Dannyboy is the screen name of a college student who chatted online with Mayor Jim West at Gay.com and had dinner with him. He became reporter Bill Morlin's first source about the mayor's online activities. In this interview, Dannyboy describes his encounter with West and his dealings with The Spokesman-Review. He also discusses some inaccuracies in how the newspaper reported his story. This is an edited transcript of an interview conducted Dec. 7, 2005.
Why are you choosing to remain anonymous for this interview?
I just don't want people to know who I am. Several good friends know what happened, but I just really, for my own good, want to cover myself.
Is it specifically about your involvement with the mayor or just being gay?
Oh, with the mayor. Yeah. I'm totally out.
Tell me the story, if you could, of The Spokesman-Review, when they first approached you and why, and if you could just take me through the sort of major pieces of the story. ...
Last year [The Spokesman-Review] found out of my involvement [with the mayor]. ... They wanted to interview me and just find out the details and stuff like that. ...
... How did the contact between you and the mayor online ... begin, and what was your contact before you went out with him?
I was in Gay.com just talking with some friends, and he instant messaged me, I believe. I don't know if he had a profile or anything. I know he didn't have a picture. I normally don't talk to people that don't have pictures. I usually just keep to friends that are out of town and stuff. [We] just talked a little bit, and then we got to talking about -- the major thing, I think, was cars. His car kind of piqued my interest. And then every once in a while we just had small talk.
And then you went out.
After talking for a while, [we decided] that we'll just go out and have dinner, that type thing. ... We met in a parking lot, and he drove, as the newspaper said. [We] went to the restaurant, no big deal.
Right from the moment that I got into the car, he looked really familiar in a way. ... Then after dinner he threw me the keys. It was a fun sports car, and we just went for a drive. Then halfway through the drive, I asked what he did and stuff like that. ...
Then he asked if he could trust me, and I laughed and said yes, and he said he was the mayor. So then I just kind of went into shutdown, like, oh my gosh, what am I doing? ... The whole time he's just kind of an old, creepy guy, I thought; that's mean to say, but just no one that I would ever be attracted to. So the whole time I really just wanted to get out of the situation. ...
I was still driving, headed back toward the parking lot where we met, and it was just really, really awkward for me. I have no idea what he was thinking. But [we] got to the parking lot, and ... then he just kind of sat there and looked at me, so, again, I was just growing more uncomfortable, and he asked if he could kiss me. ... I figured, well, to get this over with, yeah, that's fine; do it; it's done.
“My experience wasn't predatory. He did initiate talking and things like that, but I don't think he was coming after me.”
So that happened. Then I got in my car, and we said a couple other things, and then -- I don't know how the next part came about; I obviously was stupid the whole night -- but we ended up going to a darker part of the parking lot, ... got out, and, to be frank, just masturbated in the parking lot. I don't think we touched each other. I could be wrong, but I don't think we did. I don't consider that sex, so that's one thing that made me mad about the paper's story. There was no sex of any kind.
Why do you think the paper said you had consensual sex? ...
Obviously two adults, maybe they considered that sex, but I very specifically told the reporter what happened, just like I'm telling you, and a lot of this is on tape. So that's the funny part. I don't know -- just to glorify the story? Obviously he [the reporter] has an agenda or something.
The paper also said that you were 18 at the time that you went out with the mayor. Is that how old you were?
No. I was 20 at the time.
You were 20 when you dated the mayor?
I did not date the mayor.
When you had a date with the mayor.
Yeah, when I went out to dinner. I don't consider it a date.
Did you tell the reporter for The Spokesman-Review your age?
Yes, they knew how old I was. He had to know; just to verify my identity, he had to look at my driver's license. I don't remember if he took a photocopy of it or not, but yeah, they knew very well. That, again, was part of the anonymity thing: I didn't want my name disclosed or where we went and things like that, so I don't know if they just did that to keep me anonymous. ...
... We've interviewed [The Spokesman-Review], and they've told us several times that you were 18 at the time of your date with the mayor. Why would they tell us that?
... I don't know why they'd do that.
Editor's Note: FRONTLINE asked Spokesman-Review reporter Bill Morlin about Dannyboy's age in a follow-up interview. He denied changing Dannyboy's age intentionally.
Did you know that they were going to change your age in the story?
I did not know they were going to change my age.
And have you discussed with them why they did that?
No, I have not. I was so angry the day the story broke out, the first three or four days. The first day I was just angry because I was guaranteed that I'd be able to look over what they were going to put in the paper -- maybe not the whole story, but the parts that I said -- and that never happened. ... The thing that made me militant -- it made me really angry -- was the part about having consensual sex. I was so angry.
Because that's not true. That is completely not true, and the reporter knew that. ...
... Have you contacted them to let them know that they got the story wrong?
At first I was so angry, I was afraid of what I would probably say. ... Another reason I was so angry was because of the fabrication of some of the facts. I was afraid that the people that did know would read it and all of a sudden believe the newspaper and then look at me like I'm a freak or fit the stereotype of a lot of gay people. I was so angry, and then after that I just wanted to put it behind me, just forget about it.
What do you mean, the stereotype of a lot of gay people?
... I just think there are stereotypes that gay people are very sexually active and are predators, and I don't feel like I am. ... I don't want people to think I just randomly go and have sex with people, because I don't. That was what I was worried about. ...
... Do you think it was necessary to make you two years younger? Did that help conceal your identity?
I don't know. I think that was part of their agenda. A lot of what I think they're saying or trying to put out there is that he is predatory toward younger people. So making me barely legal, I think, had some hidden meanings and thoughts behind it. ...
... Did [the mayor] know how old you were?
And why do you think he was interested in meeting someone so much younger than him?
I have no idea.
Did you get the sense he was only interested in sex?
Not really. I'm sure it was on his mind, but I didn't think that was his whole motive.
Did he push or pressure you to have sex with him?
Not really. ... I pretty much made it clear I was not interested. ...
Did he offer you gifts or promises of jobs?
Boast about his job in any way?
No. The only time it came up was when he said he was the mayor. That's what surprised me when I read the newspaper, seeing the different people involved, that he did offer them positions or money or things like that. That never came up in any contact. ...
... What was your impression of him?
Online or in person?
Online, I just figured, businessperson that wanted to somewhat remain anonymous, ... obviously high-profile job or something. Nice, down-to-earth. And then in person, just a creepy old guy. ...
... After the initial contact, [the paper] asked you to contact the mayor again online?
... They didn't want me to go out for dinner again or anything like that. They just said see what happens if you do see him online.
... Did the mayor try to pursue contact with you after that [night]?
I think at first, but I just ignored him. ... Online, if he'd ever try and talk to me, I wouldn't say anything until months afterwards.
People have described the mayor's behavior as predatory. Would you describe the mayor's behavior toward you as predatory?
I don't think it was predatory. He got lucky. I don't know. I was young, dumb. ... My experience wasn't predatory. He did initiate talking and things like that, but I don't think he was coming after me. ...
SUPPORT PROVIDED BY
NEXT ON FRONTLINERaising Adam LanzaEncore PresentationDecember 10th