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Pedohphile in Robes?

Aired August 26, 2003 - 19:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: A retired superior court judge is under house arrest and Camden, New Jersey, is in shock over his alleged conduct off the bench.
Deborah Feyerick reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He's a decorated Vietnam War veteran and distinguished New Jersey judge. But when Steven Thompson left federal court, it was as a criminal defendant and suspected pedophile. Prosecutors say a search of Thompson's home turned up hardcore videotapes, magazines and nearly 60 computer disk with thousands of images of child porn, mostly boys.

DANNA CARRIG, PROSECUTOR: The video tapes some of them were extraordinarily disturbing. One of them particular had sadomasochistic conduct and the child was crying throughout the videotape.

FEYERICK: And the judge wasn't just looking. Prosecutors say Thompson, who's not married, traveled to St. Petersburg, Russia last year. While there, he alleged hired a teenage boy to have oral sex, capturing it all on his home video camera. Thompson has not yesterday yet had to enter a formal plea.

His attorney, Leonard Baker.

LEONARD BAKER, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: There's serious allegations and if they can prove it beyond a reasonable doubt, then he will be facing a period of time in jail. If they can't, and those images aren't what they have represented, then he'll be acquitted

FEYERICK: As a superior court judge, Thompson handled over a hundred pedophile cases under Megan's Law, deciding how to notify communities a sex offender was moving in. Thompson received a Purple Heart after losing his leg in Vietnam.

MARIO IAVICOLI, PRESIDENT, CAMDEN BAR ASSOCIATION: He was known as a good judge who was even handed and fair.

FEYERICK (on camera): Judge Joel Rosen set bail conditions which he described as tough but necessary. Thompson is under 24-hour house arrest. He'll be electronically monitored by a sophisticated ankle bracelet. he'll have no access to any computes or video cameras and if he flees he will forfeit the $2 million he's posted as bond. (voice-over): If convicted, Thompson could serve up to 25 years in prison.

Deborah Feyerick, CNN, Camden, New Jersey.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, without speculating on this suspect's guilt or innocence, let's look at the bigger question of how a respected person in authority can become a pedophile or was a pedophile.

Dr. Michael Welner is a forensic psychiatrist and an associate professor of psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine.

Good to see you again, Doctor.

DR. MICHAEL WELNER, FORENSIC PSYCHIATRIST: Nice to see you.

COOPER: How surprising is a case like this?

WELNER: In forensic psychiatry and even psychiatry you get acquainted with people's intimate sexual lifestyles and the whole range of alternative sexual lifestyles is limitless and can never be overstated and so it includes judges, it included politicians, it includes psychiatrists, newscasters. It's a personal thing that becomes a problem for the individual when it breaks the law.

COOPER: And certainly with pedophilia.

I mean, do you look at pedophilia as a disease, as a compulsion? I mean, what is it?

WELNER: Well, compulsive behavior becomes a disease because someone tries to control it and recognizes the consequences of his behavior, but can't stop.

COOPER: And can a pedophile be controlled?

WELNER: Well, a pedophile who wants to change can shape his sexual interests. See, pedophilia isn't something that someone is necessarily born with but sexual interests of a variety of types are shaped and groomed and this is one of the reasons why pedophiles groom their victims, not so they can be accessible, but so that they can be more consensual.

COOPER: But you say -- you say that it can be shaped. It doesn't mean -- you didn't use the word stopped. I mean, you cannot -- or, correct me if I'm wrong, but my understanding is you cannot stop the thoughts. I mean, these pedophiles cannot necessarily stop thinking about what it is that attracts them. It's just a question of whether they act on it. Is that correct?

WELNER: Fantasies can be shaped. Compulsive fantasies have to be stopped through either kinds of either group therapies or actually medication because we're talking about two different things. One is the fantasy -- is it acceptable or unacceptable? If it's an unacceptable fantasy, then you're talking about a compulsive problem. If it's an acceptable fantasy, some sex therapy works to groom and to develop more acceptable, adaptive lifestyles.

COOPER: Has it become easier to -- for pedophiles to exist, I mean, to operate, I guess is the word? I mean...

WELNER: There's no doubt.

COOPER: ...allegations about this man is that, you know, he had access to the Internet, that he actually even traveled to Russia in one case to have sex with a minor. This is all allegations. Is it easier now?

WELNER: It's easier because it's a smaller world. It's easier because the Internet can feed a fantasy where a responsible person may keep it in the dark or may try to push it away and now it's as close as a touch of a button your computer. It's also easier because victims are more accessible because victims can be drawn in through the computer through e-mail and suddenly someone from Russia is only the click of a mouse away.

COOPER: All right. Dr. Welner, always good to talk to you. Thanks for being here.

WELNER: Appreciate your interest.

COOPER: All right.

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