The Collapsing Federal Prostitution Case Against

Federal Judge Susan Brnovich was recently forced to declare a mistrial, which was a bad sign for the prosecution.


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In April 2018, the founders of the online classifieds website, Michael Lacey and James Larkin, and five people who worked for them, were indicted. One of the employees has already pleaded guilty. Lacey and Larkin were accused of facilitating prostitution in violation of the Travel Act, money laundering, and conspiracy.

The irony was that Backpage had been working with the FBI and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to help police investigate instances of sex trafficking, and the police had come to rely on its cooperation.

In September 2021, federal Judge Susan Brnovich was forced to declare a mistrial in the case. Lacey and Larkin's determination to fight all the way to the end is laying bare what Reason has been reporting for years: The government's case against Backpage is a house of cards.

Produced by Paul Detrick; music by Lex Villena, Jeremy Black

Rod Lamkey—CNP/picture alliance / Consolidated News Photos/Newscom, Howard Lipin/ZUMA Press/Newscom, Sonia Moskowitz/ZUMApress/Newscom, Graylock/ABACAUSA.COM/Newscom, Gage Skidmore, Mirrorpix / MEGA / Newscom, Hector Amezcua/ZUMA Press/Newscom, Marc Raishbrook / Splash News/Newscom