Men Cleared In Online Prostitution Case, Experts Say Laws Out Of Date

Dec 8, 2004
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F. Chris Garcia, former president of the University of New Mexico, was recently cleared of charges that he operated an online prostitution ring.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Laws written long before the dawn of the Internet age have authorities across the nation struggling to prosecute online prostitution rings because of huge loopholes and defense lawyers' claims that the websites are protected speech.

A case in point is a recent New Mexico case involving a retired professor and former college administrator who were accused in what police described as an extensive multistate, online prostitution ring, experts say.

The two were cleared after a judge ruled that state law said the website they operated didn't constitute a "house of prostitution," even though investigators said the men used the site to recruit prostitutes and promote prostitution.

The problem, legal experts say, stemmed from law enforcement officials trying to apply old prostitution laws in a high-tech world. And they say it happens in many states, with authorities struggling to prosecute websites as "brothels" or pinpoint where free speech ends and the facilitation of a crime begins. Further, the National Conference of State Legislatures says state legislatures aren't actively working to update prostitution laws.

"Sometimes states' laws are too specific and were written years ago, long before the Internet," said Scott Cunningham, a Baylor University economics professor who has written about technology and prostitution. "That's why we are seeing some successful challenges to laws when websites are involved."

A big reason: Many websites function as screening services linking would-be prostitutes with potential customers, Cunningham said. That isn't enough to charge website owners of a crime in some states.

Another barrier for states is a 1996 federal law that offers cover for some website owners by protecting them from third-party content, experts say.

In the New Mexico case, a judge ruled in June that a website linked to two men accused of helping run an online prostitution ring was legal.

The ruling was a blow for prosecutors, who were preparing to present to a grand jury their case against former University of New Mexico president F. Chris Garcia and David C. Flory, a retired physics professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey. The two were accused of helping oversee a prostitution website called "Southwest Companions."

Investigators said the prostitution ring had a membership of 14,000, including 200 prostitutes. Members paid anywhere from $200 for one sex act to $1,000 for a full hour. Prostitutes were paid with cash, not through the website, according to police.

But State District Judge Stan Whitaker ruled that the website, an online message board, and Garcia's computer account did not constitute a "house of prostitution." Whitaker also said the website wasn't a "place where prostitution is practiced, encouraged or allowed."

Garcia, Flory and others were arrested in June 2011 on a criminal complaint charging them with promoting prostitution. Flory, who has a home in Santa Fe, bought the site in 2009, prosecutors said. He was identified by police as the ringleader; Garcia was accused of recruiting prostitutes.

"We have long maintained that Mr. Garcia did nothing illegal," said Robert Gorence, Garcia's attorney. "He feels vindicated by the judge's decision."

Flory has declined to comment.

The ruling sparked Gov. Susana Martinez to call for state legislators to look at updating New Mexico's prostitution laws to include websites.

In Florida, authorities in 2002 set up an elaborate sting to shut down a Tampa-based escort-ad site called Bigdoggie.net by using undercover officers who set up fake ads. Investigators said the website connected customers to escorts and published reviews on escorts.

But prosecutors' efforts to conceal informants' identities failed, and a judge dismissed racketeering and conspiracy charges against Bigdoggie's owners a year later. Charges against four female escorts also were dropped.

A defense attorney argued the male clients were mere "hobbyists" who traded stories of their adventures with hired escorts, and their actions were constitutionally protected speech.

And in Minnesota, backpage.com has been under fire for its popular online ads of escort and "body rub" services that authorities say are ads for prostitution services.

David Brown, chief criminal deputy of Hennepin County, which includes Minneapolis, said Minnesota's laws are written broadly enough that authorities can prosecute those who use websites for prostitution. Still, he said even Minnesota authorities have limitations.

"We see backpage.com as a forum," Brown said. "What we do is go after the conduct."

That means authorities go after costumers and prostitutes who later engage in an exchange of money for sex after meeting online, he said. "With online sites, unless you have proof that the (owners) are openly promoting prostitution, there are limits," Brown said.

Officials with Backpage, owned by Village Voice Media, say the website is protected by the federal Communications Decency Act. Under the 1996 law, websites that host third-party content are not liable if third-party users post "indecent" content.

Confusion over the federal law, and the fact that state lawmakers feel powerless against it, could explain why states have avoided tackling online prostitution problems legislatively, said Cunningham, the Baylor University professor.

Instead, he said, states are allowing police and prosecutors to aggressively pursue targeted cases.

For example, in Kissimmee, Fla., authorities arrested around 70 people in May as part of an Internet prostitution sting. They used a decoy house to nab suspects on charges including entering a dwelling to commit prostitution.

Jason Scott, program director of the National District Attorneys Association based in Alexandria, Va., said although states' laws vary, authorities can go after websites in other ways. For example, if authorities can clearly identify that a site is promoting prostitution, they can go after the ISP address or use racketeering or corruption statutes to prosecute owners.

But Cunningham said authorities still face the challenge of trying to determine websites' role in alleged prostitution crimes.

"What some of these sites are doing are screening prostitutes and screening potential customers, much like what pimps have historically done," he said. "The question is: Can they be prosecuted like pimps?"
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BIV

I'm Biv Dick Black, the Over Poster.
Apr 22, 2002
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Why is prostitution illegal again?
 

lajikal

Registered User
Aug 6, 2009
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The ruling sparked Gov. Susana Martinez to call for state legislators to look at updating New Mexico's prostitution laws to include websites.
Ugh. Mind your own fuckin business.
 
