Jailbait

How does a 65-year-old behavioral biologist explain being exposed as an Internet masher hot for 15-year-old girls?

Jailbait is the first installment in "Perversion in Paradise," a New Times Series

Sex has come a long way since it was about a man climbing on top of his wife once a week. For some reason, in South Florida, the physical act of love in all its forms multiplies and mutates like the flora and fauna of our subtropical climate. A world center of porn. A shrine to the human body. A patchwork of kinky suburban bedroom communities. If it's being done to human erogenous zones, it's being done here. And as your friends and neighbors explore new sexual horizons, they push against society's boundaries in fascinating ways. Over the next several weeks, New Times looks at the darker corners of sex in South Florida in an occasional series. This week, Staff Writer Sam Eifling interviews Jim Welles, a Pompano Beach man who was caught in an Internet sting after he arranged to meet what he thought was a 15-year-old girl. Overnight, Welles became the country's laughingstock. And, Eifling wonders — how does someone go on after he's been labeled the nation's most clueless sex pervert?


JIM WELLES HAS WRITTEN a movie script, but don't expect Hollywood studios to come knocking on his door anytime soon. For one thing, the characters in this urban police drama are mostly two-dimensional. The cops are so crooked, they couldn't walk a straight line. The reporters are cynical SOBs, saying things like, "If a story isn't completely accurate, that's secondary. If we ruin somebody's life, that's his problem." The script certainly doesn't have a happy ending.

But it deserves a read — for sheer novelty. The protagonist, a 50-year-old cyber-hedonist named Fred Wilson, is the only character with a little depth. He's a complex man with an eye for moral ambiguities. Of course, it's the Wilson character who hamstrings the script's production prospects. He gets arrested on his way to meet an underaged girl he befriended online and spends the next 50 or so pages trying to avoid a five-year prison term for soliciting a minor.

"The problem I have, of course," Welles says, "is people don't like the idea of trying to make a potential child predator an object of sympathy."

That is, Welles patterned the protagonist too closely after himself.


So dramatic writing isn't Welles' forte. He's an academician by trade, an Ivy-educated teacher by training, and a pianist by hobby, though to encounter him today, you might suspect that he runs a yacht charter. He favors collared tennis shirts, which complement his tall, broad-shouldered frame. His head is full of shiny teeth and topped by light hair combed even and high, like a pompadour of guitar strings. He looks damned good for 65.

His story is, after a decade or so of free-for-all chat on the Internet, a familiar one.

"We see it on TV all the time," Welles says. "There's a dirty old man, he's horny, he's on the Internet, he's looking to score with a girl who's underage. He's chatting with her, and he talks sex, he gets crude, he gets direct, and it turns out he's really talking to a cop. He goes to meet her — boom — he gets arrested."

In reality, things are a little more complicated than that, Welles insists. "Nobody ever asked me who introduced the topic of sex into the conversation. They just assumed I did."

The probable-cause affidavit, filed by a Lantana Police Department detective, Todd Dwyer, describes how the relationship unfolded. In October 2002, JWelles103 messaged him in a chatroom. Dwyer claimed to be Kelley, a girl of 15, about five-foot-three, maybe 118 pounds, into music and sports, with a little sexual experience but still a virgin. The old man offered to tutor her in tennis, biology, or singing.

In all, they corresponded about 20 times.

The transcripts contain some naughty stuff. He wrote that he could get off on her bod. He told her that an orgasm was the greatest thing in the world. He said she could sit on his lap. He explained that oral sex is when the guy's partner sucks him off. He told her to keep any sex with him secret.

He also invited her to come to the Hot Jazz Society. He advised her to go to college and meet a nice investment banker type. He gave her tips on geometry. She asked him for pornography, and he replied that he didn't have any.

"i know your used to women I hope u think im pretty and not just a kid," she wrote. "im very mature for my age."

"I hope you're pretty too and my interest in you is very adult," he replied. "I got that impression from speaking with you."

"u mean we could do adult stuff like get off on each other like you said."

"I sure hope so," he wrote. "I'd like to, but you have to be comfortable with it."

"thats why we have to go slow and talk more," Kelley wrote.

He sent her an e-mail on Halloween that read in part: "I'm getting scareder and scareder as the moment of decision nears. I hope you will understand and not be crushed if I don't bring you back here. If it were just you and me, I'm sure I would, but it's you, me and the state of Florida looming in the background."

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