The California judge hearing the Backpage case will allow both sides more time to gather evidence before tossing out pimping charges against the international website’s operators, which is perhaps best most known for its escort services and once accepted crypto-currency.
Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Bowman’s tentative ruling says California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who called Backpage.com “the world’s top online brothel,” cannot prosecute Backpage.com’s CEO and its former owners.
The judge required more briefings from the parties before completely dismissing the pimping and trafficking charges. The judge once before sided with the 55-year old CEO Carl Ferrer and former owners Michael Lacey and James Larkin tare protected by free speech. The final ruling comes December 9.
When major payment processors VISA and MasterCard ceased processing transactions from Backpage.com in, the website began accepting Bitcoin, Litecoin and Dogecoin. Vice Motherboard wrote a piece called “Sex Workers Guide to Bitcoin.”
“This is obviously an awful situation,” Liara Roux, one escort wrote on her website. She continued: “many sex workers rely heavily on Backpage for their business. While it would be wonderful to have a magic wand and fix this problem, bitcoin is one of the few payment methods still accepted by Backpage and I want to make sure those who need it can use it.”
“We applaud the tremendous actions taken by Visa and MasterCard this week. Their decision to sever their relationship with Backpage.com is a significant step in our efforts to combat human trafficking,” a Cook County Sheriff spokesperson, Sophia Ansari, said in an email to Motherboard.
The Sheriff’s department, which took credit for pressuring the processing companies to stop serving VISA and MasterCard, said they were aware and watching the Bitcoin acceptance, but did not confirm they were urging Backpage to drop Bitcoin.
Police arrested Mr. Ferrer in early October. Three teenage girls filed a civil suit against the website in 2012 in Washington State after claiming they were raped numerous times after the site ran ads about them. Three sued Backpage for sexual exploitation. Backpage claimed the ads were from third parties.
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