Patrick NaughtonPatrick Naughton will not be remembered as one of the original geeks who worked for Sun to develop the Java programming language.
He will not be fondly recalled for his service to Walt Disney with time spent as vice-president of Infoseek.
Instead, people will smirk or frown, depending on the sense of humor possessed, and simply remember Patrick as "Hotseattle".
He was an executive in charge of, you know, stuff and things at a Disney funded Internet startup called Go, Michael Eisner's knee-jerk reaction to Yahoo. After all, Disney had plenty of crap to sell, why shouldn't they have their own portal?
All things under the Go Networks umbrella, still sort of in use today, included Disney properties such as Disney Online, ESPN, ABC News and the now-defunct Infoseek search engine. The idea was to consolidate services and spread around banner ads designed to promote the quarter's latest pantload of crap.
Depending on who you ask, Patrick spent a little or a lot of time trolling for underage girls on various public Internet Relay Chat networks. The various public IRC networks offered him the opportunity to chickenhawk around in chat rooms named #dads&daughterssex and #girls&oldermen. He initiated conversations with girls, boys, probably some number of strange men and eventually, an FBI agent.
Where else but an online chat system can a middle-aged FBI agent pass as a child? Patrick's handle was "Hotseattle" (or "sfmate"). The agent playing the part of a dimwitted teenager chose the nick "krisLA". It took six months for Hotseattle to ask his new friend out on a date. He asked what he thought was a 13-year-old girl, the same one he'd been chatting with for six months, to meet him on the Santa Monica pier for some fun at a local motel. At least he didn't suggest they meet at Disneyland.
Patrick had an interesting mating ritual: Apparently the task of convincing a girl to meet you involves sending her a digital photograph of your wang, as Naughton did on several occasions. He described his flights of fantasy as role-playing as himself, pretending to be a successful, rich executive with everything going his way. When he bragged about running a company and owning a boat in chat sessions, he was telling the truth, unlike so many chatters before him.
On September 16, 1999, he would learn that his teen fantasy girl was in fact an FBI agent working with Sexual Assault Felony Enforcement agents. Naughton was arrested and frog-marched off the pier, charged with a festive collection of crimes: intent to have sex with a minor, use of interstate commerce to induce a minor into sexual activity, and possession of child pornography.
According to the Los Angeles Times, upon being arrested, Patrick blurted out that "there was sexually explicit images of children" on his laptop. In fact, one of the file names was "Baby cunt." A witness from the U.K.'s National Crime Squad identified two of the illegal images as children between the ages of 8 and 9. Naughton claimed his chat software was configured to blindly accept files although his download folder was packed with files.
If Mickey cried a little that night then certainly Michael Eisner had a bad day after learning that his young Vice-President in charge of E-mail and Chat Rooms had been arrested for, well, very un-Disneylike behavior.
Within a day, Patrick was fired and his biography removed from the company website. Go released this statement: "We are shocked and disturbed" ... "Patrick Naughton is no longer an employee of Infoseek. As this is a pending investigation, there are no further details available at this time. We want to be clear that behavior of this nature is inappropriate and unacceptable by Infoseek and GO Network."
Thank goodness these brave executives took a stand and made it clear to the world that Infoseek and GO, owned and operated by Walt Disney, think that fucking babies is inappropriate.
For trial, Naughton's defense team came up with this gem which set legal heads spinning: The chats were all fantasy and that Patrick never intended to have sex with a 13-year-old girl. In fact, it was claimed that he never thought he was chatting with a teenager and instead believed he was chatting with an adult who shared his fantasy.
Despite all of the evidence and the decades of prison time hanging over him, Naughton would eventually walk free. The jury in his trial deadlocked over the more serious charge and to avoid a retrial, he plead out to lesser charges.
Naughton spent his probation working on an unspecified software project for the FBI. Company sources say the project involved programming to IRC networks. When he was finished with probation, he walked away a free man, not even stopping to fix his open bugs.
In the end, Patrick lost everything. The strange case of Patrick Naughton ends with him having spent one (1) weekend in jail, later likened it to a long plane ride.
Following the public-relations disaster personified as Patrick, the company that was the Go Network was put to sleep. After losing quite a bit of Disney dollars with nothing to show for it, except for Patrick's presence, the enterprise quietly went out of business. Offices in San Francisco, Sunnyvale, and Seattle were shuttered, employees were sent home with zero-day notice and guards were posted in the lobby, presumably to prevent violence or fax paper theft.
This was probably best for Walt Disney, Michael Eisner and Mickey Mouse. Even if this brain fart of an Internet startup somehow wasn't losing millions and millions of dollars, every single future mention of Go in the press would have had to include an obligatory reference to Patrick Naughton.
"I'm glad I'm at the top of the food chain." ... "I came from a poor immigrant family. My father came from Ireland, and he basically reproduced Ireland in Rochester. We had ten acres of land with cows and ducks and pigs."
-- Patrick Naughton, Forbes article ("Mr. Famous Comes Home"), 1998"The decisions I make change the world — and I've never made a wrong decision in my life."
-- Patrick Naughton boasting at a company meeting