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Legal analysis: Charges against ‘Backpage’ CEO




Grace Marie, a sex worker and dominatrix, poses for photo in Los Angeles on Thursday, July 30, 2015. She has posted advertisements on the classified ad website Backpage.com.
Grace Marie, a sex worker and dominatrix, poses for photo in Los Angeles on Thursday, July 30, 2015. She has posted advertisements on the classified ad website Backpage.com.
Jae C. Hong/AP

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The former owners of the LA Weekly have been charged with conspiracy to commit pimping. Michael Lacey and James Larkin sold off their alternative newspapers four years ago, but they kept the lucrative classified ads website Backpage.com.

State Attorney General Kamala Harris says the site brings in millions of dollars from the trafficking and exploitation of vulnerable victims. According to Backpage's IRS filings, the company makes 99-percent of its income from its adult listings for escorts.

Backpage's CEO Carl Ferrer was arrested yesterday in Houston, after authorities raided the company's Dallas headquarters. Ferrer faces a more serious count of conspiracy to pimp a minor.
Lacey and Larkin aren't yet in custody. They live in Arizona, where many years ago they started the alternative weekly New Times in Phoenix. They then launched New Times Los Angeles and later acquired the LA Weekly.

Backpage has long argued that they remove listings by minors on their adult pages and report the incidents to authorities. Kamala Harris claims the site is purposefully designed by its executives to be the world's top online brothel. Backpage has created sites in cities around the world, including over 30 in California.

Is what Backpage is doing truly pimping, or is it simply a neutral conduit for those offering sexual services?

Larry speaks with legal expert Eric Goldman  on the charges.

With AP files

Guest: 

Eric Goldman, a Professor of Law at Santa Clara University School of Law; he also co-directs the school’s High Tech Law Institute