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Man behind 'Jailbait' posts exposed, loses job

By David Fitzpatrick and Drew Griffin, CNN Investigations Unit
October 19, 2012 -- Updated 1520 GMT (2320 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Man behind behind 'Jailbait,' 'Rape Jokes' posts on Reddit was recently identified
  • He is a 49-year-old software programmer, who is married with kids
  • Michael Brutsch lost his job after his identity was revealed
  • He told CNN he made 'a huge mistake'

Editor's note: The following article contains strong language.

Fort Worth, Texas (CNN) -- An internet troll reviled for his pornographic posts on Reddit and recently revealed as a middle-aged software programmer told CNN that he made "a huge mistake."

For years, 49-year-old Michael Brutsch hid behind the online screen name "Violentacrez," creating hundreds of subforums on the user-generated website, such as "Rapebait," "Incest," "Pics of Dead Kids," "Choke a Bitch," and "Rape Jokes." "Violentacrez" has been banned from the site several times, although Brutsch still maintains a separate account.

Last week, Gawker revealed the identity of "Violentacrez," whose posts generated as many as 800,000 subscribers and triggered a debate about whether Reddit was criminally liable for the content of its forums. Reddit is a website where the popularity of posts -- and whether they are featured prominently on the site's main page -- is determined by registered users' votes.

Days after the Gawker article, Brutsch agreed to talk exclusively to CNN on camera at a hotel room in Fort Worth, about six miles from his home. He said his employer fired him after the Gawker article. He had worked there for seven years.

"One of the problems that came around and bit me in the ass was that I didn't really think about what I was doing," Brutsch told CNN. "And I didn't listen to people when they said, 'You really shouldn't do this.'"

Brutsch -- who is married, with a stepdaughter as well as a son and a stepson who are both in the U.S. military -- told CNN he started out posting "mostly soft-core porn," such as "pictures of naked girls, that sort of thing."

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"And as I'd find porn of different types, like if it was a picture of an African-American woman, I created a Reddit called 'Women of Color,'" Brutsch said. "If it was, you know, a woman with large breasts, I created a Reddit called 'Boobies.'"

Years ago, Brutsch created his most infamous Reddit forum called "Jailbait" -- images of teenage girls posted without their or their families' consent. He said it became so popular, drawing hundreds of thousands of page views, that Reddit gave him an award -- a gold-plated bobblehead doll "for making significant contributions to the site."

In an email to CNN, Reddit said Brutsch had won a community vote for "Worst Subreddit" and Reddit now "regrets having sent the trophy." Reddit also said it banned Brutsch's "Violentacrez" account several times since last year, adding that it "regret(s) not taking stronger action sooner."

Looking back, Brutsch said his actions "were a huge mistake." He claimed he was addicted to Reddit and could not stop himself. The biggest thrill Brutsch said he got "was those meaningless Internet points," earned when "Redditors" voted for his posts.

Now that he's lost his job, Brutsch told CNN he was sorry -- but he didn't say exactly what he was apologizing for.

"Well, I am to some degree apologizing for what I did," Brutsch said. "Again, I was playing to an audience of college kids. And you know, when two years ago, when all of this was at its height, the audience was appreciative and supportive of the sort of gallows humor that I put out there."

Legal analysts are split on whether Reddit is breaking any laws by allowing its users to post such heinous images. Reddit stressed in its email to CNN that it "follows all the legal requirements regarding illegal content, including reporting to the proper authorities.

"By its nature, moderators at Reddit have complete control over the subsections they start unless they violate site rules or the law," it said.

CNN legal contributor Sunny Hostin said she believes the website is hosting "borderline kiddie porn." CNN Senior Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin noted that while the website may not be breaking any criminal laws, its claim that it cannot interfere with its posters because they are protected by the First Amendment is "not true."

"If I say something terrible to you on the phone, you can sue me -- you can't sue the phone company," Toobin explained on CNN's AC360 last year. "A website is different. A website automatically exercises some control. You can see they have rules there. So the idea that they have no control over their posters, that's simply wrong."

Brutsch has not been charged with a crime. He was, however, questioned by police because of assertions that he had sex with his stepdaughter. He said it's not true.

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