MONTREAL — Twin Playboy bunnies and an animal-rights group tried to enlist one of the world’s biggest porn stars last year to help catch Luka Rocco Magnotta.
Ron Jeremy tells The Canadian Press he was asked to lure Magnotta, a small-time Canadian porn actor, to Los Angeles with a phoney job offer to appear in an X-rated flick.
The ploy was concocted more than a year before Magnotta became a murder suspect in the gruesome death of Montreal student Jun Lin.
Instead of meeting a legend who’s cavorted for the camera in more than 2,000 adult films, Magnotta was to be apprehended by a hard-nosed group of animal-rights activists.
Jeremy, however, got cold feet and the sting operation never moved ahead.
At the time, animal-rights advocates had alleged that Magnotta killed kittens and posted videos of the deeds on the Internet — accusations he has publicly denied.
Jeremy, an active animal-rights campaigner, wanted to help out, but was uncomfortable with the whole idea of being the bait.
“That’s a little bit out of my league, don’t you think?” Jeremy told The Canadian Press in a phone interview about the January 2011 proposal.
“It’s like an episode from some TV show. The [guy] comes to the set with lube in one hand and his schmeckle in the other thinking he has a job, and the cops tackle him to the ground.
“That’s good for the movies. That doesn’t work in real life.”
The idea for the porn-gig trap was hatched by Rescue Ink, a group of rough-and-tumble animal activists based in Queens, N.Y. Its membership includes police officers, military personnel and tattooed “street guys.”
To connect with Jeremy, Rescue Ink reached out to a couple of his acquaintances: former Playboy playmates Sia and Shane Barbi, also known as the Barbi Twins.
“I told Sia I’m willing to do things and help, do public service announcements, or whatever it takes,” said Jeremy, 59, who has been a spokesman for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
“But I’m not a law-enforcement agent. How do I catch somebody?”
Rescue Ink collaborators would have been waiting there in the shadows to pounce on an unsuspecting Magnotta. Their captive would have later been handed over to authorities.
Sia Barbi remembers that Jeremy initially wanted to play along, even though they told him Magnotta was likely only interested in gay or bisexual adult movies.
“Ron Jeremy said: ‘I only do straight porn,’” Barbi said in a phone interview.
“And I said, ‘Ron, let’s focus here. We don’t want to hire him, we want to arrest him.’”
But as Jeremy learned more about his role, she said he got cold feet. The Barbis and Rescue Ink expressed concern at the time that the kitten killer in the video could eventually harm humans.
“I think it kind of spooked Ron,” said Barbi. “It just got a little bit creepy for all of us.”
When the plan was first conceived, they had a direct line of contact to Magnotta, through the help of a confidential female informant working for Rescue Ink.
The woman was involved in an ongoing online dialogue with him and the group had gathered evidence for police, said Joe Panz, Rescue Ink’s co-founder.
Panz, a burly pawnbroker from Queens, said Magnotta had to be drawn into the U.S. because animal-abuse allegations weren’t serious enough to have him extradited.
He said the potential risks of the scheme were explained to Jeremy.
“I don’t lie. Yes, you can get hurt,” said Panz, who has six bullet-wound scars from an attempted hit on his life several years ago.
Panz said Jeremy, whose porn nickname is “The Hedgehog,” was also worried that setting up a fellow adult actor might tarnish his reputation in the industry.
“I don’t blame him,” he said of Jeremy’s decision not to take part in the sting. “He was in a very difficult situation.”
Jeremy believes a larger casting call — thus having more people around — might have been a safer option to snag Magnotta. But he said his busy schedule didn’t free up the time to organize it.
A smaller shoot just wouldn’t have worked, he says.
“If he comes to an empty house, he’ll be suspicious,” said Jeremy, who also raised other concerns.
“If this guy’s got friends in L.A., who want to search me out first or check me out first, why would I want to put myself in the line of fire like that?”
Magnotta got on online sleuths’ radars after the release the disturbing kitten killing videos. One group, calling itself the Animal Beta Project, spent months searching records and analyzing photos before drawing up a rough biography of the alleged killer, linking him to the videos and even pinpointing his Toronto whereabouts.
Their work may ultimately have been critical in helping police to link Magnotta to the brutal murder for which he is accused.
The Animal Beta Project started its probe December 22, 2010, one day after the posting of 1 boy 2 kittens, a video which purports to show a man putting the kittens inside a vacuum-seal bag and suffocating the two animals by sucking out all the air. In a follow-up video, the same man can be seen with another dead cat.
The perpetrator’s face is concealed with a hood and digital manipulation, but by thoroughly documenting the clothing, jewellery and physical features of the man in video, group members were able to make near-perfect matches to publicly available photos of Magnotta, who had first come to the group’s attention by way of an anonymous tip.
Most damningly, group members found that many of Magnotta’s photos were uploaded with embedded information on the make and serial number of the camera, a hot pink Panasonic DMC-F3.
“There are pictures of Luka Magnotta taken with the same camera … as the camera which took the photos of the suspect holding the kittens before they were killed,” wrote Animal Beta Project in a 17-page evidence document posted to their website.With files from Tristin Hopper