Mistrial declared in case against Backpage.com founders
PHOENIX, AZ – A federal judge on Tuesday declared a mistrial in the case involving prostitution and money laundering charges against founders of the classified site Backpage.com, noting that none of the defendants have been charged with child sex trafficking, despite it being mentioned several times by prosecutors during the trial.
Judge Susan Brnovich for the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona said that repeated references to child sex trafficking by both prosecutors and witnesses brought by the government “is something that I can’t overlook and will not overlook,” according to The Associated Press.
Brnovich had said before the start of the trial that while she would permit evidence indicating that individuals were trafficked on the website, prosecutors could not focus on specific details of alleged abuse.
“It seemed the government abused that leeway,” she said, adding that lingering on details of abuse brings a “whole new emotional response from people,” potentially impacting the integrity of the trial.
Former Backpage.com owners Michael Lacey and James Larkin, as well as four other company employees, have been accused by federal prosecutors of intentionally selling ads for sex on the website.
While prosecutors have said that many of the victims of the alleged sex trafficking were children, child sex trafficking is not among the charges facing the former employees.
All six of the defendants have pleaded not guilty to charges of facilitating prostitution, and four of them, including Lacey and Larkin, have also pleaded not guilty to money laundering.
Prosecutors have argued that Backpage generated roughly $500 million from the alleged prostitution scheme between the time it was first launched in 2004 and when it was shut down by the federal government in 2018, according to the AP.
Lacey and Larkin, who founded the Phoenix New Times and held ownerships in other weekly news outlets, have maintained that they did not allow ads for sex, and claimed that they attempted to use various tools to remove the allegedly unauthorized ads that appeared on their site.
The news agency reported that Brnovich has set a new trial date for Oct. 5.
In April 2018, Backpage pleaded guilty to human trafficking charges in Texas, and then-CEO Carl Ferrer pleaded guilty to money laundering charges in California.
Months later, Dan Hyer, the sales director for the website, pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges, admitting that he was involved in a scheme to give free advertising to sex workers in an attempt to keep them away from competitor platforms.
Cairon is accused of molesting underage girls he coached from the 1990’s until January 2021. Investigators say Cairon was coaching at a Jenks gym, but was fired earlier this year.
Cairon was charged in May, then later posted bond and was ordered to wear GPS ankle monitor. Records show Cairon asked the judge in June to have the GPS removed so he could go to a doctor’s appointment in Oklahoma City.
The judge said yes and ordered Cairon to get the GPS put back on when he returned, but he didn’t.
Investigators said instead, Cairon flew from Tulsa to Denver, but was caught in Denver while trying to board his connecting flight to Germany.
Cairon was supposed to be back in front of a judge yesterday.
Toddler dies after being left in hot car while mom tended to marijuana plants, police say
VISALIA, CA – A 3-year-old girl is dead and her mother has been arrested on charges of involuntary manslaughter after investigators in California say she left the child in a hot car while she tended to a marijuana grow.
Police in Visalia responded to the call of a child who was not breathing after being left in a parked vehicle for an extended period of time, according to investigators.
Police detectives say they believe the child, now identified as Jessica Campos, was left in the vehicle for up to three hours before anyone discovered her. Investigators say the outdoor temperature was at least 100 degrees at the time.
An officer who was on an unrelated call nearby responded to the scene and took over CPR from family members who were trying to revive the child.
When fire and ambulance personnel arrived they took over the efforts and the child was transported to an area hospital where she was pronounced dead, investigators say.
According to investigators, Jessica’s mother had been tending to a marijuana grow and processing marijuana during the time the child was left inside the vehicle.
Five people have now been arrested including Jessica’s mother Eustajia Dominguez Mojica, 28, and four other adults found in the residence at the time: Araceli Mojica, 33; Emmanuel Ortiz-Aguilar, 34; Valentin Aguilar Ortiz, 27; and Victor Flores Corona, 41.
Mojica, Ortiz-Aguilar, Ortiz, and Corona were booked for charges of child endangerment.
Eustajia Dominguez Mojica, the child’s mother, has been booked for charges of involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment.
