Echols could be best described as a thug who presented the sex abuse industry at its worst. Using the notoriety of his books I Know My First Name Is Steven and Brother Tony's Boys, he styled himself as a savior of children out to rid the Internet of "Child Sexual Predators." Echols was very clever at convincing people they should overlook his criminal past as a con-artist, petty thief and convicted felon, and used this charm as well as the emotive attraction of the anti-pedophile hysteria to gather a motley crew of followers to his cause. In almost all cases he brushed off his criminal past by claiming "a conspiracy" against him for revealing the supposed truth about others.
Obsession with BoyChat
Echols first arrived on BoyChat in 1996 and proceeded to harass and attempt to gather information on many of the posters. Much, but not all, of the information he collected was inaccurate. He published the information on his website, Better a Millstone. He primarily attempted to link BoyChat nicks with real life identities, addresses and telephone numbers.
Some of his information was widely off the mark. For example, he identified one Canadian poster as a resident of the Netherlands. In other cases, he inaccurately linked BoyChat nicks with prominent members of NAMBLA, in others still he inaccurately identified BoyChat posters as being people who had been reported by news media as having been involved in cases of child molestation.
Despite his false accusations and constructed information, Echols was at times very damaging to participants of BoyChat if they were too lax with information they posted about their lives. In two known cases, individual participants of BoyChat, Dr. Denny and Mentor, sided with Echols and became operatives gathering information for him to use. These events are mostly responsible for the high awareness of security on BoyChat as compared to other message boards.
Jim Finn III
Echols was able to obtain the real life identity of BoyChat's then-webmaster, Jimf3, from Internet registration documents for BoyChat and Free Spirits and then began a systematic campaign of harrassment against him. He would telephone Jim's residence at all hours of the night and scream random profanities at him. Echols often gave the impression of being highly intoxicated during these phone calls.
Echols lodged false accusations of child pornography against the BC poster known as Tygyr while Tygyr was attempting to emigrate to Canada. While crossing the border from the United States to Canada during that process, Tygyr was apprehended and briefly jailed by U.S. authorities on the strength of Echol's accusation. After a nearly two-year long investigation that involved confiscation of computer equipment and magnetic media, the charges against Tygyr were ordered to be dismissed with prejudice by a U.S. magistrate. The magistrate found that there was no evidence to support the charges and ruled that they could not be brought again. However, even given the absolute lack of any evidence after a thorough investigation, Tygyr was and remains barred from entering the United States. It is ironic to note that later on, Echols would in turn be denied entry to Canada himself.
Besides his personal attacks on individual posters, Echols often attempted to disrupt BoyChat by posting identical messages in reply to dozens of messages, apparently selected at random, within very short periods of time. As an alternative, he would sometimes post his messages at the top of the board, reposting constantly until nothing remained on the main index except for his posts. These attacks significantly changed the philosophy of BC management which theretofore had been almost completely "hands off" with respect to editing the index or preventing any given individual from posting messages. While a few random posters, mostly anonymous purveyors of commercial messages, had been banned from posting before Echols appeared, the prevailing management practice was to allow anyone posting about boylove issues to have his say, whether positive or negative, supportive or condemning.
After it became clear that Echols was not going to stop his disruptive practices, a great debate ensued among BC posters as to the wisdom of possibly banning him from participating on BoyChat. After some weeks of discussion, Jimf3 announced BC's first long-term ban. Echols was the first identifiable person who was told that he was not welcome on BoyChat. The ban was quite difficult to enforce as Echols continued to post using a series of proxy servers and public terminals. At one point Tygyr was able to track him to a specific computer at a community college in northern California and was able to provide the text of death threats he was making against BC posters and proof that they came from the terminal in question. The college informed the FSC that they had banned Echols from entering the facility in the future in light of his harassment.
Another tactic of Echols was to frequently send notices with grossly false information to the ISPs and upstream providers of BoyChat in attempts to have the hosting accounts terminated. In several cases he was successful and several of his protests contributed to a large outage for Free Spirits websites in 2001.
- In 1985, Echols makes a trip to New York where, posing as a boylover, he meets with officers of NAMBLA and gains a copy of the membership list.
- In January 1992, Echols, along with a reporter from KRON-TV San Francisco, attended a NAMBLA meeting with a hidden camera and audio wire at the Potrero Hill Public Library. The resulting video and news of this meeting led to wide-spread hysteria and exposure but did not point out the legality of such a meeting.
- In 1998, Echols publishes the NAMBLA membership list on his Better a Millstone website.
It's important to note that Echols' brushes with the law were numerous, and in some cases required years to resolve based on his constant pattern of evasion and manipulation with the courts.
New Mexico boys' school
In 1982, Echols abruptly left his employment with the New Mexico Boys School in Springer, NM after making unsubstantiated accusations of emotional, legal, physical, and sexual abuse of the boys in residence by some of the school's staff members. He claims to have had his life threatened by those involved. These accusations resulted in an expensive investigation, but no prosecutions. Echols settled in Colorado.
In 1998, Echols was hired by the Carson and Barnes circus as an "investigative journalist" whose job was to intimidate animal rights protesters. During one demonstration by Animal Emancipation Inc., Echols reportedly approached the protesters taking pictures and screaming "homophobic and sexist slurs". The police were called but found no crime in progress and requested the protesters to call again if anything happened. Not long after the police left, Echols again approached the group and grabbed and assaulted one of the protesters before witnesses. The police were called and Echols was arrested. The Carson and Barnes circus terminated their contract with Echols shortly afterwards. A trial resulted in a hung jury, which Animal Emancipation Inc. claimed was due to Echols imtimidating several jurors during the lunch break. A few days later Echols sent threatening emails and phone calls to several animal rights activists.
Canadian border incident
On 24 February 1999, Echols attempted to cross the border into Canada to attend a demonstration organized by Alan Walker against the British Columbia Supreme Court ruling (R vs Sharpe) on child pornography. He was refused entry to Canada on the grounds that he is "not of good character". Canadian Customs officers also seized 53 "computer disks" (type of media not specified) and two printed magazines containing photos of young boys in various states of nudity. Echols claims these are "examples" of child pornography that he had come to show during the rally.
On 15 June 1999, Echols received a reply to a complaint he filed with Citizenship and Immigration Canada on 1 April 1999 in which the CIC gave factual reasons for not allowing Echols entry into Canada.