Times is all well and good. What's more troubling is the weasel words "independent memory."
What the hell is that, anyway?
In any event, why would it be so hard to remember making an additional payment to Berry. Giving the boy cash was ostensibly not a regular occurrence, so you'd think it'd be pretty easy to recall that happening.
You want to root for Eichenwald because he wrote such a good story that, ethical lapses aside, was a gripping yarn that deserves acclaim. But he just doesn't make it easy.

3 comments:

NG said...

I suppose what's next for Eichenwald is for him to blame it on the porno fairy.

Steve said...

I was disappointed in the NY Times article. According to Debbie Nathan's articles on the subject, Justin Berry did not go back into the webporn business until after he received the payments from Kurt Eichenwald in early June, 2005.

This information was confirmed by Mr. Berry's testimony before Congress in which he stated that the he left the business shortly after his 18th birthday and did not return to it until June, 1995, as well as by an e-mail by Mr. Berry, dated June 18, 2005, announcing his return to porn that evening. This e-mail was quoted, verbatim, in the final indictment against Aaron Brown, one of Mr. Berry's business associates, and is now a matter of public record.

In a March 25, 2007 article, Byron Calame, the public editor of the NY Times, stated that Greg Mitchell, Mr. Berry's business partner claimed Mr. Eichenwald's money had been used to finance Mr. Berry's porn site, justinsfriends.com. He also reported that both Mr. Eichenwald and Mr. Berry denied the claim.

Under the circumstances, the Times has a clear ethical obligation to investigate the matter and report on its findings. It does not appear to have done so.

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