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Battaglia's undercover operatives arrested 27 men in 2003 who arranged to meet police decoys posing as children, a misdemeanor that carries a three-year prison sentence in California and requires those convicted to register as sex offenders for the rest of their lives.Although the men listed on the Perverted Justice website are mercilessly hectored by the group's supporters, few have been charged with a crime.Volunteers for Perverted Justice undergo no such training."These investigator wannabes think it's so easy to go into a chat room and just start talking, and for them it is, because they have no goals in mind other than humiliating someone and getting media attention," said Julie Posey, a Colorado activist who has worked with police in chat-room stings for eight years and helped convict more than 70 men.But von Erck, Perverted-Justice.com's founder, denied Posey's accusations, pointing to a recent Michigan case in which a man duped by Perverted Justice faces 20 years in prison for attempting to bed a 14-year-old girl.Within hours, the man's libidinous chat transcript, picture, cell-phone number and e-mail address were posted to Perverted-Justice.com, a website run by vigilantes across the United States who troll regional chat rooms hunting for would-be pedophiles.Perverted Justice has made more than 600 such busts since it was formed in July 2002.
The group says it's protecting children from sexual predators, but critics say its aggressive tactics seldom lead to convictions.In February, 16 men showed up for such a sting in Missouri and 20 showed up in Detroit.The sensational reports have irked some communities, which have accused the group and the TV stations of endangering local children by bringing sexual predators into their neighborhoods.Last November, a 29-year-old Portland, Oregon, man was cruising the city's Yahoo chat room when he struck up a conversation with a 14-year-old girl using the handle "misspunkgirlie13." The conversation quickly turned to sex."i'm 29..your 14 and adorable," he wrote the girl, who flirted back.