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Crime & Justice

Car thief set free after TV footage shows detective didn’t read him his Miranda rights

Reality crime shows have been following cops around for years, with film crews catching every word and gesture of both the officers and the suspects. But it is rare when a mistake made by a law enforcement officer, and captured on film, sets a would-be criminal free.

Yet that’s what happened recently, the L.A. Times reports, after an admitted car thief had to be let go thanks to something a sheriff’s detective did -- or rather didn’t do -- as shown in footage filmed for the reality TV program “Bait Car.”

The show is simple enough: A so-called bait car, wired up with cameras, microphones and GPS tracking equipment, is left out somewhere in a high-crime area with the engine running. Authorities (and camera crews) lie in wait nearby, ready for someone to take the bait and drive away.

Entrapment? Possibly -- but law enforcement has been using these so-called honey traps long before there was reality TV.

According to the Times, footage shot recently for a “Bait Car” episode in Los Angeles shows “28-year-old Keenan Alex come across a parked, shiny red Cadillac Escalade with the keys in the ignition and the engine running.”

Alex gets in and drives off in it, and is pulled over and arrested by sheriff’s deputies. But during the arrest, Det. Anthony Shapiro allegedly failed to properly read Alex his Miranda rights.

Worse, the Times reports that Shapiro later testified under oath that he did in fact read Alex “each of his Miranda rights from a card in his notebook.” Hearing this claim, defense attorneys produced the unedited “Bait Car” footage.

What the detective actually says, according to the Times, is: “You watch TV, you know your rights and all that?”

Alex’s case was thrown out, and Shapiro was put on paid leave, the Times reports. 

“Bait Car” airs on TruTV (formerly Court TV), a network featuring “Muscle Guys Going Crazy” and “Brawlin’ Brazilian Bikinis.” The show has come under fire for taking what some call entrapment and mass-producing it for viewers’ casual enjoyment.

The show has traveled to several different states, and so far in California it has come to Los Angeles County, San Bernardino County and San Francisco. Whenever it hosts “Bait Car,” L.A. County receives $22,500 per episode, as well as overtime costs for the officers working the stings, according to the Times.

A public defender in San Francisco once described “Bait Car” as “crime created for the purposes of entertainment. I don’t know how any district attorney could in good conscience put this before a jury.”

It turns out they will -- unless the suspect isn’t read his Miranda rights.