Dumb Criminal of the Week: The Alleged Child Pornographer Who Unwisely Acted as His Own Lawyer

Crime
A blog about murder, theft, and other wickedness.
June 13 2013 12:02 PM

Dumb Criminal of the Week: The Alleged Child Pornographer Who Unwisely Acted as His Own Lawyer

Illustration by Robert Neubecker.

Illustration by Robert Neubecker

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Name: Darrell Ackman, aka “Mr. Jetz,” or “Mr. JetzTV”

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Alleged crimes: Child pornography, sexual assault.

Fatal mistake: Confusing the right to represent yourself in court with the responsibility to represent yourself in court.

The circumstances: Darrell Ackman is well known in Winnipeg. Ask him why, and he’d probably tell you it’s because of the Girls Gone Wild-style videos he films and posts to YouTube under the moniker “Mr. JetzTV.” Ask Winnipeg police about Ackman and they’d cite a different list of accomplishments: that he doesn’t always tell his subjects that they’re being filmed; that he allegedly lured teenage runaways into appearing in child pornography; and that he allegedly filmed himself sexually assaulting a drunk woman.

Ackman has been arrested multiple times over the past couple years, most recently this spring, when he violated the terms of his bail by visiting a local high school and putting up casting posters for “Mr. Jetz The Movie.” At the end of May, a Winnipeg court held a hearing to determine whether Ackman should be released on bail yet again. Ackman decided to represent himself. This was a mistake.

As Winnipeg Sun reporter James Turner wrote on his blog, The Crime Scene, the flamboyant Ackman “was cautioned to pick his comments carefully” by the judge. Instead of following that good advice, Ackman delivered a digressive, extended three-hour monologue in which he discussed dozens of irrelevant topics: his amazing memory; his love for the Winnipeg Jets hockey team; the television program CSI: Miami; the growing threat of cyberbullying; whether or not he should purchase a miniature voice recorder; the years he spent living in Miami; how much he enjoys beaches; and “some anecdote about being a boy and seeing some birds near his home.” Occasionally, he addressed the charges against him: “He spent a very long time challenging the most minor allegation he faces—a mischief charge from winter 2012 where he’s accused of scratching the Mr. Jetz logo into a car at the Highland Arena,” writes Turner. “‘Mr. Jetz is not into damaging things,’ he said.”

The bail application was denied. “It is 100 percent Ackman’s right to represent himself in court,” writes Turner. “But as the pithy truism goes: A person who represents himself has fool for a client.” Indeed.

How he could have been a lot smarter: Ackman could have hired a lawyer. Representing yourself in court rarely goes well, unless you are a lawyer yourself, which Ackman isn’t.

How he could have been a little smarter: If he insisted on representing himself, Ackman could have stuck to the basics—where he would live if granted bail, why his release would not pose a threat to the community—instead of treating the hearing as a reality show audition.

How he could have been a little dumber: “Mr. Jetz is not into damaging things … he’s into destroying them!” (overturns table)

How he could have been a lot dumber: Secretly taped the whole thing and posted it online under the username “Mr. LawTV.”

Ultimate Dumbness Ranking (UDR): Hard to say. This is one of those cases where it’s not clear whether the guy was dumb, or devious, or just mentally unbalanced. As James Turner notes, there’s a chance that Ackman realized he wasn’t going to get bail anyway, and, thus, decided to make a mockery of the hearing. But while acting like a jackass in front of a judge might be satisfying in the short term, it never pays off in the end, unless the payoff you’re looking for is “a longer prison sentence than you might otherwise have received.” 6.5 out of 10 for Mr. Jetz.

Justin Peters is a writer for Slate. He is working on a book about Aaron Swartz, copyright, and the rise of “free culture.” Email him at justintrevett@fastmail.fm.

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