Wanna-be Veep Kamala Harris regularly abused and misused her power as California's Attorney General; her treatment of veteran newspapermen Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin offers a glaring example.
There are two things one can be certain of when it comes to the intense media speculation over Joe Biden’s pending choice of a running mate: Kamala Harris desperately wants the gig; and the press would love to crown her winner of the Democratic Veepstakes.
This week they almost did just that when Politico published a boo-boo on Tuesday, announcing Harris as Biden’s pick and dating it August 1. The online political journal also included quotes from Biden, which apparently had been manufactured. Some initially speculated that Politico had blown its own scoop.
The post was deleted, with a Politico exec apologizing for the error, explaining that “placeholder text” had been “mistakenly published to the site.”
An @AP photographer captured a pic of Joe Biden’s notes with “KAMALA HARRIS” written at the top, followed by notes like “do not hold grudges,” “talented,” “great respect for her.”
— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) July 29, 2020
But the tizzy that broke loose as a result of this error achieved grand mal status after a press conference by Biden, where an AP photog caught a shot of Biden’s handwritten notes. At the top were talking points about Harris, like “great respect for her” and “do not hold grudges.”
No doubt Biden expected to be asked about Harris, as she is a leading contender for the position. The part about not holding grudges was likely to be his response if anyone asked about an entirely different Politico article, wherein Biden supporters expressed doubt over whether Harris can be trusted, given the way she tried to paint Biden as a bigot during the primary.
Strangely, no one asked about Harris at the presser. As to whether Biden can trust her, that’s a hard “no.”
— Mark Bednar (@MarkBednar) July 28, 2020
Harris is a schemer on the order of Lady Macbeth and Frank Underwood combined. The only thought more horrific than Harris being one blood clot away from the Oval Office is of her replacing Bill Barr as U.S. Attorney General. (Though, admittedly, her snagging a seat on the Supreme Court would be cataclysmic as well.)
Harris’ record as a prosecutor, both as San Francisco’s District Attorney and as California’s Attorney General, was marked by the misuse of her authority for political ends, and a sweeping contempt for the accused, for the U.S. Constitution and for the cause of justice.
A full exploration of Harris’ prosecutorial misdeeds would require a volume, if not volumes.
They run the gamut, from her sham investigation of widespread law enforcement misconduct in Orange County, to the family separations that resulted from her crackdown on the parents of truant kids, to her defense of the death penalty and laughter at the idea of marijuana legalization, to her decision not to go after Steve Mnuchin’s OneWest Bank for alleged misconduct regarding foreclosures, to a sweet plea deal for a fellow Democratic pol accused of assaulting women.
“‘I don’t think Kamala Harris has it in the bag,’ said former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) … Reid, who speaks frequently with Dodd, met with Harris recently and said he thinks highly of her.” https://t.co/NJTFOWVUBi
— Megan Messerly (@meganmesserly) July 27, 2020
One particularly egregious example of Harris’ misconduct involves the founders of this publication, Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin, and her pursuit of them on false charges of “pimping” in relation to their former ownership of the now-defunct listings leviathan, Backpage.com.
California judges twice threw out those charges as bogus. Worse still, Harris knows they never should have been filed to begin with.
Not only is Kamala a “cop,” as her Twitter detractors like to refer to her, she’s a bad cop, one who should not be granted the kind of national power to which she aspires.
Harris collaborated with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton in a multi-year investigation of Backpage, seeking to hold it accountable for adult ads posted to the site by its users.
In 2004, Lacey and Larkin co-founded the site, along with its eventual CEO Carl Ferrer, as a competitor to the Mack Daddy of all listings sites, Craigslist.org.
Like Craigslist, Backpage was an electronic bulletin board, to which people could post ads for everything from puppies for sale and apartment rentals to personals and legal adult services, such as escorts, dominatrixes, striptease, fetishes, and the like. The site was protected by the First Amendment as well as Section 230 of the Communication Decency Act (CDA), the law that holds interactive websites harmless for the third party content.
Section 230 broadly precludes most state criminal charges against owners and operators of interactive websites for content created and posted by others. Harris was very aware of this fact. In 2013, she was one of 47 state attorneys general who signed a letter to Congress, asking that it amend Section 230’s language to allow for such state prosecutions.
