Backgrounders: Finding the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

HT_cook_registry_full_jef_141028_4x3_992Credit: ABC News

We’re talking about backgrounding today — tracking the public record history of anyone and everyone who matters. But before we get to that, a story

A registered sex offender has emerged as a star player on a top tier college football team, resuming his athletic career after being expelled from the Air Force Academy where he was court-martialed for sexual assault.

No NCAA rule prevents a person with a criminal conviction from playing college athletics, a spokesperson told ABC News. It is left up to the individual college or conference to determine eligibility.

Jamil Cooks, 23, enrolled at Alcorn State in Mississippi, a Division One NCAA school, after being found guilty in April 2013 of abusive sexual contact in a court martial proceeding at the Air Force Academy, which required him to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

Cooks’ lawyer, Richard Stevens, says he is appealing the conviction.

via ABC News

Now, I’m not sure how ABC News learned about Cooks’s alleged crime. Maybe it was a tip. Maybe it was a records check. What I do know is how you can get records like this on anyone you want.

1. The Courts

For federal records, PACER is the place to check out. It’s a national repository of everything that has made it through the federal court system. State court records are harder to come by, depending on where you are looking. Some states, like my great home state of Missouri, have state-wide online databases like Other states relegate that duty to the County Courthouse. And in some counties, your best option is to head down to the Courthouse and start combing through records. And all of this goes for Municipal Courts as well.

2. Prison Records

Now not every state tracks prisoners post-lock up, so this may not pertain to you. But depending on the state, it’s good to check. And just for reference, here is the federal prisoner database.

3. Sex Offender Registries

You know the drill: Here is the federal registry. And use a simple Google search to find the state registry.

4. Tax Liens

Is the person who tallies up your university’s taxes have trouble paying his own? Check the tax lien database in your state. Also Google your county tax lien database for safe measure.

5. VINELink

What if, instead of being in the state-prison system, your interested person is locked  up elsewhere, VINELink is your next best option. Most (not all) sheriffs’ offices and PDs will use this system to track folks.

That’s good enough for now. A good prequel to all of this find out as much as you can about your target. Do an exhaustive Google Search. Check out Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin as well. See what they have posted and who they are connected with, friends, followers. Then there is ZABA Search, PeekYou, Pipl and LexisNexis.

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