December 14, 2021

2021: The Stories That Got Away

by Crime Show

Background show artwork for Crime Show

Every Crime Show story starts with a pitch. But, for one reason or another, not every pitch turns into a Crime Show story. This week the whole team sits down with Emma to talk about their favorite pitches that never got made.

Where to Listen

Transcript

Emma Courtland: Hey Daniel, could you bring up some airplane sounds?


Daniel Ramirez: Yeah, of course.


[Sound of prop plane starting]


Emma: No, sorry. I mean inside the plane sounds. Just like the sound of that pressurized air circulation, you know?


Daniel: Yeah. How's that?


[Sound of airplane cabin]


Emma: That's perfect. Okay, so the story I wanna tell you is about an 11-hour flight from Buenos Aires to New York City, and specifically one business-class passenger. The man seated in 10-B.


Emma: 10-B was a white guy in his 50s. Picture a Wall Street-type in the '90s. Just a very normal-looking guy who has money. But almost immediately, the flight attendants knew they were gonna have to keep an eye on him because before the plane had even left the ground, 10-B had already pounded two glasses of champagne and then tried to pour himself a third—from an empty bottle. This, the crew knew, from their training and experience, was a sign that 10-B might give them a little trouble. But the trouble they got from 10-B was way more than any of them had been trained to handle. What happened on board United Airlines Flight 976 would come to be known as the shittiest case of air rage in history.


Emma: Okay, so what's air rage? Smash-cut to the archival.


[ARCHIVE CLIP: Don't you dare touch him! Don't you dare touch him!]


Emma: Um, this is a cell phone video taken aboard a flight from Sacramento to San Diego. And even without seeing it, you can hear how chaotic this is. Here we have a female passenger punching a female flight attendant in the face. There have been a lot of these videos posted to YouTube lately with a lot of comments about how awful these people are, how badly they behave. But air rage is not just aggressive behavior. It's a special kind of rabid mania that, as far as anyone can tell, seems to be triggered by a mix of, well, some kind of substance—generally alcohol—and stress. Which could be anything: fear of closed spaces, fear of flying, anger about having to wear masks. Class anxiety seems to be a big one, apparently.


Emma: Pretty much as long as there have been commercial airplanes, there have been cases of air rage. There have just been a lot more of them recently. But back in 1995, the man in 10-B put them all to shame. All right Daniel, bring the airplane sounds back up.


[Sound of airplane cabin]


Emma: Over the next six hours things would continue to escalate. According to court documents, 10-B would go on to assault one of the flight attendants. And, fueled by another two glasses of wine, push his way into the first class cabin, pull down his pants, defecate on the food cart and then lock himself in a bathroom. I should say, in case it isn't clear, all of this is unlawful. But because it happens in the sky, it is also a federal offense.


Emma: So obviously, food service is canceled. The smell is overwhelming. People are genuinely freaked out about getting hepatitis. And there's still four hours left in this flight. So the pilot radios down to the ground and asks for permission to make an emergency landing.


Emma: But get this: when the people at ground control check the passenger log, they say no, you can not land until you reach your destination because the president of Portugal is on board, and apparently it's a security risk to make unscheduled landings when you have a head of state on board. So they have to fly the rest of the way to New York, and figure out how to get this guy, who has barricaded himself in the bathroom, back into his seat.


Emma: Ultimately, someone realizes that one of his colleagues is also on the flight. So they tap her to see if she can calm him down and coax him out of the bathroom. And I think this is the moment that actually drew me to the story.


Emma: When 10-B emerges, he is covered in his own feces. He's smeared it all over himself, and all over the walls of the bathroom. One of the flight attendants says, "There is shit everywhere." And this colleague just very calmly takes his poop-covered hand and escorts him back to their seats where he falls asleep like a little kid after a tantrum, and doesn't wake up until they've landed at JFK, where 10-B—this man who has never before been charged with a crime and would never be again—was greeted and arrested by the FBI.


Emma: I'm Emma Courtland. And this time on Crime Show, we're doing something a little different. The whole team is here in person in a studio together for the very first time.


Daniel: And me.


