Naughton: The American dream turned sour, Part V

From all outside appearances, Patrick Naughton seemed the personification of the American dream

See also Part IV.

Such work was seen as an important part of protecting the company's image. "In the Disney tradition," Eisner had said in a press release announcing the launch of Go.com, "Go Network will feature an unprecedented degree of content protection for children and families."

Two weeks after launching the network, Infoseek trumpeted Naughton's promotion to executive vice president of products. "His proven leadership, technical prowess and industry insight will be a huge benefit to our efforts," said Naughton's boss, Infoseek chief executive, Harry Motro. It was Motro whom Naughton first called after posting his $100,000 (£62,000) bail. Motro himself was already trying to contact Naughton, having heard about the arrest. Indeed, word was even spreading among Infoseek and Disney employees that an executive had been busted for possession of child pornography, although not every email mentioned Naughton specifically.

During the call, Motro testified at the trial, Naughton told him: "I did it. I'm sorry." Motro also said Naughton stressed that it had been an FBI sting and that there had been no real 13-year-old girl involved. (Nevertheless, as a result of that call and a subsequent letter, Infoseek, citing gross misconduct on Naughton's part, revoked his stock options.)

When Motro revealed the details of the call in court, many reporters jumped on the phrase "I did it", portraying it as an outright confession. However, on the stand, Naughton denied admitting to Motro that he had planned a meeting with a 13-year-old. Instead, he said he had acknowledged being busted in a police sting and had told Motro, "Yes, it's true." In keeping with his fantasy defence, Naughton didn't deny going to the pier with the intention of meeting someone, but said he was sure that person wasn't 13.

Bright, energetic and cocky. Those are the adjectives repeatedly used -- although not necessarily in that order -- by some of the people who have known Naughton. Although he's worshipped by a circle of software developers who admire his grasp of all things technical, his detractors say Naughton, endowed with money and power since his early 20s, became an egomaniac. (In a guest column for Forbes magazine, he once wrote: "I'm glad I'm at the top of the food chain.")

See also Part VI.

See also The trial of Patrick Naughton

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