An Illinois man who created a Facebook group known to track potential sexual predators was charged in connection with a sting operation that went awry in early January, prosecutors said Monday.
Kyle Swanson, 30, was indicted on a charge of unlawful restraint, obstruction of justice and assault in connection with his involvement with the KTS Predators Hunter Organization, according to court records. For more than two years, the vigilante group has posed as children on social media, tricked men into meeting up at public spaces in Illinois and uploaded YouTube videos of them confronting the supposed pedophiles.
During a Jan. 12 incident, prosecutors alleged that Swanson "enticed" a man into his car under a false pretense, refused to let him exit the vehicle and threatened to hit him, the charging document said. Because of Swanson, prosecutors alleged that the man deleted evidence of a crime from his phone.
Swanson said in a statement to NBC News that he could not discuss the specifics of the charges, but said they were "ridiculous and farfetched."
"As we are preparing for the upcoming court case with my attorney I would appreciate any and all prayers," he said.
Madison County State Attorney Tom Haine said, "The Grand Jury’s decision here reflects the fundamental idea that when members of a community decide to take justice into their own hands, even for laudable purposes, they can place themselves and others in danger and damage potential cases."
"Having a citizenry that is observant of suspicious behavior and criminal activity is important," Haine said in a news release. "But citizens must utilize the existing law enforcement channels to ensure that true justice is pursued, where criminals are caught and exposed but with sufficient evidence that can hold up in a court of law and sustain a conviction, all the while respecting each individual’s right to presumed innocence under our Constitutional system."
The KTS Predator Hunters group drew the ire of authorities in Madison County last year for interfering with potential criminal investigations, The Telegraph reported.
In December, Swanson said he intended to run for Madison County Sheriff in 2022. A Facebook page for Swanson’s campaign announced Monday that KTS Predator Hunters was shut down after Swanson's arrest.
The group added that a GoFundMe fundraiser page was set up to cover his legal fees.
Swanson was released after posting a $40,000 bond. A preliminary court hearing is scheduled for June 11.