An Australian sexual predator who used social networking sites to lure, and then assault, 55 teen victims will spend the next 12-to-16 years behind bars for his crimes.
John Raymond Zimmerman, 26, was convicted last week of 87 charges including 23 counts of sexual penetration of a child under 16 years, 3 rapes, stalking and using the Internet to sexually groom minors, The Australian newspaper reported.
In 2006, Zimmerman, the former tour manager of the popular Australian teen rock band, The Getaway Plan, began scouring his band's fan pages on Facebook and MySpace. Using two MySpace accounts and three Facebook profiles, Zimmerman would cultivate relationships with his victims, all of whom except two were between 12-and-15-years old, by promising them concert tickets, fame and access to his band and other famous musicians, including Beyonce and Pink.
"The young victim would be excited that they were chatting to someone from a band they followed," Louisa DiPietriantonio said at Zimmerman's pre-sentence hearing last month.
Police arrested Zimmerman in November 2009 and shut down his Facebook page, but he soon created a new one under a false name and continued preying on teens for another year.
In one case, Zimmerman befriended a 14-year-old girl and lured her out of school with the promise of concert tickets to The Getaway Plan's final tour. (The band broke up in 2009 but recently reunited.) Zimmerman had sex with the girl and then took her back to school, calling her a derogatory four-letter word as he drove away.
About his behavior toward this victim, Judge Richard Maidment told Zimmerman: "You gratified yourself at her expense and then you shamelessly and gratuitously set about humiliating and degrading her for no apparent reason other than arrogantly to disport the power you then wielded over her."
The victim appeared at Zimmerman's pre-sentence hearing and, addressing the court, called him a "disgusting pedophile," and said, "I want him to feel the same way he made me and so many other girls feel — powerless, angry, depressed, used and dirty."
As disturbing as they are, Zimmerman's crimes highlight the need to be cautious about your Facebook and MySpace "friends" and how you interact with them. It's incredibly easy to pose as someone else online, and once someone gains your trust, it becomes that much easier to exploit, especially in the virtual realm, where you never can be totally sure if anyone is who they claim to be.