the predator

Lately things haven’t been right behind the scenes at The Redemption Project. In fact, there have been days when things seemed like they couldn’t be more wrong.

Beginning with the “disappearance” on July 27 of evidence that was to have been provided to me to confirm the allegations of the mysterious informant I had been calling “Deep Throat,” I’ve been living with a growing sick feeling in my stomach that we have been played and taken advantage of.

Stephen Sydebotham had claimed to be in possession of photographs and audio recordings which would prove beyond all doubt that the Deep Throat allegations he was providing to us were true. But the evidence never got into my hands. There had been a full week of frustrating delays, supposedly caused by technical difficulties created by cyber-attacks. Audio recordings were e-mailed to me, but the voices in them were electronically modified and there were puzzling inconsistencies in the content.

Based on Stephen’s word, I had scheduled a Friday afternoon interview with a child sex trafficking investigator at Homeland Security to arrange for the turning over of this evidence as required by law. On the morning of the scheduled interview, Stephen called and said, “We have a problem.” The file with all the evidence in it had been stolen, he said.

How convenient, I thought. As I discussed this strange turn with colleagues who have known Stephen longer than I have, we discovered many inconsistencies in the stories he had been telling us all along. We realized that Stephen had continually mediated contacts between us in such a way that we would have limited opportunities to compare notes.

One of the first things I did was to send James Prindle a postcard suggesting that we begin communicating directly, and not through Stephen. I gave him my phone number and put $25 on a prepaid calling account.

On July 29 I had all references to Stephen, the accounts he managed for Blade and James, etc. removed from The Redemption Project websites.

After I received a message from the Homeland Security investigator that they would not be pursuing an investigation because they did not consider the audio recordings and other leads to be credible, I sent Stephen an e-mail on August 2 formally severing our relationship based on the fact that I no longer had confidence in him or the information he was providing. A copy of this e-mail was sent to James’ new attorney Mike Scholl.

We launched an internal investigation of Stephen, his identity, background, claims, and practices. Background checks had been run previously but had turned up nothing to raise our suspicions. But this time we dug deeper, interviewed people who had previously worked with him, and we found troubling evidence of a pattern of lying and fraud. Our investigation is continuing, but on the basis of what we have already learned, we have concluded that we’ve been the victims of an elaborate deception which has endangered the welfare of the young people for whom Stephen has been advocating, as well as our other work.

I have raised and disbursed a little more than $30,000 for Blade Reed and James Prindle (most of it paid directly to lawyers and other third parties) based in part on information provided to me by Stephen—information which I now believe to be questionable and unreliable.

This is very serious, and I have informed our largest donors most directly affected. (The first donor I informed not only expressed his continuing confidence in The Redemption Project, but raised his commitment to James’ defense. This experience has been repeated.)

On August 12 I finally received a call from James Prindle and I learned that at least one of my blog posts was based on reports that were not factually true, so I took down that post right after I got off the phone with James. I have also taken down two other July posts about which I no longer have confidence in their basis in fact.

I now believe the very existence of “Deep Throat” was an invention, and that the revelations reported in the two posts titled “Allegations” 1 and 2 are a blend of fact, theory, and fiction which can now be sorted out only with great difficulty. All post deletions now appear as white dates on the July calendar appearing in the right-hand column of the blog.

Because these allegations were revealed after the guilty verdict in James’ trial, I believe that Stephen’s motive must have been to create more “reasonable doubt” than had been available for James’ defense in the trial and to influence the actions of the judge through public pressure. But remember, Stephen has never admitted to me that Deep Throat and his revelations were an invention; in fact, Stephen has even tried to convince me that someone matching Deep Throat’s description was in Stephen’s Wisconsin hometown after July 27 making inquiries about Stephen. Lies buttressing lies—or so it appears to me.

As I explained to James, the introduction of any falsehoods into his defense could undermine everything.

Dishonest prosecutors regularly get away with spinning innocuous things into damning evidence. But for the accused, the truth is the only source of exculpatory evidence. It is bad enough when a kid who is wrongfully accused of a crime tries to lie his way to exoneration, but for an adult advocate to facilitate any deception for that purpose—well, that is simply beyond the pale.

