A former journalist and talk show host who was arrested on child sex crime charges in Massachusetts last week allegedly bragged in private text messages that they came close to having a sexual encounter with a teenager in their neighborhood.
The conversation was detailed in a 24-page police affidavit obtained by The Desk on Wednesday that was written and filed in support of an arrest warrant for Slade Sohmer, the former editor-in-chief of the left-of-center politics website The Recount.
Sohmer was arrested last week on suspicion of downloading and transmitting child pornography after police executed a search warrant on his East Otis home last month. There, law enforcement seized numerous phones and computers from Sohmer and his room-mate, whom The Desk is not identifying at this time because they have not been charged with a crime.
Police say Sohmer willingly gave them his password to at least two Apple iPhones that were later examined by forensic investigators. The examination turned up more than 1,300 pornographic images and videos, hundreds of which police believe involve children.
Investigators have a high degree of confidence that more than 50 videos allegedly pulled from Sohmer’s devices show undressed children engaged in sexual activity, and at least eight victims have been identified by police and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), an advocacy group that works with law enforcement to combat child sex crimes.
The affidavit claims Sohmer used several apps, including Snapchat, to exchange child sex abuse material with people he found online. In some instances, Sohmer allegedly used Snapchat to work with children as young as 12 years old to produce their own videos for him, police said. At least one of those videos was found on a phone used by Sohmer, police allege, while details of his other videos were relayed in a one-on-one conversation with an unknown person through the encrypted app Telegram.
During that same conversation, Sohmer allegedly confessed to luring a 14-year-old boy in his neighborhood into having an in-person sexual encounter with him, according to excerpts revealed in the affidavit. Sohmer allegedly said he “baited,” or tricked, the teenager into meeting up by posing as a girl in an online chat room, where he arranged to meet the boy near a public park restroom. Sohmer purportedly said he went to the park and saw the teenager, but he ultimately “chickened out” on making contact, the logs show. An investigator who included details of the conversation in their affidavit did not say whether they had evidence proving the situation actually took place.
In other conversations with the same person, Sohmer purportedly claimed to have lured other teenagers into performing sex acts for him over Snapchat, including a 15-year-old from Germany and a 13-year-old who was on a road trip with his parents. Police did not say if they verified those accounts.
Sohmer was arrested on Friday and booked into county jail on $100,000 bail, which he posted a short time later. A magistrate judge said Sohmer was not allowed to access the Internet or have contact with anyone under the age of 18 while he is on pre-trial release. Court records reviewed by The Desk show Sohmer has retained an attorney.
Sohmer has worked in a variety of journalism-related roles, including serving as the host of SiriusXM’s “Politics Powered by Twitter” in the early 2010s. (Disclosure: The author of this story was interviewed by Sohmer on that program in 2012.) He also served as a freelance writer for a number of digital news outlets, including the website HyperVocal, before joining the anonymous town square app Whisper as its head of news in 2014.
His most recent role saw Sohmer leading the newsroom at the left-of-center digital politics outlet The Recount. He was dismissed from his role as editor-in-chief last month as part of a broader restructuring effort at The Recount, and while the timing of his departure lines up with his arrest, his job loss appears unrelated to the criminal investigation.
Separate from his career, Sohmer volunteered as a summer camp counselor on more than one occasion. In 2014, one of the camps where Sohmer volunteered posted an image to their Instagram account that included a caption about the benefits of sending children to summer camp.
“There are two kinds of people you meet in this world: Those that went to camp and those who didn’t,” Sohmer said, according to Summer 365. “The ones who did are infinitely better socialized, make fast friends, and know how to best interact with others in modern society.”
That same year, Sohmer posted a series of tweets in which he recalled speaking before a classroom full of fourth graders at the school where he mother taught. He wrote that the students peppered him with a number of personal questions, and he struggled with whether he should disclose to them his sexuality and that he lived with his then-boyfriend.
“I just don’t know what today’s fourth graders know about love and sexuality and gender and all its modern permutations,” Sohmer told the website BuzzFeed after the publication picked up on his tweet storm. “I’m glad it went down the way it did, but it’s not like I expected them to throw tomatoes at me after the big reveal.”
Over the past few weeks, Sohmer has tried desperately to disappear from the Internet and scrub any trace of his past life behind. His social media profiles on Instagram and X (formerly Twitter) have been deleted, and his account on Facebook has been locked so only his friends may access it.
Sohmer is the latest high-profile journalist to be charged with receiving and possessing child pornography in recent years.
Last year, former ABC News investigative producer James Gordon Meek took a leave of absence from the network after law enforcement executed a search warrant on his Washington, D.C.-area home. The raid was covered by Rolling Stone, whose article initially suggested Meek was targeted for his work on sensitive national security stories.
It was later revealed Rolling Stone’s top editor, Noah Shachtman, knew Meek was under investigation for child sex crimes, but ordered that information deleted from a pre-publication draft of the story. Meek was subsequently charged with numerous child pornography-related offenses and entered a guilty plea to some of those charges in July.