Sen. Kamala Harris announced her candidacy for president this morning. And while she's fought for many LGBTQ+ issues, she’s been no friend to incarcerated trans women or sex workers. https://t.co/OBQ3mBMqOi
— Out Magazine (@outmagazine) January 21, 2019
Specifically, the letter reads, “Federal courts have broadly interpreted the immunity provided by the CDA, and recently the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington held that the CDA preempts state criminal law.”
And yet, aware that she did not have the authority to bring such charges, Harris did so anyway on October 6, 2016.
Lacey and Larkin no longer owned the site by that time, having sold it to Ferrer in 2015. Still, all three men were indicted for “conspiracy to commit the crime of pimping.” Harris hit Ferrer with an additional charge of “pimping a minor under 16 years of age.”
The charges were patently absurd, as demonstrated by two California state judges, who would separately kick the pimping charges to the proverbial curb. After all, Lacey and Larkin are not modern day Iceberg Slims.
Please know that if Kamala Harris runs for president, as CA AG she repeatedly protected corrupt Orange County Sheriff's Department (OCSD) deputies who cheated, lied and hid records in death penalty cases. She was shamelessly worthless as a true public servant. @ocweekly
— R. Scott Moxley (@RScottMoxley) January 8, 2019
They’re businessmen and journalists who for more than 40 years ran a successful, national chain of alternative weeklies, championing freedom of the press and fighting public corruption. Collectively, their papers garnered 3,800 awards and nominations for writing, including five Pulitzer Prize finalists and a first ever Pulitzer Prize winner for restaurant criticism. They sold the chain, Village Voice Media, in 2012.
Nevertheless, a warrant was issued for all three men. Ferrer was pinched in Houston, having just arrived on a flight from the Netherlands. Lacey and Larkin, both in their late 60s at the time, traveled to Sacramento, dutifully turning themselves in.
The charges came down just a month before Election Day, with Harris vying to replace retiring U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer. In a press release trumpeting the arrests, Harris crowed that she had collared the operators of “the world’s top online brothel,” claiming that the accused had profited from “the trafficking and exploitation of vulnerable victims.”
Actually, Harris never charged the men with sex trafficking, a far more serious crime that involves either the sexual exploitation of minors, or of adults through force, fraud or coercion. Rather, Harris’ complaint accuses the men of having derived income from the state crime of prostitution, a lesser offense that involves commercial sex among consenting adults.
— FPC (@FPCtweets) July 1, 2019
Harris had to be aware that the charges would not stick. Still, she had the three men held in custody for four days in county jail, opposing their release on bond. When they were arraigned, the AG’s office made sure the press was present to see Harris’ prize captives, outfitted in orange jumpsuits and held behind the bars of an in-courtroom jail cell.
Eventually, Lacey and Larkin were released on bonds of $250,000 a piece; Ferrer on a bond of $500,000.
Senator Harris Checks Out
On November 8, 2016, Harris bested her main rival, fellow Democrat Loretta Sanchez, to become the U.S. Senator-elect from California.
A week later, a state court judge issued a preliminary ruling tossing the pimping charges against Lacey, Larkin and Ferrer.
In an unsurprising rebuke of Harris’ prosecutorial overreach, Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Bowman found that that the charges were precluded by Section 230 of the CDA. Congress had crafted the law to strike “a balance in favor of free speech,” he wrote.
— Baked Chernobyl (@emericanjezebel) July 30, 2020
He also rejected the prosecution’s contention that the accused were pimps.
Bowman wrote that “a natural reading of [California’s] pimping statute does not apply to an individual who provides a legitimate professional service to a prostitute even if paid with proceeds earned from prostitution.”
In other words, “Duh.” If you sell an adult sex worker a cup of coffee and a pack of smokes, you are deriving money from the sale of those products, not from prostitution. Same rules apply to classified listings.
[T]here is no dispute that Backpage charged money for the placement of advertisements. Does this qualify as services rendered for legal purposes? Given the services provided by the online publisher, the answer to that question is yes. Providing a forum for online publishing is a recognized legal purpose that is generally provided immunity under the CDA.
The judge issued his final decision on December 9, largely parroting his initial ruling on the matter.
What did Harris do before she hit the road to DC?