Emma: Yes, including our sound engineer, Daniel. Because today, for our last episode of the year, we are pulling back the curtain. We're sharing the most incredible stories that we pitched to each other, but for one reason or another weren't able to share with you—at least not in the normal Crime Show way.


Emma: So Daniel, cue the music,


Emma: Hey, we're back! And we're recording in a studio! Which is crazy because for the past year, the show's been recorded in a corner of my bedroom! And the whole team is here, including our producers. Cat Schuknecht.


Cat Schuknecht: Hey, everyone.


Emma: Jerome Campbell.


Jerome Campbell: Hello!


Emma: Our supervising producer, Mitch Hansen.


Mitch Hansen: Hello.


Emma: And our associate producer, Jade Abdul-Malik.


Jade Abdul-Malik: Hey from Georgia! Whoop whoop!


Emma: Jade is actually joining us remotely from her home in Georgia. But yeah, these are the people that make Crime Show. And the reason we're here is because it's the end of the year, and we were looking back at all the stuff we've done, and we realized we actually have a lot of great stories that we didn't tell you.


Cat: Yeah because we kill so many of our stories.


Emma: It's only because we have such high standards!


Cat: That's true.


Jerome: But today we're gonna lower those standards.


Emma: You're gonna get to know the team, and hear our favorite episodes that never were. Which for me, was that story was about the man in 10-B and his shitty, shitty case of air rage. But Jerome, you were the one who—producer Jerome Campbell—you were the one that had tried to chase these things down?


Jerome: Yeah. Yeah, I remember—yeah, I just remember, like, as we were, you know, trying to track these people down, so many of them were dead. It was the other woman ...


Emma: Jerome, it was like you were sending me one obituary after another, and it was just like—it was like playing that game "Guess Who?" where, like, the faces just go down, down, down, down. And, like, all that was left was that one flight attendant whose name we knew.


Jerome: And we were just, like, trying to figure out like, okay, maybe we can bring in an expert or, like, we can, like, track someone else down on the flight or, like, try to, you know, see who else we could bring into this story. And, like, at some point, it just becomes too piecemeal to try to make work.


Emma: And we didn't have that emotional proximity then, you know? Then it was a bunch of spectators who had, like, seen something crazy. But I think that the thing that had really spoken to us was that this person when they woke up that morning, in all likelihood did not know that when the day ended that they were going to be arrested by the FBI, that they were going to be picked up by the FBI, and that their name would be all over the news.


Jerome: Yeah, like, if we can't talk to him or anyone else connected to the story, why even tell it?


Mitch: Can I ask, is the president of Portugal at least still alive, or is he dead too?


Jerome: Actually, I didn't go looking for it. [laughs] But now I wonder, like, would he have had anything to say?


Cat: I'd love to be his press person getting that request. [laughs]


Emma: That's so funny. Okay, okay, okay. Yeah, so we've got some stories to get through. Who's going first?


Jerome: I'm going first.


Emma: Jerome, for those of you listening at home, was the producer behind "The Myspace Misdemeanor."


Jerome: And many others.


Emma: Okay, so do you wanna pitch me?


Jerome: Sure. So I don't know if you remember, but there was this time in late 2016 when huge major corners of the internet essentially shut down. You couldn't get on Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Netflix, major news publications. And it was all due to this cyberattack, this bot, if you will, that was pretty much jamming up all the internet traffic in America. And I remember that day because I was unplugging and replugging in my router because I was, I think, probably trying to binge Scandal or something like that. And it just wasn't working, and it turned out that it was something of a national security concern. And so as the FBI and NSA are looking into it, they're thinking that it's some massive hacking attack on the US, which it's 2016, so that's really scary because the presidential election's coming up. And there's also news of similar attacks in other parts of the globe, like Southeast Asia and South America.


Emma: Pause. I love that this is a national security issue, and your first instinct is, "Am I the source of the problem?" [laughs]


Jerome: Well okay, so context. Because the thing is, you gotta, like, think like in the movies, there's like some guy in a war room, like, you know, all like, "What the hell's going on with the internet?" And I'm sitting at home being like, "Oh my God, like, the next episode of Scandal is coming out and I'm trying to watch it before my friends. I'm trying to watch it before, like, so when I show up to work on Monday, like, I'm able to be, like, caught up and be a part of the water cooler talk.


