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posted by janrinok on Monday December 26 2016, @09:22PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the if-at-first-you-don't-succeed dept.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who will be resigning soon prior to joining Congress as a U.S. Senator, has filed new "pimping" charges against the CEO and other executives of Backpage. The previous set of charges were dismissed by a judge less than two weeks ago. Backpage is an online classified advertising website known for its listings of escort services:

Harris said the new charges were based on new evidence. A Sacramento County judge threw out pimping charges against the men on 9 December, citing federal free-speech laws. In the latest case, filed in Sacramento County superior court, Harris claims Backpage illegally funnelled money through multiple companies and created various websites to get around banks that refused to process transactions. She also alleged that the company used photos of women from Backpage on other sites without their permission in order to increase revenue and knowingly profited from the proceeds of prostitution.

"By creating an online brothel – a hotbed of illicit and exploitative activity – Carl Ferrer, Michael Lacey, and James Larkin preyed on vulnerable victims, including children, and profited from their exploitation," Harris said in a statement.


Original Submission

Related Stories

After Release of U.S. Senate Report, Backpage Shuts Down U.S. Adult Section 36 comments

Hours after the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations released a report claiming that online classifieds website Backpage "knowingly concealed evidence of criminality by systematically editing its adult ads", Backpage shut down the U.S. adult advertising section of its site:

The online classified advertising site Backpage.com abruptly shut its "adult" section on Monday, yielding to a campaign by state and federal government officials to close a service they contend promotes prostitution and human trafficking. The unexpected move came hours after a U.S. Senate subcommittee released a report accusing Backpage of actively editing posts on the site to remove evidence of child sex trafficking.

In announcing its decision, Backpage said it was the victim of government censorship. Backpage attorneys said executives would appear at a subcommittee hearing on Tuesday, but would not testify.

U.S. Senators Rob Portman and Claire McCaskill, however, said their subcommittee found Backpage had been far more complicit in sex trafficking than previously known. "Backpage's response wasn't to deny what we said. It was to shut down their site," they said in a statement. "That's not 'censorship' — it's validation of our findings."

On the same day, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from three sex trafficking victims accusing Backpage of facilitating the exploitation of children. The Supreme Court let stand a lower court ruling that said Backpage is shielded from liability by federal law since the site's classified ads are posted by users.

Also at Washington Post, NBC, and USA Today.

Previously: Backpage's Dallas Offices Raided, CEO Charged With "Pimping"
"Pimping" Charges Against Backpage Executives Dismissed
California Attorney General Pursues New Charges Against Backpage CEO


Original Submission

"Pimping" Charges Against Backpage Executives Dismissed 13 comments

Executives for the online classified advertising website Backpage have seen the charges against them dismissed:

Last month, a California judge tentatively ruled that he would dismiss charges lodged by California's attorney general against Backpage.com's chief executive and two of its former owners. The tables seemed to turn after a November 16 hearing in which Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Bowman decided against following his tentative ruling. But on Friday, the judge issued a final order that virtually mirrored the earlier one: charges dismissed.

[...] Judge Bowman agreed with the defendants, including former owners Michael Lacey and James Larkin, that they were protected, among other things, by the Communications Decency Act, and hence they were not liable for third-party ads posted by others.

"Congress struck a balance in favor of free speech in that Congress did not wish to hold liable online publishers for the action of publishing third-party speech and thus provided for both a foreclosure from prosecution and an affirmative defense at trial. Congress has spoken on this matter and it is for Congress, not this Court, to revisit," the judge initially ruled. Judge Bowman issued nearly the same language (PDF) in his latest ruling: "By enacting the CDA, Congress struck a balance in favor of free speech by providing for both a foreclosure from prosecution and an affirmative defense at trial for those who are deemed an internet service provider."

Previously: Backpage's Dallas Offices Raided, CEO Charged With "Pimping"


Original Submission

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  • (Score: 2) by takyon on Monday December 26 2016, @09:35PM

    by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Monday December 26 2016, @09:35PM (#446161) Journal

    It's less likely than you think. More likely Kamala [wikipedia.org] wants to pull an Obama.

    On November 8, 2016, she defeated Loretta Sanchez in the 2016 U.S. Senate election to replace outgoing Democratic senator Barbara Boxer, becoming the second black woman and first Indian American elected to serve in the United States Senate.

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  • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 26 2016, @10:11PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 26 2016, @10:11PM (#446171)

    illegally funnelled money through multiple companies and created various websites to get around banks that refused to process transactions

    That doesn't sound like "pimping." No mention of them being charged with anything related to "money funneling."

