Economic & Banking - Your money

Backpage operators in court on pimping charges


THE operators of an international website that advertises escort services said Wednesday that they will challenge charges of trafficking prostitutes and pimping on First Amendment grounds. CEO Carl Ferrer, 55, and two others will contest the charges at a hearing next month, defence lawyer Cristina Claypoole Arguedas told Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael Bowman as the three men made their first brief court appearances.

The complaint and the theory of prosecution is flatly barred by the First Amendment and federal law, Arguedas said outside the courtroom, referring to a federal law that blocks state actions against websites that distribute content created by others.

Ferrer is charged with pimping a minor, pimping and conspiracy to commit pimping.

The former owners of the Village Voice in New York City, Michael Lacey, 68, and James Larkin, 67, are charged with conspiracy to commit pimping. The Arizona men, who also once owned the Phoenix New Times alternative weekly, are Backpage.coms controlling shareholders, said California Attorney General Kamala Harris, whose office filed the charges.

The three briefly appeared in a courtroom cage, dressed in orange jail uniforms. A bail hearing was set for Thursday.

The site advertises a wide range of services, but Harris charged that more than 90 per cent of its revenue amounting to millions of dollars each month comes from adult escort ads that use coded language and nearly nude photos to offer sex for money.

Court documents say affiliated sites including and expanded Backpage.coms share of online sex marketing. By charging for the ads, Harris alleges the three men violated the states law against pimping, defined as making money off prostitutes or soliciting customers for prostitution.

Court documents say some of the ads involve children under the age of 18. Four courts have held theyre protected by the First Amendment. Weve won that issue over and over again, another defence lawyer, Jim Grant, said in an interview.

The three men will make that argument against the California charges at a hearing November 16.

The California complaint alleges that rather than simply being a conduit for ads created by others, Backpage.coms rules and screening process essentially coached advertisers in how to advertise commercial sex.

The Washington state Supreme Court similarly ruled last year that the company didnt just host the ads, but helped develop the content. That ruling allowed a civil lawsuit to continue by three minors who attorneys said were in the seventh and ninth grades when adult professional sex traffickers used Backpage to sell them as prostitutes.

Larkin and Lacey face a maximum of six years if convicted, while the charges against Ferrer could bring him nearly 22 years in prison.

Ferrer was arrested last week after arriving in Houston on a flight from Amsterdam. is a Dutch-owned limited liability corporation. The Dallas headquarters for Backpage was raided by authorities at the same time, and Texas lawyer general added money laundering to the list of alleged crimes.

WARNING - Graphic Content: Award winning mini-series that exposes the underworld of human sex trafficking. Viewer discretion is advised.

Blanchettupton hunters hill mansion expected to have broken suburb record

´╗┐pstrongAUSTRALIAN Hollywood star Cate Blanchett and her playwright husband Andrew Upton have sold their Sydney waterside mansion for the second time in under two years, after the first buyer defaulted./strong/ppThe Hunters Hill trophy home, titled Bulwarra, was sold for a reported $19.8 million in August 2015 to a Chinese buyer, who later defaulted due to a crackdown on capital outflows by the Chinese government, forcing the property back onto the market./ppThe new selling price has been withheld but selling agent Ken Jacobs, of Christies International Real Estate Double Bay, confirmed to that the six-bedroom home on the water was sold last week./ppDescribed as one of Sydneys finest heritage homes, the sandstone manor was originally built in 1877. It features a heated pool with water views and pool pavilion, a tennis court, trampoline platform, guesthouse and direct river access./ understands it attracted heated competition and was eventually sold to a local buyer./ppBlanchett is currently abroad in New York, having made her Broadway debut in the Sydney Theatre Companys span id="U621504851006KwG" style="font-this site:italic;"The Present. /span/pp id="U621504851006njB" style="font-this site:normal;"If the home sold again for around the $20 million mark, it would have again broken a suburb record in the upper-class lower north shore suburb. When it sold in 2015 for $19.8 million it was 60 per cent higher than the previous suburb record of $12.85 million./pp id="U6215048510060yF" style="font-this site:normal;"Blanchett and Upton purchased the 3642sq m estate for $10 million in 2005 from merchant banker Jim Dominguez and his wife Suzanne./pp id="U621504851006x0B" style="font-this site:normal;"The family have since moved to Britain, purchasing a historic English manor, Highwell House, in East Sussex for $6.25 million./p