(WARNING: This post contains details of sex crimes involving underage teens and children.)
Last week the NYPD arrested a man who had been caught trying to lure children for sex. That man was pianist Justin Brown. Brown had been a rehearsal pianist for Broadway shows such as Dear Evan Hansen and King Kong.
Brown thought he was talking to a child but was actually talking to an undercover NYPD officer.
“Hey,” he wrote, according to a criminal complaint.
“Hey, like, how old are you?” the cop texted back.
“25, how old are you?” Brown allegedly answered.
When the cop replied that he was 14, Brown texted: “Haha, nice.”
Some sex talk ensued, during which Brown allegedly sent the undercover officer a picture of his penis and a video.
Eventually the officer and Brown arranged a meeting at a shopping plaza in Queens, where Brown was greeted by police.
Despite being told multiple times that the person he was chatting with was 14-years old, Brown continued to pursue.
Brown was charged with attempted use of a child in a sexual performance, attempted criminal sex act, attempted dissemination of indecent materials to minors and attempted endangering the welfare of a child.
He was ordered held on $20,000 bail. He faces 7 years in jail if convicted.
Earlier in August it was reported that former Broadway dancer and teacher David Marquez was convicted of molesting a student in his Washington Heights home. Marquez, who performed in Kiss of the Spiderwoman and taught at Broadway Dance Center, invited a 16-year-old dance student to his Washington Heights apartment in 2017. The student had come all the way from Utah to take dance classes in NYC. The teacher then allegedly blew marijuana smoke in the boy's mouth before rubbing and placing his mouth on the boy's genitals over his underwear, according to a criminal complaint.
Marquez plead guilty and likely avoid jail time but will have to register as a sex offender.
If anything, these arrests tell us that sexual predators are active in this industry and using it to lure their victims. I’m not trying to scare anyone, but I am asking you to be proactive in taking steps to prevent these crimes from happening. More than ever, people need to be aware of the signs of grooming potential victims and report suspicious behavior.
Dr. Alisa Hurwitz wrote a brilliant piece for us last year which shed light on some of the signs to look for when it comes to grooming. She wrote:
“A perpetrator looks to manipulate access. Requesting private meetings, setting up group discussions and then suddenly uninviting all but one individual, and asking to see someone outside of regular business situations are all ways of trying to get time alone. If you feel uncomfortable, listen to your gut. If you are unsure, talk to a trusted friend. Any reasonable person who is not trying to gain access will be fine with not meeting alone.”
It’s important to make sure that whether it’s Broadway or community theatre, resources for help in this area should always be made available to everyone involved in the production. I can’t tell you how many theatres I’ve talked to that aren’t 100% accountable for who comes into contact with teens and children in these shows.
This industry needs to also get a lot better when it comes to making sure perpetrators are exiled when their misconduct is discovered. The Broadway community has a terrible track record when it comes to this.
The sad reality of sexual predators is that they will use the things we love most to gain access. So I’m asking all of you, be aware and be safe. Seek resources that can help. Let’s do what we can to stamp out these individuals from here on out.
If you would like to report an incident of sexual abuse, in addition to contacting law enforcement, RAINN is a fantastic resource. RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization. RAINN created and operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800.656.HOPE, online.rainn.org y rainn.org/es) in partnership with more than 1,000 local sexual assault service providers across the country and operates the DoD Safe Helpline for the Department of Defense. RAINN also carries out programs to prevent sexual violence, help survivors, and ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice. For more information visit, https://hotline.rainn.org