Restitution For The Wronged

The clock is counting down to what some are calling the trial of the century, namely the federal case against Backpage pimp kingpins Michael Lacey and James Larkin, et al. 

Slated to begin in the summer of 2021, speculation is running rampant as to just how much jail time these kingpins will find themselves facing when all is said and done.

One question we have been wondering here at the blog is, in addition to substantial jail time whether or not the judge will also mete out meaningful financial recompense for the many victims harmed by the actions and attitudes of the Backpage sex trafficking empire.

Tony Ortega may have played fast and loose with people’s lives in defending the indefensible business model Larkin and Lacey concocted, but the simple fact of the matter is thousands upon thousands of people have been forever scarred by the monstrosity they let loose on the world.

We know that paying out large penalties for their malfeasance hits traffickers where it hurts the most, in their seven-digit bank accounts. But what does it do for their victims and the shattered lives they must rebuild after being trafficked for sex?

As Jessica Brazeal, chief programs officer at New Friends New Life, a Dallas-based nonprofit that empowers formerly trafficked and sexually exploited women, explains:

“Restitution is critical to the restoration of trafficking survivors because financial abuse and control keep survivors tied to their traffickers…”

Brazeal adds that even if these Backpage survivors do manage to escape this life — one which Ortega went to such pains to deceptively paint as a ‘free and willing choice made by enterprising, consulting adults’ — “the lack of financial support increases the likelihood that they will return to the trafficker or to the lifein order to provide for themselves and their children.”

To the likes of Tony Ortega and his Backpage cohorts these faceless victims were nothing more than a means to an end. The women and children Backpage exploited were the fodder with which they stoked their greed and bottomless avarice. 

We hope the courts will see it differently.

Assistant professor of law and the director of the Judge Elmo B. Hunter Legal Center for Victims of Crimes Against Women, Natalie Nanasi succinctly echoed Brazeal, saying,

“Trafficking survivors have had so much taken away from them, and the trauma of their past is often a significant impediment to healing and moving on with their lives. Restitution can serve an important purpose in helping make someone whole again, for example, providing them the resources to find safe housing, secure child care, or obtain transportation, all of which can be precursors to employment and long-term stability.”

While we, and many around the country, would be very glad to see these brazen criminals and those who aided them put away for life we sincerely hope that restitution for the victims plays a significant part in the judgment.

While restitution can never wholly compensate survivors, it can ease their transition to a better life. And more importantly it can keep them from returning to the sort of lifestyle Tony Ortega seems to want for them — to be objects, used and abused by his sex peddling friends.

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