#7
Because Jesus and children.
"With 89 percent of the population religious and 62 percent highly so, the United States is the most religious nation in the industrialized world, according to an international survey.

The survey found that 85 percent of Americans believe in God and life after death, 80 percent pray regularly, and 75 percent attend religious services or visit a place of worship, with half going at least once a week.

In contrast, 48 percent of Britons, 46 percent of Frenchmen and 28 percent of Germans and Austrians are non-religious. Among European nations, only strongly Catholic Poland and Italy are as religious as the United States. Globally, American religiosity ranks between that of Europe’s industrialized countries and that of developing countries such as Brazil, Guatemala and Nigeria.

American religiosity is also unique in its vitality among all age groups, according to the survey. Eighty-nine percent of Americans 18- to 29-year-olds are religious or highly religious, and levels of belief remain high among older cohorts: 89 percent of those in their 30s, 88 percent of those in their 40s, 93 percent of those in their 50s and 90 percent of those 60 and older are religious or highly religious.

In Europe, in contrast, religiosity declines from one generation to the next.

Religious convictions also play a significant role in Americans’ political views, according to the survey. Seventy-six percent of American Protestants, including evangelicals, charismatics and Pentecostals, and 65 percent of Catholics say that their religious beliefs moderately or substantially affect their political views.

In Europe, only 27 percent of respondents report that religion plays a role in their political decisions, and just 12 percent say they are strongly influenced in this regard by their religious convictions."







We are too smart to let this shit go on forever.
 

fletcher

Darkness always says hello.
Donator
Feb 20, 2006
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#8
We are too smart to let this shit go on forever.
The original settlers landed here and the founding fathers formed this nation while fleeing religious persecution. What do you have against the founding fathers?

And would it kill you to include a link with all the copypasta you post? It would be appreciated.
 

whiskeyguy

PR representative for Drunk Whiskeyguy.
Donator
Jan 12, 2010
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#9
We are too smart to let this shit go on forever.
Too smart to allow people to practice their religion? I assume you're atheist, which means you represent 6% of the population, yet feel you're the voice of reason against 89% of the population, regardless of the fact that you can not, and will never be able to, disprove the existence of a god. So essentially you're here advocating that society ceases a very popular practice of believing in a higher power, without any evidence at all to justify that position.

I hate legislation passed with religion as justification, and think that the moral right is the largest problem with the GOP today... but I equally hate people who sit there and claim they have the philosophical answer to our existence. At least religions (especially Western ones) have the decency to call themselves a "faith". The unique thing about being an atheist is that they have the most number of people (about 5 billion on this planet) that disagree with their views, yet are so obnoxiously and annoyingly confident in them.
 
#10
Too smart to allow people to practice their religion? I assume you're atheist, which means you represent 6% of the population, yet feel you're the voice of reason against 89% of the population, regardless of the fact that you can not, and will never be able to, disprove the existence of a god.
I shouldn't have to "disprove" the existence of a made-up entity. Believers should have to "prove" its existence. You don't prove innocence, you prove guilt. You can't "disprove" the existence of a sasquatch...you the people who believe it exists must prove it.

The only proof you guys have is scripture. Which is not scientific evidence.
 
#11
The original settlers landed here and the founding fathers formed this nation while fleeing religious persecution. What do you have against the founding fathers?
Nothing. They were fleeing religious bullshit, and people today, particularly those on the religious right are practicing it.
 

Lord Zero

Viciously Silly
Aug 25, 2008
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#12
"With 89 percent of the population religious and 62 percent highly so, the United States is the most religious nation in the industrialized world, according to an international survey.

The survey found that 85 percent of Americans believe in God and life after death, 80 percent pray regularly, and 75 percent attend religious services or visit a place of worship, with half going at least once a week.
I think those numbers are bullshit. I live in the Bible Belt and of all the people I know, almost none of them go to church. Most of the religious people I know are live and let live type people. (Most of them don't go to church either.) Then again, I live in the shadow of a major metropolitan area. Things are a bit different here.
 

whiskeyguy

PR representative for Drunk Whiskeyguy.
Donator
Jan 12, 2010
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#13
I shouldn't have to "disprove" the existence of a made-up entity.
See, you cannot claim with certainty that it's made up unless you can prove it. The vast majority of religious people in America say they "believe" in a god... phrasing it that way because they realize they can never prove it as fact, supposedly by design. Yet you have the equal amount of concrete evidence (none) that a god doesn't exist, yet state that as a fact. At least the religious people are smart enough to understand this difference.

Believers should have to "prove" its existence. You don't prove innocence, you prove guilt. You can't "disprove" the existence of a sasquatch...you the people who believe it exists must prove it.
Should have to prove to who? You? Your neighbor should have to show you concrete proof that God exists to be able to worship him in their own home? Holy fuck dude, fascist much? Again, it's ironic because you can't show one ounce of proof to contradict their beliefs. You do realize that the entire basis of religion is that it requires a leap of faith?

The only proof you guys have is scripture. Which is not scientific evidence.
This is where you really show your ignorance. Every single fucking time someone disagrees with you, they're labeled as "you guys". I defend religion and now I'm religious... regardless of the fact that I am very agnostic leaning towards atheist. Don argues with you on some point and you equate him to people in a hate group who carry out acts of violence against other races. You lack the ability to separate issues and contemplate any level of depth to a person. The second they disagree with you, they become "one of them".

I'm not gay nor do I smoke weed, but I guess I have to start hitting the pipe and blowing dudes, because I defend legalizing marijuana and the right of gays to get married. I guess that automatically makes me "one of them".