DENVER (CBS4) – A war of words has developed after a child prostitution ring investigation.
Colorado Attorney General John Suthers used the case to demand a website stop posting ads for sexual services.
In August nearly all the attorneys general in the United States signed a letter saying they are concerned about human trafficking and called a website owned by Village Voice Media, a hub for such activity.
It’s called Backpage.com. Its sex-related ads are reported to generate millions of dollars a year in revenue for Village Voice Media, its parent company.
“We hope that instances like this will continue to apply more public pressure to them to frankly get out of this kind of business,” Suthers said.
Village Voice Media’s attorney, Steve Suskin, shot back in a letter to Suthers.
“We respectfully disagree with the idea put forth by Attorney General John Suthers that taking down Internet pages will help to prevent these crimes,” Suskin said in the letter.
Suskin claims it turned over more than 700 pages of evidence on the case in response to a Lakewood police subpoena. That department is quite familiar with the website.
“I can tell you that we get a lot of arrests. We issues a lot of summonses from those on ads on Backpage,” Steve Davis with Lakewood police said.
Craigslist caved in to pressure and removed its erotic services ads, but Village Voice Media is not backing down, according to the letter from its lawyer.
First Amendment attorney Tom Kelley, who does not represent Backpage.com, says they have protection under the Constitution and through communication laws.
“Unless it can be shown that the criminal activity is so blatantly advertised that denial of knowledge of what is going on is just implausible, unbelievable,” Kelley said.
The outcry against Backpage.com is exhibited on a website not so politely called Village Voice Pimps, where the Colorado child sex ring case is prominently mentioned.
Suskin declined to speak on camera but noted that 100 different ads related to the alleged child sex ring also appeared on 15 other websites.
It’s just the latest case in which Backpage.com was cited as a source for ads that turned out to be for child prostitution.