A new video from the libertarians at Reason.com remembers when Biden's VP-pick, California Sen. Kamala Harris, brought false charges against veteran newspapermen Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin.
Libertarians have stones the size of Mount Rushmore when it comes to championing civil liberties, challenging police power and battling government overreach. Such subjects used to be the purview of true-blue liberals, but too often these days, social justice warrior-ing and political expediency hold sway over the minds of lefties.
Just ask the average Democrat about the need to rein in asset forfeiture, or query them on the pro-cop, anti-criminal justice record of their VP nominee, California Senator Kamala Harris, and wait for the blank stare.
Most of them have drunk deep of Kamala’s Kool Aid. You’d have a better chance of converting a Jehovah’s Witness to Unitarianism than curing a Democrat of Kamala fever by citing her litany of abuses while District Attorney of San Francisco and later Attorney General for the Golden State.
Prosecuting the parents of truant kids. Scoffing at the idea of legalizing recreational marijuana. Defending the death penalty. Protecting corrupt prosecutors. Refusing to investigate killer cops. Declining to prosecute “foreclosure king” Steve Mnuchin’s OneWest Bank on allegations of improperly booting poor people from their homes, while still accepting a $2,000 campaign contribution from him.
This is Kamala Harris, “for the people.”
But Democrats are hellbent on defeating the Great and Mighty Orange Oz, so they’re not going to let minor career blemishes on the record of this “progressive prosecutor” get in the way. You know, like fighting to keep non-violent prisoners in stir, or even worse, railroading an innocent man for murder.
“It’s hard to make us feel guilty,” veteran newspaperman Michael Lacey says in the Reason video. “We’re not guilty, okay. You can’t talk me into it.”
Thankfully, libertarians are not so obliging of hypocrites and rogue prosecutors. Which is why the longtime libertarian stalwarts at Reason magazine continue to decry the ongoing persecution of award-winning journalists Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin for their former ownership of the erstwhile Craigslist-rival, Backpage.com.
In a video, posted to Reason‘s site the day after Harris accepted her party’s nomination to be Joe Biden’s running mate, Reason‘s brilliant filmmaker Paul Detrick breaks down how Harris, California’s Attorney General at the time, knowingly brought false charges against Lacey and Larkin in October 2016 for “conspiracy to pimp,” caged them for four days in a county jail, and paraded them for TV cameras behind the bars of a medieval jail cell set in the midst of a Sacramento courtroom.
Harris’ Abuse of Power
Putatively, Harris sought to hold Lacey and Larkin responsible for content posted by users to the site’s adult section. This, despite the fact they had sold Backpage in 2015.
But as Front Page Confidential recently discussed in a previous post, it was a prosecution that Harris knew she did not have the jurisdiction to pursue because of a federal statute: Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which generally states that an interactive website or platform is not responsible for content posted by others.
Harris was well aware of the law. 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. And yet, she brought the charges anyway, about a month before California voters were to decide on whether or not she would be their next U.S. Senator.
As Reason‘s dogged investigative reporter/editor Elizabeth Nolan Brown, a fierce critic of Harris, notes in the documentary, the timing was not a coincidence.
“So Harris gets to have her name in all the papers right before the election saying that she’s the one who helped take down these people that everyone for years has been characterizing as these big evil sex traffickers,” Brown explains. “It was a publicity stunt.”
Indeed, about a week after the 2016 election, wherein Harris triumphed over fellow Democrat Loretta Sanchez, a Sacramento judge tossed the charges, citing Section 230, and observing that the “importance of the protection afforded by the First Amendment was the motivating factor behind the creation of CDA.”
Snubbing her nose at the ruling, Harris refiled the charges just days before she was to leave office. In that case, yet another judge would dismiss the bogus pimping charges.
As the video details, Harris would go on to berate Lacey and Larkin in person when they were compelled to appear in 2017 before a Senate committee that was little more than a show-trial, meant to smear them as being complicit in sex trafficking, which, unlike garden variety prostitution, involves either minors, or adults coerced into the sex trade.
But as Reason‘s video points out, Brown’s reporting showed that “law enforcement officers the country over were working with Backpage employees, taking seminars on how to use the site from Backpage lawyers and coming to rely on the site for sex trafficking investigations.” As a tool to rescue children and vulnerable women, Backpage was “a goldmine of information for investigators.”
It’s a tool that the government lost forever in 2018, when it seized the site and took it down as part of a federal prosecution of Lacey and Larkin, accusing them of facilitating prostitution (i.e., consensual, albeit illegal sex work among adults) through the website in violation of the U.S. Travel Act. Their trial date currently is set to begin in January 2021.
These charges, too, are false, as the video makes clear. Brown’s investigative work has revealed that the U.S. Department of Justice has, in fact, “failed to uncover evidence of criminal intent or a pattern of reckless conduct” by Backpage. Rather, Backpage “was remarkably responsive to law enforcement requests,” and “proactively” sent ads suspected of involving sex trafficking to authorities.
“So many people put on this huge show of making them the villain in this,” Brown, a libertarian feminist, says of Lacey and Larkin. “A lot of people in government actively made the calculation to make life more dangerous for both sex workers and sex trafficking victims, in order to satisfy this crusade that they were on publicly.”
One of those, of course, was Kamala Harris, who as Senator voted for draconian legislation — known as FOSTA/SESTA — that effectively outlawed adult ads in the United States, causing immense harm to sex workers and trafficked women and children, and resulting in a wave of censorship online.
At present, few Dems seem to care. Harris has effectively used the hysteria over sex trafficking to advance her career.
“It’s an evergreen political issue, always works,” Larkin says. “They’re waiting to be governors or senators, presidents. That’s what that was about.”
As for the trial still before them, both men remain committed to vigorously defending themselves against the charges the feds have brought, as well as the slander and obloquy that come with them.
“It’s hard to make us feel guilty,” Lacey says in the mini-documentary. “We’re not guilty, okay. You can’t talk me into it.”