Petulant Silence: Backpage Crime Syndicate Takes The Fifth

“If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?”

The above quote could equally apply to the criminals behind the prostitution syndicate know as Backpage.

Last year when the ‘very much for-profit’ advertising website Backpage shuttered its adult ads section, it left in its way bewildered escorts, sex workers, and clients. Among those who were not quite as shocked by the dramatic turn of events which led to the federal authorities raiding and closing down the infamous child sex trafficking site were those of us who had long been watching from the sidelines waiting for the hammer of justice to fall upon the men responsible for selling children to creeps on the internet for sex.

Four of Backpage’s top executives refused to testify at the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations hearing on the matter, following a Senate report accusing them of knowingly facilitating sex trafficking. Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer, former owners Michael Lacey and James Larkin, chief operating officer Andrew Padilla and Elizabeth McDougall, the company’s general counsel, told the Senate subcommittee that they would be invoking their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.

Understandably, leaders of the subcommittee’s investigation released a statement, claiming that Backpage’s decision to shut down the adult ads page was a “validation of our findings.”

In 2011, The Village Voice’s then editor-in-chief, Tony Ortega, ran a propaganda piece he hyped as being part of an “investigative series” titled The Truth Behind Sex Trafficking. In it, Tony Ortega, attempted to debunk the idea that commercial sexual exploitation of children in the U.S. was increasing.

As so much of what Tony Ortega prints, it was both willfully misleading and almost entirely fabricated. Ortega dismissed the hype around child sex trafficking as a mass panic, writing, “In the second decade of the 21st century, we are being told that there’s a widespread, growing, and out-of-control problem to fear in our country. And it has a catchy name: ‘trafficking.

A far greater danger these days are shameless hype men like Tony Ortega and his Backpage bosses, unbound by the constraints of ethics or social responsibility, who seem so full of opinions right up until the moment they’re put under oath, then they clam right up.

We here at the blog remain committed to the idea that Tony Ortega should be compelled to testify as to the role he played in covering up for these crimes, even if only to hear him plead the Fifth. At least then we’d have some measure of validation of his guilt (not to mention, at least then we wouldn’t have to listen to his constant stream of lies.)                                                                                                                                                                        

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