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   Thu, March 4, 2004



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COMMENT





Crisis rocks ROH


Robert Feinstein has stepped down today as a partner in Ring Of Honor Inc. and President of RF Video Inc.

"It is with deep regret that I step down as partner of Ring Of Honor Inc. and President of RF Video Inc.," said Feinstein in a statement issued to the media. "Due to recent allegations that have been lodged against me it is in the best interest of both companies that until these allegations are resolved that I step down to avoid tarnishing the excellent reputation that has been built over the years of both companies."

A noted wrestling personality in Philadelphia, Feinstein was allegedly the target of a media sting focusing on adults who cruise Internet chat rooms attempting to contact underage individuals for sexual encounters. NBC 10 (WCAU-TV), a network affiliate in Philadelphia and Perverted-Justice.com joined together on the "Group Media Bust". NBC 10 rented a decoy house while Perverted-Justice.com worked chatrooms as underage individuals. Adults who expressed interest in meeting the minors for sex were then directed to the house where the NBC 10 film crew was waiting to catch them on camera.

Perverted-Justice.com claims that a contributor ("Jay Alternative") contacted the site asking for information on Ring Of Honor due to an individual messaging him on a Philadelphia AOL gay chatroom who represented himself as a wrestler. The conversations "Jay Alternative" had with the "wrestler" ID'd as "RFWrestling", lasted two days and included two phone calls. "Jay Alternative" protrayed himself as a 14-year-old boy.

NBC 10 in Philadelphia aired a story last night showing a man who they identified as Feinstein arriving at the set-up house and then leaving the scene at the sight of the news crew. NBC 10 claims to have made the identification based on video analysis and the licence plate number on the car.

At this time, no charges have been filed against Feinstein.

The Philadephia Inquirer also reports that residents in Newtown Township where the target house was located have demanded that local authorities investigate NBC 10's decision to operate the pedophile sting in their there. The house in question is near an elementary school.

Police Chief Lee Hunter was quoted in the Inquirer as saying that the station's actions were "highly dangerous, totally unethical and immoral." Hunter told Inquirer reporter Marc Schogol that the Delaware County District Attorney's office are probing the case to see whether any criminal charges may apply. Some residents are pondering civil legal action of their own if no criminal charges are brought about in the case.

NBC 10 news director Chris Blackman defended the station's actions. He stated that saying that the community was not identified and that since the sting is over, no more pedophiles would be lured there.

"The men that showed up were not random pedophiles - they came for specific rendezvous with a fictitious 14-year-old boy or girl they'd established an online relationship with," Blackman told The Inquirer. "They didn't show up to prowl the neighborhood.

This is not the first time "Perverted-Justice.com" has been the centre of such a media storm or engaged in such stings. Some law enforcement authorities in the U.S. have stated that the site does more harm than good. In some states, entrapment becomes a key issue in that authorities can respond to predators seeking sex with minors, but they themselves cannot initiate the offers or the case will be thrown out. Some have argued though that the site does good work in bringing the issue to the public's attention.

William Liczbinski, an investigator with the Wayne County Sheriff's Internet Crime Unit, told The Detroit Free Press in February that "We've read some of the chats that the Web site has done, and Wayne County prosecutors have told us that . . . it's unlikely they would sign an arrest warrant based on the techniques used by Perverted Justice."

In a public statement, Perverted-Justice.com maintained that their investigation was not an indicment on the wrestling business as a whole.

"Perverted-Justice.com is not anti-wrestling in any form. This situation is not a "black eye" on wrestling, or indicative of the average wrestler or wrestling promoter," stated the site, calling for Feinstein to seek counseling and apologize.

A spokesperson for Ring Of Honor Inc. and President of RF Video Inc. told SLAM! Wrestling that all ROH events and everyday RF Video operations will continue as normal.