Now we have discovered that certain disbursements made directly to Stephen for the benefit of his kids were never used for their intended purposes. For example, nearly a year ago I sent him two payments totaling $1,650 that were have to been used to pay a paralegal named Torm Howse to prepare a writ of habeas corpus for Blade Reed. I was told by Stephen that the work was completed by Mr. Howse and utilized by Blade’s attorneys. E-mails from Mr. Howse were forwarded to me to pressure our prompt payment. Now we have doubled back on Stephen’s representations, checked with Mr. Howse, and are dismayed to learn that: “I recall the sporadic email conversation, but nothing really happened eventually, so I don’t believe an actual price or time required was even figured out. The guy writing about doing something for Blade never took it that far, as best I can remember–yes, clear back sometime last year.” Blade’s attorneys have also told me they never had anything to do with the presentation of a habeas corpus writ.

In other words, Stephen tricked me into raising $1,650 to pay for legal work for Blade Reed which was never done. The money was deposited into a UGMA account ostensibly for Blade Reed’s benefit, but it was apparently not disbursed from that account for the purpose that Stephen said it was. This is likely not the only such instance.

In the June 15-July 18 time period surrounding James Prindle’s trial and last two court dates, Stephen spent a little more than a month in Memphis on The Redemption Project’s dime. Originally Stephen was to have spent only about a week in Memphis and then returned for the sentencing hearing.

However, with the appearance of “Deep Throat” and the revelations he was supposedly sharing, it seemed to make all the sense in the world to keep Stephen in Memphis if the information he was developing there might exonerate James, so I kept  transferring cash to him through MoneyGram. Now we see that this hope—and the rationalization for sending him money—was a chimera.

We provided Stephen with a total of $3,500 to cover his expenses, not including phone. While there, we calculate that his motel bill was only something like $1,000. He claimed to have been eating at Burger King and other modest venues, but because of car trouble and other purported problems, he kept running out of money. Now we have learned that Stephen also borrowed money from James’ grandparents and owes them about $300. Where did all our money go? I have asked for an accounting of Stephen’s expenses including receipts, but the deadline I set has come and gone.

This is adding up to only one reasonable conclusion: that Stephen has likely been engaged in fraud. Instead of helping the kids for whom he has been advocating, it’s more likely he’s in fact been using them—and us—for his own personal gain and who-knows-what other nefarious purposes. The staff at the Shelby County Jail have nicknamed him “The Predator.” Indeed, the man does give every appearance of being a predator, and a smooth and cunning one at that—as long as he is working the phones and Internet.

By all accounts, Stephen creates a much different impression when you meet or see him in person. People who observed him in the courtroom in Memphis have said that, based on his personal grooming habits and the way he was dressed, he looked to them like a “homeless person.”

When James’ dad Sam Prindle and I discussed this recently, all Sam had to say is that Stephen seemed so caring, competent, and convincing. Sam was taken in, too.

Stephen Sydebotham needs to be sidelined so he can never again do damage to the kids and families who trust him. I keep thinking about the profound disappointment and sense of betrayal James and Blade will experience when they learn the truth. Theft of money is a serious offense, but taking advantage of vulnerable kids is the worst of all possible sins in our work.

Even if we never recover any of the money he has apparently stolen from us and from the kids we serve, it would be worth it to see this predator taken out of circulation. Or at least, that is how I am rationalizing it right now.

We have reported all of this to the authorities in four states, and we will see (in this instance, at least) if the System is capable of dispensing honest and appropriate justice. Unfortunately, we are not off to a promising start.

The sheriff’s department in Sauk County WI, for example, wants to see the financial fraud as a civil matter and has declined to pursue it as a criminal offense. The FBI declined to get involved because the amount of money involved does not cross a six-figure threshold. So far just about everybody says Sydebotham is another jurisdiction’s problem. Nobody seems to give a damn about the damage being done to the kids, who (to them) are seemingly of the throw-away variety.

Only in Tennessee is there a shred of hope that law enforcement will open an official investigation. Several days ago we heard from someone close to Shelby County officials that the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is looking into the Prindle Case and Stephen Sydebotham’s role in it. I contacted the TBI investigator I had spoken to earlier to check on this rumor. “At this time the TBI does not have an active investigation on the Prindle matter,” she said. “However, the information you provided has been forwarded to the proper authorities for review.”

Looking at this from law enforcement’s perspective, the bottom line is that the amounts of money involved are relatively small and the complexity (because of the multiple jurisdictions involved) is high—and most people, even cops and prosecutors, are basically lazy.

As I said to the agent I talked to at the FBI, it looks like we may just have to take matters into our own hands. There are plenty of perfectly legal things we can do. “Outing” Stephen as a wolf in sheep’s clothing through this post is one of them.

We are taking concrete steps so that this will never happen again.

One way or another, justice will be done.

