Washington Man Charged After Alleged “pedo-baiting” Video

A 53-year-old Washington resident was arrested Wednesday, after police said he tried to entice someone he believed to be 13 years old.

A news release from the city’s police department said Reuben Eicher had partially admitted he intended to commit the illegal sex act in an online video; before investigators interviewed him and later executed a search warrant to seize his cellphone. The police department was initially tipped off about the case by a community member on May 4, according to the release.

Court records for Eicher’s case referenced a video, recorded phone calls, text messages and chat logs from dating app Grindr. Documents said Eicher had admitted to using the app, and to being “confronted by an individual concerning the video,” but couldn’t remember all of what happened because he was intoxicated during the confrontation.

Other area law enforcement officials have recently issued warnings against amateur pedophilia investigations, informally known as “pedo-baiting.” The process involves adults setting up social media accounts where they pretend to be under 18, then arranging sexual encounters with other adults, in which they confront the other party about pedophilia.

Generally, the encounter is filmed, sometimes secretly, and usually with the intent to submit the recording as evidence to police. Jefferson County Attorney Chauncey Moulding said in March that such videos had led to the investigation of at least one man in Fairfield.

Still, Moulding asked community members to avoid such amateur investigations as a rule of thumb, saying the practice was unsafe and sometimes compromised the evidence in the court of law.

Eicher is charged with enticing a minor, a Class D felony, which could result in a sentence of up to five years and fine of up to $7,500. Police said he was being held in the Washington County Jail awaiting an initial appearance in court.

The Washington Police Department said it was assisted in its investigation by the Iowa Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and the Washington County Attorney’s Office.