Morris

Man Charged With Meeting Minor For Sex After Undercover Sting By Vigilante Group

NBC Universal, Inc.

For the second time in less than a week another man has been charged with traveling to meet a minor. This time, the incident was caught on cell phone camera by an online group called PredatorProof.

“Every time that I confront one of these guys I’m just waiting for a gun for a knife or something like that,” said PredatorProof founder Joseph Baker. “You just got to expect the worst be ready for it.”

Baker said he posed as an 11-year-old girl online and for several months engaged in sexual conversations with the suspect. They finally agreed to meet in person on Monday at a Wal-Mart in Morris, Illinois.

“I walked up to him and tried confronting him,” he said. “A small confrontation turned into chasing him out of the store.”

Morris Police were called to the scene. Baker said he turned over evidence to police, and officers arrested 23-year-old Ethan Kotlinski. Video of the confrontation has been viewed more than 100,000 times on Facebook.

“There is this idea of vigilante groups on busting people for solicitation of a minor has gained a popularity,” said Chicago-based attorney Adam Sheppard. “I think because as technology gets better and better it's easier for them to do.”

While the intention may be good, Sheppard said he doesn’t think private citizens should take matters into their own hands, especially with no formal training.

“The overwhelming majority of police departments across the country -- nationally I’ve studied this -- are discouraging the vigilante groups,” he said.

Sheppard said it's too risky and dangerous, but some police departments are taking on cases brought forth by vigilante groups. Last week, an incident filmed by Save Our Siblings led to misconduct charges being filed against Jeremy Hylka, a former Catholic school teacher in Will County.

“All the cops have actually tried telling me that and stuff, lawyers, you name it,” said Baker. “But I’m always going to keep going, you know? I’m not going to stop. I think kids are worth every bit of it.”

Baker told NBC 5 he’s not doing it for attention nor to be famous on social media.

“I guess I just care more about the kids than their opinions to be honest,” he said. “I know I’m doing something good for the community whether they agree with it or not.”

Baker said his group’s work has led to at least three men arrested and charged since launching last February.  

NBC 5 reached out to the Morris Police Department for a comment, but did not immediately receive a response.

Grundy County State’s Attorney Jason Helland told NBC 5 on the phone he encourages people to submit tips and come forward with information to police and to work with investigators.

As for Kotlinski, Helland said he has already been released from jail after posting 10% of his $20,000 bond. His arraignment is scheduled for May 27.

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