She defiantly refiled pimping charges against the men two days before Christmas, adding a slew of charges for money laundering and wire fraud.
Superior Court Judge Lawrence Brown took up the case from that point on, with similar results. On August 23, 2017, Brown booted the pimping charges, concluding that Section 230 “provides broad immunity for internet service providers” from state prosecutions.
Does a day ever go by where I don’t have to hear more pleas from the media about K A M A L A and just HOW SO SO MUCH she wants and needs and must be VP??? Please. STOP 🛑 #KamalaIsaCop https://t.co/FUklQxFMlu pic.twitter.com/EvxrKKAhGQ
— 🏥 Madman 🌎👑📚🌹⚖️🌈✊🏿 (@FightsForBernie) July 30, 2020
Prosecutors, at least in theory, are not supposed to bring false charges against defendants. The American Bar Association notes that the “primary duty of the prosecutor is to seek justice within the bounds of the law.” And a prosecutor should not “allow interests in personal advancement or aggrandizement to affect judgments regarding what is in the best interests of justice in any case.”
Moreover, according to the ABA,
“A prosecutor should seek or file criminal charges only if the prosecutor reasonably believes that the charges are supported by probable cause, that admissible evidence will be sufficient to support conviction beyond a reasonable doubt, and that the decision to charge is in the interests of justice.”
How could Harris’ actions in this case possibly fit the ABA’s description of a prosecutor’s role, given that she knew that Section 230 would shield the defendants from state criminal charges?
And after they were first dismissed, why bring them again?
One can only conclude that this was a vindictive prosecution, motivated by the very sort of personal aggrandizement the ABA warns against.
Ever the Politician
Granted, there are a plethora of reasons Biden should not pick Harris as his VP nominee.
In purely political terms, she brings little to the table. California is a blue state that Biden assuredly will win.
Nor has Harris shown that she can help Biden carry swing states. She dropped out of her presidential run before the first state primary. Indeed, it’s unlikely she could have carried her own state.
She also has the baggage of her career as a prosecutor, in which she turned a cold eye to police accountability and criminal justice reform. The more one examines that career, the more horrified one becomes at her coddling of power and her abdication of the responsibility to pursue justice.
Her treatment of veteran publishers like Lacey and Larkin, her disdain for their First Amendment rights and her willingness to use their prosecution for political ends should give everyone pause.
She got a few more licks in on January 10, 2017 when Lacey and Larkin appeared before the U.S. Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Joe McCarthy’s old stomping grounds.
Several current and former Backpage execs were subpoenaed to appear. All declined to testify based on their First and Fifth Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution. Harris, a newbie Senator, was not yet a member of the PSI, but she was allowed to take to the dais and lambaste the assembled businessmen, squeezing out one last drop of political drama from the issue.
She would go on to support federal legislation that, de facto, makes adult advertising illegal online: generally known as FOSTA/SESTA. This and her campaign against Backpage did not serve her well in her recent presidential run with sex workers and sex-positive feminists.
In April 2018, the feds seized and shut down Backpage, one of the largest acts of direct government censorship in modern memory. The combination of the Backpage takedown and the passage of FOSTA/SESTA led to a wave of censorship and self-censorship across the internet, further endangering the lives of sex workers.
Lacey and Larkin are still fighting the non-pimping charges brought in December 2016 in Sacramento, but they have bigger problems. They are now battling charges of the facilitation of prostitution under the U.S. Travel Act, a 1961 law attacking the interstate facilitation of gambling, the illegal liquor trade and prostitution.
Ferrer copped a deal with the feds, pleading guilty to one federal count of conspiracy, in return for his cooperation. As part of the same agreement, he also pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and three counts of money laundering in California, as well as to additional counts in Texas.
All in return for his cooperation with Trump’s Department of Justice.
Meanwhile, Lacey and Larkin maintain their innocence and stand by First Amendment rights as publishers. Their federal trial is currently scheduled to begin January 12, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona.
- Federal Prosecutors Guilty of Widespread Misconduct in White-Collar Exonerations - September 23, 2020
- FBI Violates Fourth Amendment, Returns Some Personal Property to Lacey/Larkin - September 11, 2020
- Reason Documentary on Lacey/Larkin Case Wins L.A. Press Club Award - September 2, 2020