'How did you get this number?" snarled an unidentified male voice at the other end of the line. "John isn't involved involved in anything! Don't ever call here again!"
John's phone number isn't hard to find if you know anything about the enormous amount of information available online. And anyone answering John's phone should already know a little something about the Internet's hair-raising variety of resources.
Last month, John Raymond Kinloch, a history major at San Diego State University, went to Staffordshire, England, to testify in the three-week criminal trial of Christopher Wrigley, a 28-year-old college student accused of trafficking in kiddie porn on the Internet. Wrigley, a psychology major, had been nabbed in Operation Sunburst, a 1995 investigation conducted by English law enforcement to crack down on Internet transmission of child pornography to and from Great Britain. Wrigley's computer files, bristling with almost 700 nude and sexually graphic images of boys aged 5 to 15, also contained information that led investigators to Kinloch in San Diego.
Working through the Justice Department's Office of International Affairs in Washington, D.C., Staffordshire police last year informed the U.S. Attorney's San Diego office of their intention to prosecute Wrigley and of their need for Kinloch to testify at trial. While no legal mechanism permits foreign courts directly to compel U.S. citizens to testify abroad, treaties with certain nations, such as England, allow the U.S. Attorney to cooperate with foreign courts in securing the testimony of American witnesses.
"Of the two young men -- Wrigley and Kinloch -- the Staffordshire police convinced us that Wrigley was clearly the more dangerous," says Mitch Dembin, Chief of General Crimes Section in the local U.S. Attorney's office. "We approached Kinloch and offered him immunity in exchange for his testimony at Wrigley's trial. He agreed."
Because British law is very cautious about who may be interviewed and what may be printed about a criminal proceeding in progress, Wrigley's trial has received little publicity in England's national press. But in Staffordshire, the case is well known.
"Probably because it was revealed that just before he was arrested, Wrigley got a job as a high school teacher," says Gill Abbott, a reporter for the Staffordshire Sentinel who covered the trial. "And because Wrigley is very attractive. He's handsome. He's got that Hugh Grant floppy hair.
"He's also very well-spoken and very self-confident. John Kinloch was also very self-confident and well-spoken, but he's not as good-looking as Wrigley. Kinloch's sort of short and slight with a full head of dark, almost black hair, and a very thin mustache. I think the jury sort of took to [Kinloch] because he had that all-American college boy sort of thing."
In the course of his testimony, Kinloch stated that he was "homosexual" but was attracted only to "teenage boys and younger." He admitted that in 1995 he had exchanged pictures of boys as young as five with Wrigley after the two had struck up a friendship in an Internet discussion group about music.
Kinloch told the Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court, "In the beginning it was discussion and e-mail, then it moved into transmission of pictures. At first it was pictures of ourselves, later it was boys. At first it was nothing indecent, later on you could class it as indecent." When asked if he believed Wrigley shared his sexual tastes, Kinloch answered, "I would not just tell anyone about my sexual preferences. There would have to be trust-building. I think you could say we both knew about each other. If I had not thought he had similar tastes, I would have not divulged information to him."
Wrigley, too, admitted to a unique warmth for youngsters. When the jury was told he had been on a Cub Scout weekend two days before he was arrested, Wrigley said he liked to help children and had consoled one Cub Scout in particular. Wrigley said, "[The Cub Scout] was a child who was experiencing many problems both in and out of school, and I took him under my wing to help him out."
But Wrigley maintained his innocence of the child-pornography charges. In his testimony he stated that rather than being a pedophile he was simply a psychology student engaging in an elaborate experiment involving child pornography and pedophile sexuality. The only reason he exchanged images with Kinloch and another American named Sonny Delite, he said, was to determine what sort of pornography interested pedophiles. Testifying in Wrigley's defense, Cambridge professor Donald West, a pedophilia expert, told the court he believed Wrigley's alleged experiment would be useful in research into pedophilia.
Six of the 12-member Stoke-on-Trent jury believed Wrigley's defense. On May 16, after deliberating for six hours, the jury foreman informed the judge that it was unlikely that the jury would be able to arrive at a verdict. The Crown Court intends to try Wrigley again sometime in the next six months in Birmingham, where the case has received less attention.
Staffordshire police are unable to comment on the matter and declined to state whether or not John Kinloch would be brought again to England to testify. Mitch Dembin of the U.S. Attorney's office says that Kinloch is still bound by the terms of his immunity agreement.
"It's a two-way street. Kinloch agreed to testify wherever, whenever. As long as he complies, we don't prosecute. None of his words will be used against him."
Wrigley is free on bail until his retrial.