Palm Beach Child Pornographers Brandon and David Deyo: Like Father, Like Son?

Dr. Jill Levenson says sexually deviant behavior can be learned.
Dr. Jill Levenson says sexually deviant behavior can be learned.

Capturing the Deyos

In 2003, District Judge Daniel T.K. Hurley sentenced David Deyo, 43, in a Palm Beach County courtroom to a whopping 17½ years in prison. Deyo hadn't murdered or kidnapped anybody; he hadn't robbed a bank at gunpoint -- but the judge threw the book at him. Deyo, he said, was a dangerous pedophile who had abused the trust of vulnerable girls aged 8 to 10 by acting as a "surrogate father" and then molesting them. Deyo, a Jupiter man who occasionally performed at kids' parties as "Noodles the Clown," had befriended single moms with children just to get close to their little girls.

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Last November, Deyo's son Brandon, 21, was charged with five counts of transmitting obscene communications within the state:

Deyo's computer had files of pictures and videos of girls as young as 5 years old being raped. Now in the Palm Beach County Jail awaiting trial, the younger Deyo evidently has a profile similar to his father's. He was recently married and had been evicted from his parents-in-laws house for allegedly molesting his new wife's 6-year-old sister.

Documentary filmmaker Andrew Jareki dealt with the question in his controversial film Capturing the Friedmans: Is pedophilia, or at least a predisposition to sexual deviance, a family affair? Can it be inherited, like a risk-taking gene? Or learned, like other criminal behaviors? Dr. Jill Levenson, an associate professor of Human Services at Lynn University in Boca Raton, who works with sex offenders, says yes and no.

Jesse Friedman on his honeymoon: "Free at Last."EXPAND
Jesse Friedman on his honeymoon: "Free at Last."

"We haven't seen much evidence of a genetic predisposition," Levinson says, "but sexually problematic behavior can certainly be a learned behavior. If sexual abuse is taking place or if a child is aware that the father is involved with children, it can create a model of learned behavior."

Levinson says that children of sex offenders can grow up with the idea that sexual boundaries are pliable and that inappropriate behavior is acceptable. "When a child is abused or exposed to that kind of behavior," she says, "it alters his own perceptions and boundaries and the way he views interpersonal relations. And when kids are exposed to sex at a young age, that gets incorporated into their template, just like drugs and alcohol do when parents are substance abusers."

In Capturing the Friedmans, father Arnold Friedman and his son Jesse are both convicted of molesting children (and in another weird parallel to the Deyo case, Jesse's brother David grows up to work as a well-known children's party clown). As the case unfolded over the years, Jesse publically confessed to Geraldo Rivera that he was molested by his own father (Jesse later retracted this, and although he was released from prison in 2001, he continues to fight his conviction on his website, freejesse.net). Still, it's not much of a leap to imagine that something similar may have happened to the younger Deyo.

Discovery documents in Brandon Deyo's case were released before Christmas; we'll update as info becomes available.


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