Fact Check

Was Arrest Warrant Issued for 'Catch a Predator' Presenter Chris Hansen?

The former presenter of "To Catch a Predator" became involved in a high-profile but very brief legal controversy in Michigan in July 2021.

Published Jul 2, 2021

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 09:  Television host, Chris Hansen visits Build to discuss "Crime Watch Daily" at Build Studio on May 9, 2017 in New York City.  (Photo by Mireya Acierto/FilmMagic) (Mireya Acierto/FilmMagic)
Image Via Mireya Acierto/FilmMagic
In July 2021, a warrant was issued for the arrest of Chris Hansen in Michigan.

A bench warrant was issued for Hansen in Shiawassee County, Michigan, in July 2021, when he failed to make a court appearance during the trial of another man. However, the warrant was quickly removed when Hansen made himself available to the court the next day.

In July 2021, several news outlets reported that Chris Hansen, former presenter of the controversial "Dateline NBC" segment "To Catch a Predator," was wanted in the state of Michigan, where a warrant for his arrest had been issued. 

For example, on July 1 the Flint, Michigan, Fox affiliate WSMH reported that:

An arrest warrant is now out for TV star Chris Hansen after he failed to appear in a Michigan courtroom on Thursday. Shiawassee County Prosecuting Attorney Scott Koerner has confirmed that a bench warrant is out for Chris Hansen.

Koerner says Hansen failed to respond to a subpoena today in court to present records related to the Shiawassee County Sting Operation that Hansen was involved in back in October.

Similar articles were published by the London Independent and the New York Post.

Those reports were accurate at the time they were published, but Hansen quickly resolved the outstanding bench warrant the next day, July 2. As a result, we are issuing a rating of "Outdated."

Hansen was not charged with a crime in July 2021, and the bench warrant authorized law enforcement officers to arrest him, but it did not culminate in his arrest. It resulted from Hansen's failure to present evidence in the context of another man's trial on child sexual abuse charges. On July 2, Shiwassee County Circuit Court Judge Matthew Stewart removed the bench warrant. 

The controversy emerged from the case against Michael Leigh Lott, a Michigan man charged with child sexual abuse offenses as part of an October 2020 sting operation run by the Shiawassee and Genesee county sheriff's departments, with the involvement of Hansen, who became a household name during the 2000s for coordinating and broadcasting similar sting operations on "To Catch a Predator."

Clint Perryman, who acted as attorney for Hansen in the July 2021 episode, told Snopes a disagreement arose, in the context of Lott's case, over video footage recorded by Hansen and his team, during the sting operation against Lott. As part of the discovery process, in which prosecutors are obliged to disclose to defense attorneys the evidence they intend to use, as well as any evidence that might exculpate (support the innocence of) the defendant, Lott's attorneys requested certain evidence directly from Hansen. 

The court issued a subpoena for Hansen to appear on July 1, but according to Perryman, there were issues surrounding how this requirement was communicated to Hansen, and Hansen maintained he was not properly notified of his obligations. As a result, Hansen did not appear on July 1, so Stewart issued the bench warrant. 

However, Perryman told Snopes the matter was resolved quickly, and that Hansen travelled to the court in Corunna, Michigan, on July 2. According to Perryman, an agreement was reached between prosecutors, Lott's defense attorneys, and Hansen, with respect to the evidence Hansen would be obliged to provide. 

After that, Stewart signed an order to recall the warrant, which Snopes has obtained and which can be read here. Under that order, the bench warrant issued a day earlier was removed, and news reports about the warrant, though accurate when they were published, quickly became outdated.

Dan Mac Guill is a former writer for Snopes.

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