An Arizona federal judge has declared that the lawsuit against six former employees of the lucrative online classifieds platform Backpage, who were accused of facilitating prostitution and money laundering through the site, has been declared null and void. U.S. District Judge Susan Brnovich said prosecutors made too many references to child sex trafficking as they pleaded their case, even though none of the six people on trial had been charged with the crime, resulting in prejudiced the jury. Prosecutors mentioned trafficking in their opening statements, and various witnesses also mentioned the matter, which the judge said she “cannot ignore and will not overlook.”
Last week, the case featured moving testimony from Jessika Svendgard, who said that after running away as a teenager, she and a series of pimps used the site to sell prostitution ads.
“I would be raped for money,” Ms. Svendgard told court, over defense lawyers’ objections. Prior to the trial, it was agreed that prosecutors and their witnesses could prove that they had been trafficked at the site, but would not dwell too long on details unrelated to the case. “It seems that the government has abused this room for maneuver,” Brnovich said on Monday.
None of the executives in the case are accused of knowing Ms Svendgard’s specific story, and she admitted that her posts violated the site’s rules for posting graphic photos and sexual solicitations.
The Independent Gt