Judge Presiding Over Arizona Prosecution Of Backpage Denies Discovery Requests Targeting Her Husband, Who Happens To Be State Attorney General
from the i'm-sorry-but-wtaf dept
Here’s one more horrifying postscript to the still-ongoing criminal prosecution(s) of Backpage’s executives. Courts and attorneys general (including newly installed VP Kamala Harris) tried to run the company in on prostitution charges but often found their efforts rebuffed by courts who didn’t see how hosting third-party ads was the same thing as aiding and abetting sex trafficking.
Prosecutions abounded. So did a cottage industry of pearl clutchers and hand wringers — many of which were holding powerful offices in Washington DC. These people were convinced the only way to fight sex trafficking was to punch holes in Section 230. Despite being warned against doing so by none other than the DOJ, they went ahead and passed FOSTA. This anti-sex trafficking law has been used exactly once in a criminal case since its inception.
But here’s the new thing, via Stephen Lemons writing for Front Page Confidential. The undercurrent of corruption behind the Backpage prosecutions continues to flow. It was never meant to be a fair fight. It was meant to make Backpage an example after other online services managed to shrug off misguided investigations and prosecutions attempting to turn hosts into criminal confederates.
One of the goals of government work — especially as it pertains to checks and balances — is to avoid any appearances of impropriety. But in Arizona, appearances appear to be unimportant. Impropriety is in the eye of the beholder. And if the beholder wields less power, too fucking bad. Here’s how things are being handled in the government’s attempt to prosecute Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin of Backpage.
A game of legal ping pong has ensued in the Lacey/Larkin case, with U.S. District Court Judge Susan Brnovich shooting down a defense subpoena seeking the same docs from her husband, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, as a public records request from the defendants, now pending at the AG’s office.
On February 11, the judge ruled against the defense’s motion for a subpoena to her spouse’s office, requesting “all correspondence or records” discussing the defendants, their case and the defunct listings website at the center of it all, Backpage.com.
The only judge who has yet to recuse herself from this case is married to the state Attorney General who has made comments concerning Backpage that might be relevant to the case. And yet, Judge Brnovich sees nothing wrong with presiding over it and denying discovery materials to the people attempting to defend themselves — when that discovery involves her husband.
Since Judge Brnovich is unwilling to address the obvious implications of her decision to stay involved with this case, the defendants have asked the Ninth Circuit Appeals Court to step in. Hopefully a set of judges far more impartial than Judge Susan Brnovich appears to be will force the judge to step down and let someone else not married to the state Attorney General, who has publicly discussed the case, take the reins.
Until then, Backpage is at the mercy of a system that seems to willingly be ignoring the “checks and balances” ideals that make this country great, at least when respected.
Update: In the initial version of this post, we falsely claimed that state Attorney General Brnovich was prosecuting the case. It is actually a federal case, prosecuted by the DOJ. The subpoena just relates to statements made by the state Attorney General regarding Backpage. We regret the error.