The AP wires are humming today with news that Brian Doyle, former deputy press secretary for the Department of Homeland Security, has been sentenced. Doyle was caught sending sexually explicit messages to Sheriff's deputies posing as a 14-year-old girl named Ashlynne, for which he has been sentenced to five years in prison, ten years of probation, and a lifetime of sex-offender registration. Doyle apologized for his actions in court:
“I am profoundly sorry for everything. How I feel inside can't be described,” Doyle told Circuit Judge J. Dale Durrance. – AP
“I know what I did was heinous,” he said. “I know I deserve some punishment.” His life is in ruins now, he said. “My face has been seen across the world as a predator.”
Durrance told him it was clear that he had done a lot of good for people in his life, that he was a generous and kind person and he had endured a difficult upbringing. However, Durrance said, “You will not be treated differently than any other person.” – TheLedger.com
Come on, judge. He's already going to prison – no need to smother him in bullshit as well. He won't be treated differently than any other sex offender, certainly, but nonetheless his sentence is life-long.
Why do I care? Because I used to work with Brian Doyle. Before joining Homeland Security, Doyle worked the news desk at Time Magazine's Washington D.C. bureau, where I interned in the summer of 2001. Doyle, a former sports writer, was quick with a one-liner or anecdote, and I remember looking up to him as the sort of journalist I hoped to become, more so than anyone else in Time's D.C. Bureau. 'Twas an interesting summer to be there for two reasons–Chandra Levy, and the AOL-TimeWarner merger.
With mergers come cutbacks. In June 2001 journalismjobs.com's layoff tracker warned that Time Magazine was expected to lay off 38 staff in both editorial and business. In order to minimize damages, anyone over age 50 was offered a decent compensation package. Doyle, just over the line, accepted. By summer's end he was gone, no longer to shout “Gesundheit!” any time anyone throughout the office could be overheard to sneeze.
Doyle's attorney made note of his client's penchant for occasional depression, possibly caused by a traumatic childhood thanks to a violent drunk father. It's also reasonable to speculate that it's incredibly depressing to quit a critical D.C. bureau of a major news organization within months of September 11, 2001–especially when that departure was your choice.
Also, I can't imagine how depressing it must be to work as a spokesman for Homeland Security. Michael Hampton, proprietor of HomelandStupidity.com and usually an eager critic of all aspects of the organization, actually stepped up in defense of Doyle:
As I have said before, this sort of sting operation skirts very close to the line between catching real criminals and entrapment, and in my opinion, crosses the line. Doyle has done nothing here except engage in a fantasy, something many people do. Under Florida law, however, this thought crime will get you thrown in prison. Florida doesn't require there to be an actual victim in such cases.
The crime is victimless, to be true, but it's still a crime, isn't it? Hampton is troubled by the potential for entrapment in this situation–Doyle didn't seduce a 14-year-old girl, he discussed and exchanged sexually explicit material with a cop looking to bust sex offenders.
All I can say is this: if any major news happens around here any time soon, we could be in trouble. All those staffers from the Register or LA Times who take a buyout or are just laid off thanks to recent cutbacks could suffer similar depression, and who knows how they'll act out?