Saturday, August 28, 2010

Puppetmaster Cyberpath Coerces Victims into Webcam 'Acts'

CANADA -- An Ottawa man who pleaded guilty to blackmailing girls and young women into performing degrading acts in front of a computer like a "puppeteer pulling strings" was handed an eight-year-sentence on Friday.

Ontario Court Justice Celynne Dorval said Ryan Earl McCann, 20, committed "premeditated torture" on his young victims, and used his youth to manipulate them into doing what he wanted.

McCann used nearly a dozen phoney online personas to manipulate women and girls as young as 14 into committing "demeaning" acts under the threat of physical violence or the release of the webcam videos on the Internet.

"When manipulation failed, his weapons of choice were threats which rendered the complainants powerless and unable to control their own lives," said Dorval. "Contrary to his fictional characters, each one of these young women is a 'real' person. He leaves behind a trail of scarred and emotionally fragile teenagers and young women."

McCann pleaded guilty earlier this month to 26 charges, including extorting young girls and women to make pornographic videos, producing child pornography, invitation to sexual touching, harassment and uttering death threats against 22 victims.

One of McCann's victims left the courtroom in tears as the judge outlined the crimes committed against her.

Dorval said McCann's nearly two dozen young women suffered "significant consequences" while McCann was "callous and uncaring" to the harm he was causing.

"Shame, self-loathing and loss of confidence are common to all," said Dorval, adding some now suffer nightmares, sleeplessness and a constant concern for the safety of their families.

Dorval said McCann's videos, including one in which the webcam captured stuffed animals on the headboard of a bed behind a young girl performing explicit acts, provided a "very graphic image of the sexualizing of children."

Wearing wire-rimmed glasses and a white hooded sweatshirt, McCann occasionally hung his head as he sat silently in the prisoner's box. He briefly acknowledged his family, who sat in the front row.

"Bye Ryan, I love you," one of his sisters called out as he was being led out of court.

With two-for-one credit for 13 months of time served, he now has five years and 10 months of his sentence to serve.

Dorval said a 2007 psychiatrist's report turned out to be "prophetic" when it found McCann had the capacity to inflict "significant emotional and psychological harm" in situations where he perceives he is in power. The doctor also concluded McCann, who apologized in court last week, lacked the capacity to feel guilt or remorse.

McCann confessed to developing an elaborate scheme to recruit girls and women between the ages of 14 and 21 to perform sexually explicit acts for money by portraying his purported company, Talen's Playground, as a legitimate business.

McCann, who was 18 at the time, would initially chat with his victims on Facebook or MSN Messenger. Then he would encourage the young women to take on "clients" who would instruct them to perform in exchange for huge sums of money, depending on the explicitness and number of sexual acts they performed.

But instead of paying, McCann blackmailed the girls and young women into committing more degrading acts by threatening to expose the videos or to recruit their friends by using the victims' own online identities, which he had hacked. McCann also had two 15-year-old girls perform sex acts on him.

McCann assumed 11 different personas to further the ruse and intimidate his victims, including threatening physical violence and death. Many of them didn't realize he was the only person involved until after his plea.

Although the victims were told they were performing for clients, McCann admitted to police he had the victims do the shows "for his own personal pleasure" and because he enjoyed the thrill of being a predator.

In the videos, the young women removed clothing, danced in front of the camera, touched themselves, simulated sex acts on the handles of flashlights or hairbrushes and carried out more explicit acts. At other times, they wrote degrading messages on their bodies. Some cried throughout their performances. One threatened suicide.

In addition to prison time, McCann was ordered to provide a DNA sample to the national databank, was added to the sex offender registry and prohibited from possessing weapons for 10 years.

He was also ordered to stay away from parks, playgrounds, schools, daycares or any other place children under the age of 16 may be present for life. That order also bans him from using computers to communicate with children under 16.


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