A former Wyoming Attorney General is questioning the legality of a school board’s decision to fire a teacher because he was featured in a child predator “sting” operation.
Gay Woodhouse, who served as Wyoming’s Attorney General from 1998 – 2001, said she also questioned whether the activities of the producers of the YouTube channel “People v. Preds” were proper.
David Shaw was fired by the Sublette County School District No. 1 board of trustees last week after the channel’s operators, who have remained anonymous, posted a video showing a man who appeared to be Shaw involved in a confrontation with a man filming him.
The man filming Shaw said they had been exchanging messages on Grindr, a dating app for gay men. The man filming said he had posed as a 14-year-old boy to engage Shaw in discussion. He then said Shaw arranged for the two to meet in the parking lot of a drug store in San Diego.
Much of the video focuses on Shaw being followed by the man with the camera, who accuses Shaw of being a child molester.
Woodhouse, who is now partner in the Cheyenne firm Woodhouse, Roden, Ames & Brennan, told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday that while she understood the allegations against Shaw were serious, they were also just allegations.
“Normally in the process of termination, you would give somebody their due process, which usually means you’re placed on administrative leave while they conduct an independent investigation,” she said.
Shaw has not been arrested for any crime, but he is being investigated by the San Diego Police Department.
SCSD1 administrators were notified of the video on April 11 and Shaw was fired just days later.
The attorney would not speculate on whether Shaw gave a confession to SCSD1 administrators, leading to his firing, but she did note that even people who confess during police investigations are still allowed a trial by jury.
“Sometimes people do confess, even if they’re not guilty, but it doesn’t relieve everyone else of their duty to allow for due process to occur for him,” Woodhouse said.
Woodhouse said it was “worrisome” that Shaw could be accused of something so heinous with only loose evidence tying him to a crime, and that people readily believed the allegations against him without any “real verification.”
In the event that Shaw is cleared of any wrongdoing, Woodhouse said he could theoretically sue the producers behind “People v. Preds” for defamation per se, but the host’s anonymity makes this difficult to do so.
While one of the “People v. Preds” volunteers told Cowboy State Daily last week they are not vigilantes, Woodhouse was not so certain of this.
“It is certainly people who are not in a government position to make a determination about whether or not somebody committed a crime just undertaking their own investigation, without any type of real responsibility or accountability for their actions,” she said.
As of Wednesday, the “People v. Preds” episode allegedly featuring Shaw has garnered more than 43,000 views. The channel has around 51,500 subscribers.