    She also alleged that the company used photos of women from Backpage on other sites without their permission

    That sounds kinda bad, if it's really true. Maybe putting photos on the site implied permission according to the terms of service. Sounds sketchy, but it still doesn't sound like pimping. Sounds more like making excuses for charging them with something that you don't have evidence to charge them with.

    • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 26 2016, @10:27PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 26 2016, @10:27PM (#446179)

      What new evidence?

      It's right here in the summary:

      A Sacramento County judge threw out pimping charges against the men on 9 December, citing federal free-speech laws.

      That was evidence she had to try a different tactic to try to put them in jail.

    • (Score: 5, Interesting) by MrGuy on Monday December 26 2016, @10:48PM

      by MrGuy (1007) on Monday December 26 2016, @10:48PM (#446185)

      The previous charges were dismissed because the Communications Decency Act specifically exempted website owners from legal responsibility of the actions of their third-party users. For example, Craigslist isn't guilty of a crime just because someone tries to sell stolen goods via a Craigslist Ad.

      To get around that defense, it appears the prosecution is alleging that the owners of Backpage weren't simply providing a neutral service that was used by others to facilitate a crime, but rather that Backpage executives were active participants in the crime itself.

      It appears they're taking two approaches on this. If Backpage actively and knowingly helped facilitate payment activity for illegal activities, they can't claim to be just an unknowing communication service provider. That could potentially defeat the shield from the Communications Decency Act.

      Second, if the owners of the site used the illegal content to privately profit from it, it would be hard to argue they didn't know about anything illegal going on. And if they actively created some of the offending content, it's not third parties who did the bad actions. The Communications Decency Act only protects platform providers, not content creators.

      It's not clear what, if any, evidence there is to back up either of these claims. Allegations are not evidence. The previous dismissal made it pretty clear that the court won't hold Backpage liable for user-created content, so they need to have something substantial to prove Backpage execs were more actively involved in the illegal activity. Whether they have enough evidence to convince a court is something that we'll have to see.

    • (Score: 2) by timbim on Tuesday December 27 2016, @08:07AM

      by timbim (907) on Tuesday December 27 2016, @08:07AM (#446265)

      sounds exactly like what facebook does to me!

    • (Score: 2) by DeathMonkey on Tuesday December 27 2016, @06:48PM

      by DeathMonkey (1380) on Tuesday December 27 2016, @06:48PM (#446410) Journal

      No mention of them being charged with anything related to "money funneling."
       
      Harris, an incoming US senator, said she had charged Backpage executives Carl Ferrer, Michael Lacey and James Larkin with 13 counts of pimping and conspiracy to commit pimping. They also are charged with 26 counts of money laundering.

  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by Runaway1956 on Monday December 26 2016, @10:24PM

    by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Monday December 26 2016, @10:24PM (#446178) Homepage Journal

    We've seen this a number of times. Someone with an over inflated sense of self importance just can't let things go. These people were dismissed, but this woman won't allow some stupid judge to over rule her judgement. The defendants are evil, so they must pay. In this case, "Because I'm a congress critter now, I'm going to work on new laws formed to burn these evil bastards!"

    --
    Let's go Brandon!
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 27 2016, @05:42AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 27 2016, @05:42AM (#446254)

      Ah, you're just saying that because the pervs she is prosecuting are Republican disruptive entrepreneurs of Web2.0! Prostitution, on a computer!

  • (Score: 1, Touché) by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 26 2016, @11:13PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 26 2016, @11:13PM (#446189)

    so this "I AM THE LAW" idiot is going to be in the US Senate? :( :( :(

  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by PinkyGigglebrain on Monday December 26 2016, @11:35PM

    by PinkyGigglebrain (4458) on Monday December 26 2016, @11:35PM (#446191)

    You know this has nothing to do with actually helping victims and everything to do with making a name for themselves when they use hot button phrases like "preyed on vulnerable victims, including children,"
     
    Bitch.
     
    There are already separate laws to protect children and others from slave traffickers/abusers. Legalize prostitution and almost all the problems associated with it will vanish almost completely overnight. Why doesn't a woman turn in a violent client/pimp who assaults her or forces her to work? Because they know they'll get arrested too. Why doesn't a client report a suspected trafficking victim? because they'll get arrested too if they try.