Emma: So you don't get left out. Okay, unpause.


Jerome: But what it actually turned out to be was that this attack was homegrown on American soil by three college-aged gamers. And this bot called Mirai that was pretty much attacking everything was something that these three gamers developed as a way to bully people on the video game Minecraft.


Emma: [laughs]


Jerome: So before we get into this Emma, do you know what Minecraft is?


Emma: I mean, I know it's a video game.


Jerome: Okay, good start. It's a world building game.


Emma: Sort of like The Sims.


Jerome: Sort of. Because in The Sims you build within a world, but in Minecraft, you build the world itself.


Emma: So I don't really understand what any of this means, but I'll just shut up for now.


Jerome: Well, it's fine because all you really need to know is that within Minecraft there's a lot of money to be made. Hundreds of thousands of dollars.


Emma: Real dollars?


Jerome: Yes, real American dollars. And the way that it works is that these worlds that people are building on Minecraft are huge and heavily trafficked, so you can't just store them on your computer like a Sims save file. They live on the web, and you have to pay to do that. So these three gamers realized that they can take advantage of it. Because people wanted to put their games on the fastest servers because gamers are, let's be honest, they're impatient. They don't to wait around for their games to load. They want to be playing as fast as possible. So this bot that they created—Mirai bot—they sicced the program on certain gaming servers to make the game so unbearably slow that they could control which servers were viable to use.


Emma: So are the servers—are servers paying for Mirai bot services? Like, where does the money come from? How are these guys making money with ...?


Jerome: Well, this is where it gets, like, a little shady. So they have this—like, their own sort of mitigation service.


Emma: All right. And just explain what a mitigation service is.


Jerome: It's like a company that sort of helps you fight off cyberattacks that are attacking you or whatever internet services that you have online.


Emma: Mm-hmm.


Jerome: And so these same guys are making a mitigation server saying, "Hey, it's a pretty dangerous world out here for—you know, for servers. Well, you know, if you pay us some money, we'll provide you a level of mitigation." You might say, "Nah, that's okay. Like, I think I can handle it." They slam you then with Mirai bot and then you turn around and go, "Okay, maybe I should pay the money."


Emma: Oh my God, It's like the Mafia! Okay, so then what happens?


Jerome: So this bot is getting bigger and bigger in the world of Minecraft. So big that there's a cybersecurity reporter who notices it and reports about it. And then the FBI and the NSA catch wind of it. And with all this public attention, these gamers start getting nervous, and they realize that they are potentially about to get in a lot of trouble because, in case it wasn't already clear, what they are doing is not legal. So they decide they need to throw investigators off from finding them, and they did something that honestly, was really smart for them to do but really sucked for the rest of us: they posted the code of Mirai online for anyone to get a hold of. And their reasoning? If anyone has it, well, no one can trace it back to them. Which does make a lot of sense. But of course, it totally backfires. And once the code was out on the open internet, people of course started finding it and using it. Not just against Minecraft servers, they use it on everything. Other hackers were using the code to hit servers across the globe. One of those attacks even locked the country of Liberia out of access to the internet for an entire day. And then there were people like me who couldn't get online that day.


Emma: Which is why you couldn't watch Scandal. Pobrecito!


Jerome: [laughs] I know. Poor me. But what was interesting was that even though they essentially brought down the internet, they almost got away with it, except that cybersecurity journalist from before? He spent months combing through the code and found the coders had actually left a tag—a user tag—that could be traced back to them. And once he found that, well, game over for these guys.


Emma: Har har har. [laughs] Sorry! All right. So Jerome, do you want to talk about, like, what was it about this story that drew you to it? I mean, like, do you play Minecraft?


Jerome: No. Actually, when I look at Minecraft, I really don't—I really don't get it. I really don't get it.


Cat: But you do game, right?


Jerome: Oh, yeah. Definitely. I definitely game. I mean, so, like, it was like—and I think that's part of the thing that brought me to this story. Like, I love a gamer story just because gaming, it's, like, super interesting, something that, like, a lot of people do, and I never really thought that there'd be a crime related to it. But I think the other thing is that when I think about crime, I'm always—like, crime always feels really personal. It feels like, you know, you know who the victim is, you know who the perpetrator is. And there's, like, some sort of relationship between the two. And, like, cybercrimes in themselves can feel impersonal because we don't know who's on the other side of the computer, but the effects of it can feel so personal.


