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To Catch a Predator’s Chris Hansen found himself in the spotlight he normally reserves for the subjects of his stories on Thursday: A judge in Michigan issued a warrant for his arrest after Hansen had failed to appear in court.
“It’s the silliest thing I’ve ever seen. It was a total administrative disconnect,” the TV host told The Daily Beast. “This notion of ‘Hansen skips a hearing’ is not true.”
The bench warrant arose from what Hansen described as a communication breakdown about a court appearance that began with the defense’s counsel.
The news that a prominent journalist known for covering sensitive and high-profile legal matters could soon be under arrest himself set alarm bells ringing across the country, but Hansen said the snafu was far more mundane than headlines made it seem.
“Nobody’s hiding. Nobody’s dodging or ducking. No one was being non-compliant,” he said. “There was never a criminal complaint, it was just a matter of not getting notice in time.”
Hansen, who maintains residences in New York and Michigan, took part in a sting in October 2020 that resulted in the arrest of three men on charges of arranging to meet up with underage girls for sex. Unbeknownst to Hansen, he had been subpoenaed to appear in court regarding video of the operation, he said. The defense for one of the men, Michael Lott, emailed Hansen’s attorney in New York around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday about a hearing that would take place in Shiawassee County Circuit Court, some 650 miles away, at 8 a.m. the next day. Lott’s counsel was requesting that video of the sting be admitted as evidence to the trial, and the hearing would decide whether it was relevant material.
Hansen’s attorney was unable to get ahold of the defense that evening. When he rang the next day, the defense lawyer was going into court and could not take the call. When Hansen’s lawyer called the court itself, he learned that his client had already missed the hearing and that a bench warrant had been issued for Hansen.
With a warrant out for him, Hansen hired local counsel, Clint Perryman, and flew to Michigan. He appeared in court early Friday morning.
The atmosphere of the hearing was “amicable,” Hansen said. He called it a “non-event.” The parties agreed on an order stipulating that Hansen would hand over the video in 14 days. The judge understood the miscommunication and, once the order was signed, set the bench warrant aside.
When asked if he thought the defense planned a hasty hearing as a ploy to embarrass Hansen and cast aspersions on the prosecution, Perryman, Hansen’s Michigan lawyer, said, “That’s usually not something you do when you’re asking someone to hand something over. I don’t think it was a dirty tactic on behalf of the defense to discredit the prosecutor or to embarrass a public figure like him.”
Little surprises Hansen after 40 years of catching predators on TV.
“It’s part of being a reporter who does this kind of work. It was kind of mystifying that people jumped all over something that seemed so routine. It was absurd,” he said. “I understand that being the guy who covers the predator stories carries some lightning rod issues with it, but it’s just absurd to me.”
Hansen also made headlines in early 2019 after he was arrested on grand larceny charges for allegedly writing $13,000 in bad checks. The charge was subsequently dropped after his lawyer was able to prove to a judge that Hansen had paid up what was owed.
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