    --
    "Beware those who would deny you Knowledge, For in their hearts they dream themselves your Master."
  • (Score: 2) by mendax on Monday December 26 2016, @11:45PM

    by mendax (2840) on Monday December 26 2016, @11:45PM (#446193)

    She's just beating a dead horse. It's just a little more dead this time around. Hopefully she doesn't find herself wearing it in January when she goes to Washington next month.

    --
    It's really quite a simple choice: Life, Death, or Los Angeles.
  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by jelizondo on Tuesday December 27 2016, @12:01AM

    by jelizondo (653) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday December 27 2016, @12:01AM (#446196) Journal

    There is a similar, unrelated case [latimes.com], of a man wrongly convicted; quoting from the LA TIMES, the guy was indicted in 1998 and released until 2013 thanks to Kamala Harris, AG for California, who appealed his motions to keep him in jail:

    "[...] A federal magistrate reviewed those facts and determined that Larsen deserved to have his conviction overturned because his lawyer was inadequate.[...] 'Had the jury heard the exculpatory testimony,' the magistrate wrote, 'no reasonable juror would have found [Larsen] guilty.' The magistrate's recommendations were reviewed and upheld by a second federal judge in 2009. [...] Yet the California attorney general's office objected to releasing Larsen, and he remains behind bars while the fight over his release is appealed. [...] it is exceptionally rare for a federal judge to conclude that an inmate is 'actually innocent.' Under these circumstances, Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris would be wise to back off and let Larsen go. "

    Apparently when she decides you're guilty, you are, regardless of judges or juries.

    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Tuesday December 27 2016, @01:05AM

      by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Tuesday December 27 2016, @01:05AM (#446210) Journal

      Although it doesn't reflect well on her character, that seems to be the norm for AGs. And if they are shuffling into higher political offices, it's no surprise that they want to be seen as tough on crime.

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      [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
      • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 27 2016, @02:00AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 27 2016, @02:00AM (#446217)
        How can you be “tough on crime” when YOU’RE TRYING TO KEEP IMPRISONED SOMEONE THE JUDGE AND JURY CONCLUDED WAS INNOCENT⁈ Defying the authority of the courts to rule that someone is innocent looks rather more like criminal behaviour instead, and shows contempt for the rule of law.
        • (Score: 4, Insightful) by takyon on Tuesday December 27 2016, @02:17AM

          by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Tuesday December 27 2016, @02:17AM (#446218) Journal

          "Tough on crime" also means incarcerating drug users, putting everyone on the sex offender list, and 3 strikes laws. It doesn't have to make sense. It just has to be tough. There can be no sign of weakness, compromise, or remorse.

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          [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 27 2016, @04:22PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 27 2016, @04:22PM (#446367)

          guy pulls away his down comforter looks around and realizes prosecuters and politicians are scum bags. welcome to reality!

      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by TheRaven on Tuesday December 27 2016, @07:54AM

        by TheRaven (270) on Tuesday December 27 2016, @07:54AM (#446263) Journal
        Remind me again why you guys think it's a good idea having elected attorneys general?
        --
        sudo mod me up
    • (Score: 1) by Frosty Piss on Tuesday December 27 2016, @06:29AM

      by Frosty Piss (4971) on Tuesday December 27 2016, @06:29AM (#446256)

      DAs don't care about guilt or innocence, just convictions. Any body will do.

  • (Score: 0, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 27 2016, @02:21AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 27 2016, @02:21AM (#446220)

    As for exploiting children: Men who rape female children are to keep them and pay the father

      Filter error: Please troll elsewhere.
    Filter error: You having fun yet?

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by bradley13 on Tuesday December 27 2016, @10:02AM

    by bradley13 (3053) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday December 27 2016, @10:02AM (#446291) Homepage Journal

    It's only peripheral to this case, but I have now heard of numerous situations where the big credit cards cut some organization off. For better or for worse, they have become fundamental to online commerce. I'm slowly of the opinion that they should be required to process any payments that are not provably illegal. Letting the credit cards pass their own judgements is essentially letting them become a second, independent legal system, but one with no recourse to due process.

    Any thoughts on this from the Soylentils?

    --
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    • (Score: 2, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 27 2016, @10:18AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 27 2016, @10:18AM (#446293)

      this is why I have a JCB card (available in some US states)... no monthly fee, no late fee, no overlimit fee, and is accepted by some merchants which have been cut off by Visa/MC

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 27 2016, @04:25PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 27 2016, @04:25PM (#446370)

      yes and this extends to paypal, stripe, etc. those socialist whores won't let you use their services if you're selling ammo, much less guns. they should be brought up on charges of sedition.