An Orchestrated Chaos of Criminal Consequence

Tony Ortega, whose litany of ‘crimes by association’ we’ve been detailing here on the blog at some length, may not have dreamt up the Backpage sex trafficking scheme  but without doubt he bears a measure of responsibility for the destruction left in its wake. He was, after all, the propagandist of not behind the coordinated attempt to blind the public to the myriad of crimes Backpage’s “Adult Section” gave rise to.

This week we received word of yet another crime associated with Backpage which Tony Ortega’s reckless lies on the subject helped facilitate. This story concerns a 15 year old girl named Latesha Clay who was sentenced to prison for up to 20 years. Her crime? The teen was the bait in a series of Backpage escort ads designed to lure men into a robbery scheme.

Clay, whose name was inexplicably released by local press despite her status as a minor, had been offered up as bait in a  Backpage  post advertising sex with the underage girl. (Remember the ones Tony Ortega emphatically claimed Backpage screened for?) When the clients showed up at the pre-arranged motels they were met by an adult male, Trayvin Donnell Lewis, who used a realistic-looking airsoft gun to drive the clients to an ATM and rob them.

The case becomes interesting because Latesha Clay herself fits every guideline for qualifying as a trafficking victim just by virtue of being underage and sold online for sex. According to the  Justice Department’s federal definition of sex trafficking,:

“A person under 18 engaging in prostitution (even the mere “offering” of sex for sale) is automatically considered a trafficking victim regardless of whether a pimp or client used  “force, threats of force, fraud, or coercion, or any combination of those means, to cause the minor to engage in a commercial sex act.”

When the  Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act  (JVTA) was signed into law in 2015, many advocates applauded the federal government effort to increase protections for underage victims of sex trafficking. The new federal law vastly expanded resources for criminal justice investigations and prosecutions, and mandated “problem-solving court programs” for teens and kids in the underage sex  industry once dominated by Backpage.

Officially, the JVTA recommends things like outpatient treatment, job training, and family support services. That’s why Latesha Clay’s prison sentence, rather than the kind of support and treatment outlined above, is surprising.

As tragic as this story is, it remains yet another example of the orchestrated chaos of criminal consequence Tony Ortega actively worked to give cover to by fabricating such unconscionable plausible deniability in his capacity as Backpage’s de facto mouthpiece.

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