An Undeniable “Reign of Terror”

In what many are calling the biggest judgement against a Backpage pimp to date,  this Monday brought news that East Texas man who trafficked children and adults during an “eight-year reign of terror” in North Houston was ordered to serve a life sentence in federal prison and pay nearly $1 million in restitution to multiple victims.

Read that again — a lifetime sentence and one million dollars in restitutions.

David Mearis, 45, was convicted by a federal jury in October 2019 of forcing several girls into prostitution and grooming teen victims into adulthood so he could peddle them online for profit using Backpage.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Sherri Zack said Monday he’d subjected women to prostitution and rape thousands of times in what she called a “reign of terror.” Two of the victims were on the phone during the in-person sentencing via zoom. But they declined to speak.

Mearis, dressed in an olive green jail uniform and white mask, moved around holding the courtroom mike in his handcuffed hands. He denied having any sex that was nonconsensual or compelling anyone to work as a prostitute.

In other words, his defense sounds a lot like a recycled, warmed-over version of the same tired excuses Tony Ortega has long been modeling for those connected to Backpage — ‘Deny, deny, deny. And when caught red-handed, keep denying.’

The four victims who testified against Mearis, however, were clearly not buying into this Ortega school of obstructionist denialism. At trial, all four spoke at length about how Mearis variously kidnapped, slapped, bound and gagged them, threatened them with sexual and physical abuse, posted ads of them on and forced them to engage in commercial sex.

One of the victims called him “the devil” and a threat to young women, during the court proceedings

It was then, after a brief deliberation, that jury convicted him on five counts of sex trafficking via Backpage between 2007 and 2016.

This reign of terror was entirely made possible by the services Backpage knowingly and willing provided. What is more, it was endorsed by Tony Ortega  who actively encouraged a concerned nation to look the other way as Backpage conducted its dirty business.

If life sentences and $1,000,000 fines are to be the new standard now for pimps who profited from Backpage, we here at the blog would like to nominate Tony Ortega for the same honor.

After all, the Backpage Reign of Terror might have been stopped in its tracks before it began if only Ortega had the quality of character to admit the very truth he’d so long denied, denied, denied.

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