Merry Christmas: Kamala Harris Files Brand New Criminal Charges Against Backpage Execs After Last Ones Were Tossed Out
from the you-already-got-elected dept
Let's be crystal clear here: California Attorney General Kamala Harris (who in just a few weeks will become a US Senator) knows that she has no legal basis for arresting the execs behind Backpage. How do we know she knows this? Because three years ago she signed a letter whining about how she had no legal authority to arrest Backpage because it's (rightly) protected by Section 230 of the CDA, saying that you can't blame a site for the actions of its users. So it did seem weird, back in October, when Harris -- along with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton -- decided to arrest Backpage's execs anyway, and charge them with "pimping." As we note at the time, the criminal complaint against them was laughable and almost completely bogus. Not only was Backpage protected by CDA 230, but the actual investigation into Backpage undercut the case they were bringing, because it showed a willingness by Backpage to delete prostitution ads when brought to their attention by law enforcement, and to block those users from reposting.
So it was no surprise at all when the court quickly tossed all the charges against the execs, and told Harris to take it up with Congress... which, of course, is where she'll be in a month. However, not content to just try to change the laws, Harris has chosen to file brand new charges against the three execs, Carl Ferrer, Michael Lacy, and James Larkin. The press release from Harris claims that the reason for the new charges is that she's "uncovered new evidence" but that's a load of hogwash.
The new charges still include bogus "pimping" charges, but now also have a bunch of "money laundering" charges as well. And that sounds scary, but once again the details look to be complete bullshit. Basically, the "money laundering" is that Backpage set up a separate operation to handle billing, after American Express (under pressure from grandstanding politicians) said it no longer wanted to work with Backpage. So, the lawsuit argues, Backpage set up a sort of shell corporation to accept AmEx charges, without it looking like they were coming from Backpage. But in order for it to be money laundering, it has to involve a situation where the money itself is coming from illegal activity, and over and over and over and over again the courts have said that Backpage's activity is not illegal. In fact, that's what a court told Harris just two weeks ago.
This is a frightening abuse of power to harass a company just because Harris doesn't like how people use that company, and because she and her staff can't be bothered to do the actual law enforcement work of using that information to go after the actual lawbreakers. It's shameful.