Lacey and Larkin also earlier pleaded not guilty in California after Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Larry Brown last year allowed the state to continue with money laundering charges. The guilty pleas are the latest in a cascade of developments in the last week against the company founded by the former owners of the Village Voice in New York City, Michael Lacey, 69, and James Larkin, Under his plea agreement, Ferrer agreed to make the company's data available to law enforcement as investigations and prosecutions continue.
But Brown threw out pimping conspiracy and other state charges against Backpage's operators. The indictment said the site contended it tried to prevent prostitution ads, but investigators determined that was not the case and that owners declined to take steps to confront the problem. Attorney Michael Piccarreta, who represents Padilla, said the case will be important in deciding whether a web host can be held responsible for a third party's behavior. Officials have struggled with how to deal with the website without violating free speech protections. Last year, the website's chief executive Carl Ferrer, along with Lacey and Larkin, pleaded not guilty to money laundering charges in California, where state prosecutors said the website operators had illegally funneled money through multiple companies and created various websites to get around banks that refused to process transactions. Lacey and Larkin also earlier pleaded not guilty in California after Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Larry Brown last year allowed the state to continue with money laundering charges. Paxon called Thursday's pleas "a significant victory in the fight against human trafficking in Texas and around the world. The charges against Backpage. And a federal judge in Phoenix unsealed an April 5 plea deal revealing that Ferrer pleaded guilty to conspiracy, and Backpage. Michael Kimerer, a lawyer for Brunst, and Stephen Weiss, an attorney for Vaught, didn't return a call for comment. In the past, the site's operators challenged the California charges on First Amendment grounds. Under his plea agreement, Ferrer agreed to make the company's data available to law enforcement as investigations and prosecutions continue. Last week, federal authorities seized Backpage. Brown ruled that the charges are barred by a federal law protecting free speech that grants immunity to websites posting content from others. He called Ferrer's plea "a game-changer in combatting human trafficking in California, indeed worldwide. AP — The chief executive of Backpage. Larry Kazan, an attorney representing Lacey, and Cristina Arguedas, a lawyer for Larkin, didn't immediately return a phone call seeking comment. The guilty pleas are the latest in a cascade of developments in the last week against the company founded by the former owners of the Village Voice in New York City, Michael Lacey, 69, and James Larkin, Five employees of the site also were arrested and pleaded not guilty, but Lacey and Larkin are the only ones in jail. Authorities allege the site was often used to traffic underage victims, while company officials said they tried to scrub the site of such ads. Executive vice president Scott Spear was charged with facilitating prostitution and money laundering, while chief financial officer John Brunst was charged with money laundering. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement. Federal officials say Backpage. Texas state agents raided the Dallas headquarters of Backpage and arrested Ferrer on a California warrant after he arrived at Houston's Bush Intercontinental Airport on a flight from Amsterdam on Oct. Justice Department also seized and shut down the website, and Ferrer's federal plea deal requires him to help the government seize all the company's assets. The indictment alleged the site routed proceeds through unrelated entities, wire money into foreign banks and convert money into cryptocurrency. Lacey, Larkin and five others who work for the site were indicted on federal charges in what authorities said was a scheme to knowingly facilitate prostitution by running ads for sexual services and using foreign banks to hide revenues.
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