Not long ago, we posted an article about the criminal charges that had been brought against Backpage.com CEO, Carl Ferrer. Although the raids and the initial arrest took place in Dallas, Texas, Ferrer was later extradited to California to face charges of pandering. However, a California judge has tentatively dismissed the charges, saying that he isn’t sure the California courts are the right place to fight this particular battle.
Kamala Harris, the California Attorney General, who brought charges against Ferrer, has referred to Backpage.com as an ‘online brothel.’ As a result, her office has charged Ferrer with Pimping a Minor, Pimping, and Conspiracy to Commit Pimping. (In Michigan ‘pimping’ is referred to as Pandering.) However, Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Bowman says that Harris doesn’t have enough authority to bring these types of charges against Ferrer.
According to Judge Bowman, the Federal Communications Decency Act grants immunity from prosecution to website operators for the content posted by their users. This is considered to be a form of free speech, and is therefore protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. For this reason, Ferrer is arguing that he should not be held accountable for the types of things posted by the users of his website. The California Department of Justice, however, disagrees.
“While Backpage hosts ads for sales of a range of items and services, the arrest warrant alleges that the vast majority of Backpage’s revenue is generated through prostitution-related ads in its “adult services” section. Backpage collects fees from users who post “escort” ads, offering sex for money using coded language and nearly nude photos. The California Department of Justice’s investigation found that many of the ads for prostitution services involved victims of sex trafficking, including children under the age of 18.”
Ferrer is accused of facilitating the sexual slavery of children.
In addition, the United States Senate, following a year-long investigation into Backpage, voted to hold Ferrer in contempt for his refusal to comply with the Senate Subcommittee’s investigation. Ferrer argued that Backpage.com was protected by the First Amendment right, and therefor refused to provide the Subcommittee with the documentation they requested. The documentation pertained directly to how Backpage.com reviews third party ads posted on it’s site.
It took several months while the argument moved through the courts, but last month the United States Supreme Court approved the subpoena, which forced Ferrer to hand over the documentation. According to the Senate Subcommittee, during the course of their investigation they discovered “substantial evidence that Backpage edits the content of some ads, including deleting words and images, before publication. The record indicates that in some cases, these deletions likely served to remove evidence of the illegality of the underlying transaction.”
Despite all of this, however, Judge Michael Bowman is reluctant to make a final ruling in this matter “The victimization resulted from the third party’s placement of the ad, not because (of) Backpage profiting from the ad placement.” the Judge wrote in his tentative ruling. He did agree to postpone his ruling, however, until the prosecution had more time to convince him of their argument. Court records show that the Judge has given the prosecution until December 9th to submit their briefs before he makes his final ruling. We will continue to follow this case as it develops, and will keep you updated.
Sex crimes are considered to be some of the most awful crimes a person can commit. For that reason alone, if you or a loved one have been charged with a sex crime in Michigan, you are need aggressive representation. The experienced defense attorneys at the Kronzek Firm have decades of experience handling complex sex crime cases and defending against allegations of rape, prostitution, pandering, assault and molestation. Call us today at 866-766-5245. We are here to help 24/7.