Emma: Yeah. And I do feel like we're always trying to look to these spaces that are kind of like intersections. You know, intersections between health and crime, but like, this one—games, which are like the most frivolous thing in the world, and then crime, which is, like, the most serious thing in the world, felt like a really exciting place to be digging. But do you want to talk about why we couldn't do the story?


Jerome: So, yeah. So the reason we didn't end up doing this story was a little—well, it was surprising to me. So when the FBI brings these people to court and they get brought before the judge, these three gamers get very scared and they throw themselves at the mercy of the court. And the FBI goes, "Aha, we have these guys who have created one of the most dangerous internet attacks at the time. Let's use them." And they construct a deal that includes community service. And it's not reading books for the elderly, it's not picking up trash on the side of the highway. They work with these guys to essentially solve other cybercrimes.


Emma: Like Catch Me If You Can.


Jerome: Essentially, yeah.


Emma: Yeah.


Jerome: And when I reached out to the FBI to, you know, talk to the investigators and hopefully talk to these guys, they said, essentially, we can't talk to these people because all that work is tied up behind the wall of working with the FBI.


Emma: Yeah. So the story of what they'd done is now tied up with this top secret work they're doing for the government.


Jerome: Yeah.


Emma: Yeah. Well, I'm glad we get to tell it this way.


Jerome: Mm-hmm. Yeah. Got to share that with people. I mean, otherwise we'd probably be dealing with heavy internet traffic still.


Emma: [laughs] You'd never get to watch Scandal again.


Jerome: [sighs] The true crime.


Emma: Nicely done!


Emma: Okay, who's next?


Cat: I'll go.


Emma: This is producer Cat Schuknecht. She produced our "Ruby Slippers" episode.


Cat: Yep. And I also did "A Man with No Name" about a very harrowing incident of amnesia. But today, I brought for you the very first story I pitched to you, Emma, when I was just a brand new hire. And Crime Show hadn't even launched. We didn't even exist. We were trying to imagine what the show was gonna sound like. And I went back and reread this pitch from a year ago, and it's so clear that I'm very desperate to impress. [laughs] It is very earnest, and I gave it a title—which we don't normally do, but the title sounds like the title of a David Bowie song.


Emma: Let's hear it.


Cat: All right. This is "The Man Who Stole Sound."


Emma: [singing] The man who stole the sound! [laughs]


Cat: So this story starts with a man named J. David Goldin. A retired radio engineer with a handlebar mustache and a life-long passion for restoring and protecting sound. Specifically, sounds that were broadcast on the radio. The older and the more rare the better. Like, for example, this original master copy of a recording of Babe Ruth talking not about baseball, but about hunting quail. And I just realized I need to plug in, probably.


Emma: Oh, here.


Mitch: Oh, that's the HDMI.


Jerome: Oh, no, no. That's the USB.


Mitch: Oh, is it?


Jerome: Do you want the HDMI?


Cat: USB is good, I think.


Jerome: Let's see if I did this right.


Mitch: Oh, everybody is echoing.


Jerome: No I didn't.


Emma: This is our first time in the studio in case anybody was confused.


Cat: Yeah, today we learned how to record.


Jerome: Oh, you're right. Flex.


Emma: [laughs]


Jerome: It says "Flex." But also flex.


Cat: All right, all right, all right. Okay, actually this genuinely is not working.


Emma: Okay, do you want to just do an impression of it?


Cat: Yeah, it's not worth it. Okay. So in this recording, Babe Ruth is out hunting in New Jersey, and he says, "The early bird gets the worm, and I love worms." Oh, that was so embarrassing.


Emma: Okay, so we're definitely gonna use it. Okay, so he loves Babe Ruth.


