August 18, 2011

Judge tosses suit claiming online ad promoted child prostitution

8-18-2011 National:

ST. LOUIS • A federal judge in St. Louis has dismissed a lawsuit filed by a teenage runaway against an online advertising website that she accused of facilitating her entry to the world of prostitution.

Reached by phone Wednesday, the girl's lawyer, Robert Pedroli, said, "We're strongly considering an appeal."

The girl, identified only by initials, filed suit in September against Village Voice Media Holdings and, accusing them of running ads that contained child porn and aiding in child prostitution by allowing her pimp to advertise the services of the then 14-year-old.

The suit was filed just over two weeks after the teen's onetime pimp, Latasha Jewell McFarland, pleaded guilty of interstate commerce to promote prostitution. McFarland also admitted that she persuaded the girl to go into prostitution in 2009, posted nude pictures of the teen online, bought condoms, arranged the meetings and drove the teen to hotels along Interstate 270, prosecutors have said.

In December, McFarland, 27, of St. Louis County, was sentenced to five years in federal prison.

The suit claims knew that nude photos were being posted on the site in ads for prostitution services, including the prostitution of minors, or didn't investigate suspicions about criminal activity "for fear of what it would learn." hosts classified ads for Village Voice publications, including the Riverfront Times in St. Louis.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Mummert dismissed the lawsuit Monday, ruling that although she endured "horrific victimization" at the hands of her pimp, the companies were protected by the Communications Decency Act from liability for what others post there.

Citing other court cases that examined similar issues, Mummert said the suit's "allegations, however, do not distinguish the complained-of actions of Backpage from any other website that posted content that led to an innocent person's injury. Congress has declared such websites to be immune from suits arising from such injuries. It is for Congress to change the policy that gave rise to such immunity."

Pedroli, the girl's lawyer, had argued that was not immune for a variety of reasons that Mummert ultimately rejected.

Lawyers representing the companies did not return calls seeking comment Wednesday.

In a prepared statement released Wednesday, Pedroli said that he was disappointed with the decision. He also said that the Communications Decency Act had been transformed from legislation intended to protect children to one that protects large online corporations and that the act "now protects businesses that knowingly profit from criminal postings including profits for advertisements for sex with trafficked children." ..Source.. by Robert Patrick

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am dumbfouded that our lawmakers make such stupid laws. Corporations can profit from Child Pornography but some Joe Schmoe stumbles on to that corporations web site and they spend the next 5 to 10 years in prison!