Crime - Sacto 911

Backpage.com execs heading back to Sacramento court

Sex worker advocate says backpage.com case prosecuting the wrong people

Kristen DiAngelo speaks after backpage.com CEO Carl Ferrer and controlling shareholders Michael Lacey and James Larkin appear in Sacramento Superior Court on Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2016.
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Kristen DiAngelo speaks after backpage.com CEO Carl Ferrer and controlling shareholders Michael Lacey and James Larkin appear in Sacramento Superior Court on Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2016.

The Backpage.com executives facing dozens of money laundering and pimping charges will return to a Sacramento courtroom Jan. 24 to be arraigned on the raft of new allegations, a judge ordered Wednesday.

Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer, and partners former Village Voice and New Times owners Michael Lacey and James Larkin, were slated to appear Wednesday in Sacramento Superior Court on 26 counts of money laundering and another 13 counts of pimping and conspiracy to commit pimping, connected to the online advertising website’s now-shuttered adult section. The new state charges include seven counts in which the alleged victims are children.

The executives faced a Senate subcommittee hearing Tuesday on Capitol Hill on allegations that Backpage concealed criminal conduct by editing words and terms from its adult advertisements, and knowingly facilitated sex trafficking and child sex trafficking on the site.

Ferrer, Lacey and Larkin declined to testify at the Senate hearing, invoking their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.

Attorney General’s prosecutors on Wednesday told Sacramento Superior Court Judge Curtis Fiorini they plan to ask him to impose bail on the three at the arraignment on the new charges filed in December.

Prosecutors in their 19-page complaint allege Backpage laundered millions of dollars through the site, used the site to collect prostitution earnings from adults, minors and their pimps in Sacramento, Fresno, Los Angeles and Santa Clara counties and designed and used other websites to “increase its own revenue from the illegal sex trade.”

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael Bowman in November dismissed earlier pimping and pandering charges against the three on free speech grounds saying Backpage is a third-party content provider protected under federal communications provisions.

Still, Backpage abruptly closed its website’s adult section Monday after the subcommittee’s report citing what it called “unconstitutional government censorship,” while vowing to fight for its First Amendment rights.

Darrell Smith: 916-321-1040, @dvaughnsmith

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