Cat: Yes. And this recording of Babe Ruth is, as you can imagine, super rare. In fact, it might be the only available copy. Which made it just the kind of thing that Goldin would have normally loved to add to his personal collection. So when Goldin saw this recording pop up for sale on eBay in 2010, he should have been totally thrilled. But he wasn't. Because Goldin had already added this very recording in his collection years and years ago before donating it to the National Archives for safekeeping. Which begged the question: why was it up for sale on eBay?


Cat: So Goldin contacted the National Archives to ask them to please not sell his donations. And this is the moment that our mustachioed friend inadvertently triggered an investigation into one of the biggest thefts in National Archives history. Because, see, the Archives hadn't sold the Babe Ruth recording—it had been stolen.


[suspenseful music]


Cat: Thanks, Daniel.


Cat: And once the archivists started looking around, they realized it wasn't the only one. Also missing was an original recording of the 1948 World Series. And this super rare recording of an eyewitness account of the Hindenburg explosion as it was happening!


Emma: I've heard that one. It's like, that's the one with the journalist going, "Oh, the humanity!"


Cat: Yup. That's the one. So the feds launched this big investigation, and they discovered something that would shake the archivist community to the core.


Cat: Okay, Daniel. This is gonna be the big twist.


Emma: Bom bom bom!


Cat: Nailed it! [laughs] We don't even need Daniel.


Emma: No, I know, right? Okay, twist.


Cat: Okay, so in the end, it turned out that the person behind the theft was actually someone Goldin knew—a man named Leslie Waffen, the very same National Archives employee he'd donated the Babe Ruth recording to in the first place.


Emma: So Cat, what you're saying is that this was an inside job?


Cat: It was an inside job. But Leslie Waffen wasn't just some low-level employee. He was the chief of the National Archives' Motion Picture, Sound and Video Recording Branch of the Special Media Archives Services Division.


Emma: What?


Cat: Which is just to say that he was a big deal, high-level employee who'd been with the archives for about four decades. And he eventually admitted to stealing around at least a thousand recordings from the archives.


Mitch: Hey Cat. Crime Show supervising producer Mitch Hansen here.


Cat: Hello, Mitch.


Mitch: What is he stealing, exactly? I know it's sound, but what's the physical—what do they look like?


Cat: Yeah. So a lot of these are, like, old vinyl, shellac and lacquer discs, which Waffen took home and stored in boxes and boxes in the basement of his home in Maryland.


Emma: So he just kept them.


Cat: Yeah. Yeah, I mean, so he sold some of them on eBay. But yeah, many of them he just kept. Some for like 10 years until he was caught. And in the end, he was hit with a big fine and sentenced to 18 months in prison, followed by two years of supervised release. But the big question I was left with—and I think everyone was left with—was why did he do this? Why would someone who has access to all these sounds at work feel the need to take them home?


Emma: Yeah. And that's one of the things that makes this story so appealing for our show, right? Like, there's this guy with this really weird, nebulous motivation that's so alluring to us where we're going after—when we're trying to figure out which stories to tell. So what's the answer? Why did he do it?


Cat: Well, we don't know. Unfortunately, we could not get Leslie Waffen. I called, I emailed, I wrote him a letter, but he never got back to us. Which happens. Of course, we could have done the story without him. I talked to J. David Goldin, and we could have interviewed the feds, but we just felt like without the answer to that burning question, we couldn't do the story justice.


Emma: So why do you think you did it?


Cat: Yeah. So there are a couple of things that jumped out to me. You know, I reviewed all the court records. The first thing is, to me, it does not seem like this guy was doing it for money. You know, Emma, that Babe Ruth recording? He sold it on eBay for $34.


Emma: $34. This guy was not doing this for money.


Cat: Yeah, it didn't seem to be about the money. And there was something else: I read through his sentencing hearing, and at one point Leslie Waffen gets up in front of the judge and he talks about how his interest in sound had evolved into an obsession, which is something that I completely understand. You know, obviously, this is a horrible, horrible theft, one of the worst in National Archives history. But there's something about, I think as a lover of sound, there was something really relatable about the desire to possess it. That there's something about these original master recordings that captured sound in real time, that getting to be near them is like it's a closeness to the past that you can't achieve in many other ways.


Emma: I think it's like the closest thing that we have, in a way that a photograph isn't, in a way that a video isn't, that it's frozen time. You know, it's ...