We will see to it.


Groove of the Day 

Listen to rubyrough performing “Smooth Predator”


28 Responses to “the predator”

  1. 1 Gloria
    August 25, 2012 at 3:16 am

    This is so horrible, I’m in shock. I asked you to talk to Stephen so you could get involved in Helping Paul Gingerich and now I feel like a complete idiot for believing in Stephen. This is really bad news for all the childrens Stephen said he was helping. what’s gonna happen with Blade and James now?. Stephen has been telling that Blade was again in solitary and that now there’s a reprieve of 3 days for james sentencing hearing. Is That all true?
    I’m so sorry Dan.

  2. 2 Frank Manning
    August 25, 2012 at 3:37 am

    This is indeed horrible. If this is all so, then it will shatter James’s trust in others. Not to mention what it will do to Blade in that hell he is forced to live in. We’ve got to make sure that the boys don’t suffer too much “collateral damage” from this unsettling business.

  3. August 25, 2012 at 3:55 am

    Gloria, don’t take this onto yourself too much. You have a lot of company–good company–good people with good intentions which were skillfully exploited. The important thing is what we do moving forward in the light of this experience.

    The sentencing hearing which was to have happened for James on Friday is indeed postponed until Monday, but this has nothing to do with James’ case; other cases were postponed too, due to a scheduling issue affecting all of the court’s business. The judge will likely hand down a sentence on Monday, but James will remain at Jail East as his case goes forward. It is looking like a higher court will ask Judge Carter to rule on a motion for a new trial which will take place in juvenile court.

    I have not independently verified that Blade is back in solitary, but I have no reason to doubt the veracity of this report.

    I want to assure you, Frank, and all others that James and Blade will not be abandoned because of this new information which has come to light about Stephen. Fortunately, there are good people who have already agreed to step forward and support them in important ways. Their fates do not depend on Stephen Sydebotham in anyone’s mind but Stephen’s.

    The best thing about all of this is that we will be acting truthfully and effectively from a solid base of reality. Though right now it may appear that something has been lost, we have in fact experienced a gain. Think about this and I am sure you will in time realize James and Blade will be better served now that we know the truth.

  4. 4 Gloria
    August 25, 2012 at 7:00 am

    Thank you Dan for telling us. Is Good to hear that James and Blade will be helped. And I hope James case can be resolved in Juvenile court where it belongs.

    Frank is right, this will shutter James and Blade’s trust in others but knowing that the Redempetion Project will continue supporting this kids who so much helps need can renew their hopes. They must know that there are a lot of people who really care about them and will help them.

    Thanks again Dan for all what you do and please come allways with the truth( as hurting as it can be sometimes to know the truth) is allways better because is the only thing that will help those childrens.

  5. 5 roberta
    August 25, 2012 at 8:37 am

    Facebook have a rule that says they can proscecute persons discussing people in a degrading manner .just thought I would mention it .

  6. 7 Steve Schofield
    August 25, 2012 at 10:14 am

    Thanks for letting us know Dan. I will be cutting all ties with Steven Sydbotham if that is indeed his real name.

  7. August 25, 2012 at 10:24 am

    It’s hard for me to know where to begin when speaking about Stephen Sydebotham of Wisconsin. I was advocating for the little 8 year old boy in St. Johns, AZ through a supportive MySpace page when I started receiving correspondence from Stephen. There were only a few occasional emails asking about the boy’s welfare until after the boy signed the plea deal, when time allowed for increased concentration and communication with the boy’s various supporters. Our ‘friendship’ grew from there with increased emails and ultimately several phone calls per day.

    Eventually, things Stephen was telling me got more and more odd and suspicious by the day. Without going into detail at this point, all I can say is that Stephen eventually proved my suspicions of his untrustworthiness.

    I am here to validate what Dan Dailey is saying about Stephen Sydebotham is true according to my own experiences with Stephen. It is heart wrenching to have to admit.

    I can also say that this experience has left Dan and I with remorse of the loss of the potential friendship we thought we had with this man. It is not easy for us to come forward with this information but we must. We were both deceived and betrayed by Stephen Sydebotham. But, we are adults and the sting of such betrayal fails in comparison to the effects Stephen’s actions will have on those dear children who were hanging from their very last thread of faith.

    We are committed to undoing the damage Stephen has done to the trust of the children for whom he promised to advocate.


    Tonya Meadows

  8. August 25, 2012 at 10:55 am

    The following information is posted by permission from Dana Hoffman due to no Internet connection on her part.

