A website has been termed as an online brothel by the Californian prosecutors. And as per the judge’s ruling on Wednesday, these prosecutors can now file money laundering charges against the makers of that website.
However, the judge discharged other allegations a few months afterward, when another one dismissed the whole case referring to it as a violation of speech freedom and state protections.
After that, the Californian DAs refiled the charges against the founders and the chief executive of the website Backpage.com during this spring. This time, the judge permitted the charges of money laundering upon which, all three of them pleaded not guilty.
The court judge of Sacramento County Superior, Mr. Larry Brown, further discharged 15 pimping plots and several other charges against the website’s operators.
The judge referred to the state law that protects the free speech and offers an exception to the websites that publish content that is generated by third persons. And he decreed that the charges cannot be filed against the website because they are related to the publishing of the promotional sexual content and thus, they are protected by the law.
Brown also agreed to the Californian Judge, by allowing continuation of 25 out of a total of 27 money laundering cases claiming illicit bank fraud.
The DAs further claimed that the operators of the website used several firms for illicitly channeling their money. They also said that the operators made numerous other websites for persuading the banks that had declined to process their dealings.
According to the prosecutors, the web address Backpage.com is a confidential online site. And most of its monthly revenue, which is in millions of USDs, is generated through their slightly covert prostitution advertisements.
Although the website had closed down their section offering these services, reportedly, it wasn’t actually shut down. Instead, the website moved these ads to another section offering dating and massages services. And needless to say, the promotional content contained highly obscene imageries and language.
The numerous reported cases regarding sex trafficking and children trafficking are being linked by the Californian DAs and U.S Senate agents to the website. According to them, the website is leading the market into sex marketing business and so it needs to be stopped.
But, the government officials are in bewilderment due to the free speech protection law and want to take care of the problem without making any violation of it. There was a different verdict by the United States Supreme court in the month of January that said the website’s advertisements are guarded by the Decency Act of the Government Communications, which is especially intended to guard the online publishers.
The Parliament is now thinking along the lines of making alterations to the act, for putting a full stop on the websites that are involved in sex trafficking. Another thing that is being taken into consideration is to particularly permit the states for filing illegal charges.
Brown said that the Parliament will have to take action for permitting the illicit charges pertaining to online publishing. He further added that although the immunity given by the law to the ISPs is pretty expensive, it still has some limits. And it fails in the case of ISP’s personal involvement in the criminal acts.
In Brown’s own words: “immunity afforded to internet service providers is not without limit. Even the most ardent defenders of a vigorous world wide web would have to concede that if a provider engaged in their own criminal acts, versus those of their customers, immunity must fail.”
This ruling came off as a partial triumph for both the Californian Prosecutors and the defense advocates and they both seemed to be content with it. The Defense Advocate Jim Grant stated that they are satisfied with the decision and they are happy that all the charges related to prostitution and pimping have been dismissed.
He further added that this was the right decision to be taken because it doesn’t just support the online free speech but also the first alteration in the law.
Another defense attorney said that the other outstanding charges are “technical financial crimes” and has speculated that they will also be discharged later on.
The prosecutors are still planning to prove their case right pretty soon. And the California Advocate General Xavier Becerra sees it as a victory because he believes that the ruling has brought the prosecutors one step ahead in their pursuit of sentencing those black sheep that take advantage of the feeble minded and susceptible young ladies and men.
In response to the whole case, the website has responded by claiming that it has nothing to do with the content because it only posts the ads that are made by the third parties. And so, they do not own the responsibility for that.
However, some official papers have been lately taken into custody from the website’s contractor in the Philippines, which show a different story than what the website is claiming. The documents show that the contractor has been making these obscene and sexual ads for the website. Therefore, the US Senators are now requesting the American Justice Dept. for contemplating new illicit charges against Backpage.
There have been no remarks on the new papers from either the website’s legal representatives or the California’s Attorney general. A number of victims have also filed civil charges against the website and its owners stating that they were below 18 years of age when they fell prey to the website’s ads, through which they were sold for prostitution.
But, these cases were filed before Xavier Becerra had taken the seat of the Attorney General. And once he took the seat in January, he made alterations to these charges.
The owners of the website, Lacey, and Larkin, once used to own a series of different newspapers. And reportedly, their website not only publishes prostitution ads, it also publishes non-sexual classified advertisements.
However, according to a subcommittee of United States Senate, the website is not only involved in publishing ads made by third parties, they have also been cutting out up to 80% of their prostitution ads for hiding their true purpose.