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DEN Founder to Stand Trial in Molestation Case

November 10, 2003|Joseph Menn | Times Staff Writer

The founder of the defunct Digital Entertainment Network of Santa Monica has been extradited to the United States to stand trial on charges stemming from his relationship with a 13-year-old boy who worked for his former company.

At his arraignment last week in a Trenton, N.J., federal court, Marc Collins-Rector, 44, pleaded not guilty to five counts of transporting a minor across state lines for illegal activity. A trial has been tentatively set for January.

The accused child molester is being held without bail pending a medical evaluation requested by the prosecution, said Michael Drewniak, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office. Collins-Rector's attorney, public defender Stacy Biancamano, didn't return calls seeking comment.

The former Internet executive fled the country in 2000 amid allegations that he pursued teenage employees at DEN. He was arrested in Spain 1 1/2 years ago and lost a long extradition fight last month.

Once the toast of the Los Angeles dot-com world, Collins-Rector raised more than $60 million for his Internet venture from blue-chip firms such as Microsoft Corp., Intel Corp. and General Electric Co.'s NBC. With more than 300 employees, the company created short videos for the Web aimed at teenagers and young adults. But the company lasted only two years before filing for bankruptcy liquidation in 2000.

Before DEN collapsed, The Times reported that teenage employees were pressed into taking social trips and attending parties with Collins-Rector and his two younger housemates, DEN executives Chad Shackley and Brock Pierce.

Collins-Rector already had been sued by the 13-year-old boy who worked from his New Jersey home for Collins-Rector's former company, Internet service provider Concentric Networks. That boy is the alleged victim in the criminal case.

After the newspaper report, the FBI intensified its inquiry and Collins-Rector left the country with Shackley and Pierce. After a tip to local police in Marbella, Spain, Collins-Rector was arrested there last year.

Shackley and Pierce were jailed on Spanish charges, but they were released in June 2002, according to the U.S. State Department. There are no U.S. charges against those two, and an FBI agent said their whereabouts were unknown.

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