    “This has to be one the most troublesome yet important and informative blog that Dan has probably ever had to post. Anyone who truly knows Dan knows he is as true as the day is long. Therefore, a post of this nature is something to be expected especially when someone does not have the same standards as Dan expects in order to be a part of his team. With that being said, I want to thank you, Dan, from the bottom of my heart and soul for making this information public and exposing that creep. At this time, I would like to ask all of the Wandervogel Diary’s readers and supporters to share and post this information with everyone they know in order to protect those that have been victimized and to protect others from becoming victims, as well.

    Personally, I will be starting by spreading the word in Stephen’s hometown of Wisconsin (i.e. YMCA, Boy Scouts, homeless shelter(s), churches, schools, and any organization having anything remotely to do with children) to protect anybody else in the future from having to go through this exact same thing that Dan and Tonya have had to endure.

    Respectfully Submitted,

    Dana Hoffman”

  9. 11 john
    August 25, 2012 at 12:36 pm

    So sorry to hear this. The juvenile justice movement is difficult enough without this burden.

  10. August 25, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    HI there- I am Carol Leonard aka Prison Reform Movement; as you are aware, I did a show with Steve (which has now been removed). I am blindsided and speechless. I dont know what to say…


    • August 25, 2012 at 1:22 pm

      Yes, Carol, I listened to that show last night after I posted today’s blog. The show was very good, and it is unfortunate that a member of the chorus for reform had to be banished because of the perpetuation of untruths. In its own way it demonstrates the thing I said to James, that lies can undermine everything.

      I appreciate what you are doing and hope you will please join with me in pointing out to all members of our movement that we cannot hold our adversaries to higher moral principles than we ourselves are prepared to practice.

      I hope you will not take this as a holier-than-thou statement. Believe me, I have feet of clay just like every other human being on this earth. Yet we must strive to improve ourselves before we can ask others, let alone whole systems, to improve and perfect themselves.

      Thank you, Carol, for your support. Together we can create Justice in America.

  11. August 25, 2012 at 2:50 pm

    In the Same Breath

    Two communications issued by Stephen Sydebotham within the same one-hour time period:

    Sat, August 25, 2012 1:04:06 PM

    Re: Receipts
    From: stephen sydebotham
    To: dan dailey


    All these money order receipts can be verified

    December 2011 amount $520 sent via money order to Nilla Fahringer attorney for Blade Writ writer and attorney fees

    February 2012 amount $300 sent via money order to Nilla Fahringer attorney for Blade Writ Writer and attorney fees

    April, 2012 amount $1000 sent via money order to Wooden and McLaughlin for Blade Pro Hac Vice for attorney

    April 2012 amount $450 sent via money order to Nilla Fahringer attorney for Blade Writ and attorney fees for Blade

    July 2012 amount $500 sent via money order to Nilla Fahringer attorney for Blade. Writ and attorney fees for Blade

    Other receipts for Blade misc. $300

    I will come clean with you. Some things were fabrications, some were not. I did receive several phone calls from the individual I told you about. He did even get me at the library like I said, and he did show me the disgusting photo of Noah I told you about in great detail. He also showed me photos of what he said were of certain people, but they were fuzzy and were questionable as to who they were. I was horrified by what I saw and was nervous anyway, he did continue to call me afterwards and say things, and he did even promise to send the photographs to me, but never received them. Those things happened, the rest is fabrication and half-truth. My apologies and regret might seem hollow to you, but they are sincere. Only time will show you and others what is in my heart and that I am truly sorry for my actions, also that I am not an evil person or a predator as claimed. I accept the consequences of what I did.

    As far as Torm Howse, during our emails to each other, I checked and there were some things online about him, that made me question as to whether he would actually write the writ, or stiff me. I held on to the funds until I found someone who was okay, and would actually fight hard and do a good job for Blade. I found that person in Nilla. Yes, I lied to you about Tom doing it, but in retrospect, as I felt then, I still do, as you can even check online, he didn’t do a couple of writs for people whom he was paid to do one for. So I was afraid he wouldn’t do it.

    That is the honest 100% truth.


    And then, to his Scoop-it followers:

    In my Defense

    I am writing in defense of what is being said about me online. Most of the stuff being said about me is 100% crap. The allegations against my character, are untrue and false.

    What is disturbing, is this individual is willing to damage a person’s credibility, advocacy, and long-term relationships, that took years to build, without all of the facts in place. I will be making another statement later

    • September 3, 2012 at 10:50 am

      September 3, 2012: The attorney, Gunilla Faringer, whom Stephen claims to have paid $1,770, wrote to me: “I have only received $500, by money orders dated January 13 and February 13 of this year.”