Cat: Right.


Emma: Yeah. And when I say "Frozen," I mean, it's like it is still a moment that's moving.


Cat: Yes.


Emma: Yeah.


Cat: You know, I talked actually to J. David Goldin about this, and he also collects sound. And, you know, he described it as like, you know, you can look at a photograph of the Sistine Chapel, and it's incredible.


Emma: Mm-Hmm.


Cat: But there is a feeling of being near it that is, you know, incomparable.


Emma: I think it's like it's not just that they're the only ones that exist, it's that they could never be remade.


Cat: Right. And it existed—like, the breath came out of their bodies to create that sound.


Emma: Yeah.


Cat: And, you know, one thing that Leslie Waffen mentioned in his sentencing memorandum was that his wife had died a number of years ago, which was a long time before he did these thefts. And I don't know, you know, how related it was to the theft. But as someone who has also lost people like so many of us have, I feel like there's something really beautiful about—like, I have recordings of my dad's voice, and that is such a connection to someone who isn't there, and I wonder if he—if that was a way of trying to maintain control and connection to the past. That got heavy! Oops. [laughs]


Emma: Thanks, Cat.


Cat: Thanks, Emma.


Emma: All right. We have one more story to share, so stick around. We'll be right back.


[00:26:54.20]***


Jade: Testing, testing. Mic check. I feel so powerful. Oh. Oh, I don't like this! It's my karaoke mic.


Emma: This is Jade Abdul-Malik. She is our associate producer and resident Zoomer, which is how we're able to stay so relevant.


Jerome: Wait. You have a personal karaoke mic?


Jade: Yeah. Like, you don't?


Jerome: Okay, Jade. What is your go-to karaoke song?


Jade: Oh, my go-to karaoke song? "Burning Up" by The Jonas Brothers.


Emma: How does that one go, Jade? I don't think I know that one.


Jerome: Classy, classy.


Jade: [singing] I'm hot.


Jerome: She's ready.


Jade: [singing] You're cold.


Jerome: Oh, and on-pitch!


Jade: [singing] You go around. And you know.


Jerome: Oh, she's got vibrato!


Jade: Come on. Look, I am still nine years old in my head, okay?


Jerome: I was just gonna say that was a very solid performance.


Jade: Thank you.


Emma: Okay. Okay, Jade. Let's go. Let's do it, girl.


Jade: Okay, let me press record on my phone and my Audacity thing. All right. Cool.


Emma: Okay, so in the interest of full transparency, Jade is the only one of us that's actually not in the studio. She's at home in—where are you, Jade?


Jade: I'm in Clarkston, Georgia.


Emma: I feel myself getting a little antsy about this already because I know the story that you're gonna pitch and I—and it's not an easy one.


Jade: It sucks.


Emma: Yeah, it sucks. So let's just rip that Band-aid off. Jade, do you want to just tell a story?


Jade: Yeah, let's do that. So this is a story about a counselor and a camper. One morning years ago, a family dropped off their four-year-old son for his first day of summer camp. So picture, you know, a regular summer camp with all the fixings. We're talking games, crafts, sports. And like a lot of summer camps, the counselors were mostly young adults. The one in this story was 18 years old. And the place where he would cross paths with the camper was in the deep end of a swimming pool.


Emma: Oh God, I'm already bracing myself.


Jade: Yeah. So it was later that day, and a bunch of the campers were in a big swimming pool, just swimming around, having fun. And the counselors were also splashing around with them. And one of the campers was the four-year-old boy, and one of the counselors was the 18-year-old teenager.


Emma: And remind me: the four year old didn't actually know how to swim, right?


Jade: Exactly. He did not know how to swim at all. In fact, in an earlier swim test that day, counselors had given him a swim test and determined that the camper should not swim in the deep end of the pool at all. But I guess the 18-year-old counselor didn't know that because, according to reports, he was roughhousing with the four year old, dunking him under the water not just once or twice, but 12 times. And at some point, the counselor swam away from the four-year-old boy and he was left alone in the water.


Emma: Wait, so there weren't even other kids in the pool?


