In last week's Media column, Arkansas Times reporter David Koon weighed
in on the thorny issue of whether members of the news media should
participate in online predator stings set up by the police. Such stings
have become fodder for both local and national news, with breathless
details of the take-downs reported on most of the Little Rock TV
stations and in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
In recent days, yet another interesting issue faced by civilians
(reporters or not) participating in these stings has been brought to
the fore: If you're a part of the arrest, you pretty much have to be a
part of the trial, whether you like it or not.
In this case, the civilian is reigning Miss America Lauren Nelson of
Lawton, Oklahoma. Nelson got plenty of good publicity earlier this year
by acting as the chatroom bait for a New York State pedophile sting
that will be televised by the Fox program "America's Most Wanted." Once
the wheels started turning to bring the eleven men arrested in the
sting to trial, however, it was found that Nelson's sense of civic duty
apparently extended about as far as the focal length of the nearest
camera. When told she would likely be called as a witness and could be
cross-examined by lawyers for the defense, Nelson reportedly informed
Long Island prosecutors that she wouldn't be returning to New York to
testify, thus jeopardizing the cases she helped make
The surge of publicity in recent days seems to have helped change her
mind. Nelson now says she will testify if prosecutors ask her to.