  12. 16 Jenna
    August 25, 2012 at 4:45 pm

    Stephen has always rubbed me the wrong way. Not only about collecting the money, but why was he pretty much *only* helping young boys? I found him extremely creepy and didn’t believe he really wanted to help. If he did he would have helped out the girls in prison too. I will understand if this post needs to be deleted, but I’ve bit my tongue about this guy for awhile. Even the pictures with the boys just creep me out.

    I DO feel bad for the kids involved. If they thought they could trust Stephen and this is what happened, they’ll have a hard time trusting the next person.

  13. August 25, 2012 at 5:03 pm

    Im still lost for words I can not get my head around all this Dan you can email me on elishdelap@yahoo.co.uk

  14. August 25, 2012 at 6:29 pm

    From Stephen Sydebotham’s ScoopIt page:

    Today, 6:52 PM
    To my Friends and Supporters

    I will come clean with you all. 99% of the allegations that are being made against me online, are completely false, Having said that, there are a couple that are true. This is not the proper time, for a long worded statement, so I will simply say this. Only time will show everyone, what is truly inside my heart, and what type of person I really am. I am not this evil monster, most are portraying me as. I am sorry for my actions, and I accept the consequences.

    Stephen ”

    Link: http://www.scoop.it/t/why

  15. August 25, 2012 at 9:30 pm

    Your welcome Dan….I absolutely agree with you. There is no room for fabrications, half truths or deceit in our work. Unfortunately and sadly, Stephen should have known this-nothing that he says now can or will be looked at as truth. While I will not say that Stephen is evil, I will say that his lack of forethought in weaving a tale, is intolerable. It is so very difficult to manage any support for the cases we, as advocates deal with-our credibility really IS everything we have going. I don’t know what is behind the decision to fabricate, and at this point it does not matter. What matters is that we continue to support the kids. I hope that Stephen can find the truth, seek peace and be well.

  16. 20 Andy Rich
    August 26, 2012 at 10:36 am

    oh what a twat, i always thought there was something fishy about him, oh what a twat

    • August 26, 2012 at 11:05 am

      Note to American readers: I have allowed this comment because it comes from the UK where the meaning of the word “twat” differs from our usage here. Although sometimes used as a reference to the female genitalia, the word is more often used in the UK as a derogatory insult, a pejorative meaning a fool, a stronger alternative to the word “twit.”

      • 22 Andy Rich
        August 26, 2012 at 11:32 am

        Oh sorry, i didnt think about the readers reading that while i wrote that, i was waiting for a bus and was reading the blog on the go, and yes its like dan says, although i say it in more aggressive ways than the word twit, usually with the f word in front of it, sorry if i insulted anyone with it over the pond, but thats how i feel about him, no one else okay , brave faces 🙂

  17. 23 roberta knights
    August 26, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    Let all our thoughts be with james as his court hearing is soon ,give him the strength and everything he needs to see through this stressful time he is having .

  18. 24 Andy Rich
    August 26, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    Could there be possibly a case of a guy here trying to make things he does look great even if he never actually did them?

    I yet again begin to question the motive behind why he might do this, afterall, some poor kids love him and look upto him, was he giving a false face along with fake actions and hiding behind something deeper?

    I have a deep feeling all isnt clear about what might be the real intentions of this man who offers a home to these vunerable young people.

  19. 25 peterloudon
    August 27, 2012 at 3:23 pm

    Does anybody have any news on developments in the court rooom in Memphis at this stage?

    • August 27, 2012 at 3:46 pm

      Peter, it is 3:45 pm here and James’ hearing is still going on. Mike Scholl had to return to court at 1:30. I expect to hear from him later and will pass on his report as soon as I know.

  20. 28 Charles
    September 15, 2012 at 2:23 am

    I know first hand how evil and twisted Mr Sydebotham is/ He lived with my wife and I for three years and made our lives a living Hell. Countless lies, graffiting our trailer in his handwriting and blaming it on the neighbors. Always watching videos of young boys on youtube. He even told us that Djinn Buckinghams arm was amputated then three years after he had a photo of DJinn with nothing wrong with either one of his arms. Everything he says is a lie. I should know, I was the one who told him gifting and as embarrassed as I am I was the one who shot those videos in at the time our livingroom of a trailer that has since been destroyed. The man is bad news across the board and something needs to be done about it.

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