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Behind the 'MySpace fugitive' capture

Law enforcement worked with MySpace and city to track wanted man to Philadelphia library.

Darren Bates' capture last week as he was updating his MySpace page at the Philadelphia main library has been widely reported. But exactly how were U.S. Marshals able to capture the man wanted in Georgia and Massachusetts?

Bates, 35, was arrested Thursday morning at the main branch of the Philadelphia public library. He had been on the run since escaping from the Hancock County Jail in Georgia in June while being held on charges of auto theft. Bates is also a suspect in the beating of an 88-year-old Georgia woman in her home. And he was also wanted on sexual assault charges in New Bedford, Mass.

"We received information from officers in Massachusetts that he (Bates) had a continuing pattern of going to the library at a certain time to log in to his MySpace page," said John Patrignani, supervisory deputy of the U.S. Marshals Service Violent Crimes Fugitive Task Force.

Patrignani said his team was given that leading information from Deputy U.S. Marshal Robert Charette, who was tracking Bates.

"We were able to work in conjunction with MySpace to determine that he was utilizing a city of Philadelphia computer to log into his MySpace account. After gathering that info, I was able to work with the city of Philadelphia to determine what library branch computer he was using," said Charette.

Charette was able to determine where and when Bates was logging on to MySpace.com. Plain clothes officers were then placed in that location and waited for Bates' next visit to the library.

Incidentally, the U.S. Congress recently considered restricting, or barring completely in some cases, access to chat rooms and social-networking sites from public school and public library computers.

While MySpace would not comment directly on the Bates case, or any other ongoing investigations or cooperation with authorities, it did say that it regularly helps authorities in tracking down suspected criminals both in the U.S. and foreign countries.

"MySpace has created streamlined procedures for law enforcement agencies and officials to obtain critical data that can be used to aid in investigations. MySpace currently publishes a law enforcement guide, which informs law enforcement agencies of these procedures and outlines how they can work with MySpace regarding subpoenas and requests for information. This guide has been broadly distributed to law enforcement agencies around the country," said Hemanshu Nigam, chief security officer at MySpace.

MySpace also has a special hotline service for law enforcement officials that is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. MySpace's safety team works directly with law enforcement, answering both emergency and non-emergency calls via the hotline to help in investigations, according to MySpace.