Jade: No. No, he was—he was just unattended in that area of the pool where, unbeknownst to everyone around him, he was struggling to stay afloat. Eventually, according to surveillance footage, the boy lost that struggle and floated face down in the water for over eight minutes. In those eight minutes, other camp counselors were swimming with other campers and lifeguards were distracted, and by the time someone noticed, the little boy was dead.


Emma: Yeah, wow. It's just so awful. I hate this.


Jade: I know it's the hardest thing to think about and a parent's worst nightmare. I mean, can you imagine that family expecting to pick their child up that day, his very first day of camp, and instead getting a call that there's been an accident?


Emma: I mean, yeah, it's unthinkable. Do you want to talk about what they did with those feelings?


Jade: Yeah. I mean, so the whole thing here is you've got this small child and a counselor who has been entrusted with his care. And by all accounts, there was some dereliction of duty—somebody screwed up. And from this family's perspective, they wanted justice. So they tried to get the state to pursue criminal charges. But the state decided not to, deciding I guess that was just an accident.


Emma: So it was never deemed a crime.


Jade: Yeah, it was never deemed a crime. And that's one of the things I found interesting about this, how this terrible tragedy occurred and how one side felt certain that a crime had occurred, but how, absent those charges, it was considered simply an accident.


Emma: I mean, it was an accident, but I still understand that instinct to want to pursue something, I don't know, more severe because this family is facing the worst thing that could possibly happen to you, and an experience like that throws the universe out of alignment. And sometimes it feels like the only thing that can correct that imbalance is equally extreme action. And criminal charges seem like they are the only legally-acceptable form of extreme retribution like that. But even then, like, there's nothing that can rebalance harm like that. So where did that leave the family?


Jade: Yeah, so they ended up filing a civil lawsuit against the camp, and they won $16 million, but they didn't get any kind of judgment against the counselor who, mind you, was only 18 years old. Which is to say, you know, he's technically an adult, but definitely still a kid. And that idea that this kid carried the guilt of that accident is a big part of what drew me to this story.


Emma: Yeah. I know you have a pretty special connection to this story. Do you want to unpack that a little bit?


Jade: I mean, yeah. I was a camp counselor once. And of course, it was fun and wonderful and all those things. But I have—I've had close calls as a camp counselor, and losing someone's child under my responsibility, under my care, it's painful to think about. And so this story kind of—it was jarring to realize that this was a nightmare that became a reality for this family and that counselor.


Emma: And I guess just to sort of wrap it up, why weren't we able to do this story?


Jade: So in a lot of these stories that we've talked about for this episode, a lot of our producers weren't able to talk to their sources to begin with, but I had the opportunity to talk to both the counselor and the camper's father. And they agreed to talk about the story, but we chose not to pursue this story for a different reason. I realized that, although the counselor was ready to be a part of this healing journey for the camper's family, the camper's family was still at the very same place emotionally and mentally when they found out that their son was gone. They were still in that same place of trauma and loss. And I wanted to respect both parties, both the counselor and the camper's family. So I decided personally not to pursue this story.


Emma: Yeah, I think you made the right call.


Jade: Yeah.


Emma: We never want to cause more harm with the stories that we are telling, and this felt like it was so raw that we actually had the potential to be hurting, reharming these people by talking about it.


Jade: Absolutely. Yeah. The risk was too high. So it was a good—a good choice not to do it.


Emma: You're a good counselor, Jade.


Jade: Thank you, Emma.


Emma: All right. All right. I hope you enjoyed this little peek behind the curtain, and if you didn't, that's cool too! We'll be back with a bunch of new episodes starting January 25th. Until then, thank you for listening, and happy new year.


Emma: Crime Show is a Spotify original podcast and Gimlet production. Crime Show is produced by me, Emma Courtland, along with Jerome Campbell, Cat Schuknecht and Jade Abdul-Malik. Our supervising producer is Mitch Hansen. Production oversight by Collin Campbell. Fact checking by Nicole Pasulka.


Emma: Crime Show's editor and unspoken hero is Devon Taylor. She refused to get on the mic this year, but rest assured Devon, we'll get you next year.


Emma: Theme song by So Wylie, mixing and sound design by Daniel Ramirez, original music by So Wylie and Dara Hirsh.