Backpage sex charges dismissed

09 Dec 2016

A California state court judge today [Friday] dismissed charges against the CEO of Backpage.com and two other men linked to the company, saying the state acted improperly in filing the pimping charges in the first place.

Judge Michael G. Bowman of California Superior Court reiterated and expanded on the tentative ruling he issued last month, saying today that “Congress has precluded liability for online publishers for the action of publishing third-party speech and thus has provided for both a foreclosure from prosecution and an affirmative defense at the trial.

“Congress has spoken on this matter and it is for Congress, not this Court, to revisit,” Bowman said, adding bold type.

The 15-page ruling held that any prostitution linked to Backpage ads “took place as a result of an advertisement placed by a third party. … In short, the victimization (of the prostitute) resulted from the third-party’s placement of the ad, not because of Backpage profiting from the ad placement.”

Ferrer was arrested Oct. 6, and former Backpage owners Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin were arrested a few days later. They were charged with various sex-related offenses. (More AIM Group coverage of the case is here, here, here and here. Our most recent article, about Bowman’s tentative ruling in the case last month, is here.)

In his final ruling, Bowman dismissed the charges against all three and vacated the bond they had paid to win their release from jail.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who brought the cases at the height of her campaign for the U.S. Senate, issued a statement about Bowman’s ruling but did not say whether the attorney general’s office would appeal. (Harris was elected to the Senate and will take office next month.”

“The Communications Decency Act was not meant to be a shield from criminal prosecution for perpetrators of online brothels,” she said in a statement reported by the Associated Press. “We will not turn a blind eye to the defendants’ exploitative behavior simply because they conducted their criminal enterprise online rather than on a street corner.”

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Peter M. Zollman

Peter M. Zollman brings more than 35 years of media experience to his role as founding principal of the AIM Group / Classified Intelligence Report. He has worked with a wide range of media companies, dot-coms, technology providers and start-ups to develop and expand successful interactive-media services. He is based in Altamonte Springs, Fla., near Orlando.