Proclamation on National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, 2021
Human trafficking is a horrific assault on human dignity that affects people in the United States and around the world. It tears apart communities, fuels criminal activity, and threatens the national security of the United States. During National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, we reaffirm our commitment to eradicate this abhorrent evil, to support victims and survivors, and to hold traffickers accountable for their heinous crimes.
Tragically, through force, fraud, and coercion, human traffickers deprive millions of victims of their unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Often referred to as “modern slavery,” this intolerable blight on society involves exploitation for labor or sex and affects people of all ages, genders, races, religions, and nationalities. As the United States continues to lead the global fight against human trafficking, we must remain relentless in our resolve to dismantle this illicit and immoral enterprise in our cities, suburbs, rural communities, Tribal lands, and transportation networks.
My Administration has prioritized ending human trafficking since its earliest days. As one of my first acts as President, I instructed Federal agencies to do what was necessary to bring human traffickers to justice and assist survivors on their road to recovery. Since then, United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement, along with other Federal agencies, has aggressively pursued these criminals, dismantling the financial infrastructure of their networks and arresting over 5,000 human traffickers. In 2019 alone, Federal law enforcement agencies initiated more than 1,600 new investigations into human traffickers and the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) human trafficking task forces opened more than 2,500 new cases on the frontlines. At my direction, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) launched its new Center for Countering Human Trafficking, which utilizes personnel from 16 DHS components, including special agents, victim support specialists, and intelligence research specialists, to focus on disrupting and dismantling trafficking organizations and providing support and protection to victims.
A year ago, I was proud to host the White House Summit on Human Trafficking, honoring the 20th anniversary of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA). During this historic event, I signed an Executive Order on Combating Human Trafficking and Online Child Exploitation in the United States. Through this order, my Administration established the first-ever White House position focused solely on combating human trafficking. Last year, I also released a comprehensive National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking (NAP), built around the “three pillars” of the TVPA: prevention, protection, and prosecution. The NAP also includes a fourth pillar which recognizes the invaluable benefit of implementing collaborative and cooperative efforts that crosscut all three pillars and involve a multitude of stakeholders and professionals from various disciplines and sectors. Using this strategy, the United States Government will employ a whole-of-government approach to improve our capabilities and build on existing momentum in our fight against human trafficking.
We remain focused on ensuring that survivors of these horrific crimes receive the care and support they need and deserve. My Administration is empowering and funding faith‑based and community organizations to provide survivors with vital services, including medical and counseling services, safety planning, educational opportunities, and vocational training. Further, my Administration has doubled the amount of DOJ funding to combat human trafficking compared to the previous administration and funded the largest package of DOJ grants to fight these crimes in American history. I am proud that these grants included the first-ever funding for safe housing opportunities for survivors nationwide.
Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic this year, my Administration has been unwavering in its efforts to stop this scourge domestically and around the world. The DOJ and the Department of Health and Human Services engaged with State, local, Tribal, and territorial governments and nongovernmental organizations to understand the impact of coronavirus on human trafficking and published resource guides for those in the fight on how to operate and provide services during the pandemic. The Department of State also launched a year-long competition for proposed projects to address the pandemic’s impact on efforts to combat modern slavery. Additionally, the United States Agency for International Development adapted their approach to overseas programmatic work to ensure that survivors are able to access the critical support services they need without delay. No matter the circumstances, we will remain relentless in this work and will spare no resource in offering hope to the victims and survivors of this global atrocity.
While we have reached new milestones in this fight for freedom, we must remain steadfast in our pursuit to end the evil practice of human trafficking and slavery. This month, we restore our commitment to bringing human traffickers to justice and to preserving the dignity and worth of every person.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do proclaim January 2021 as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, culminating in the annual observation of National Freedom Day on February 1, 2021. I call upon industry associations, law enforcement, private businesses, faith-based and other organizations of civil society, survivors and advocates, schools, families, and all Americans to recognize our vital roles in ending all forms of modern slavery and to observe this month with appropriate programs and activities aimed at ending and preventing all forms of human trafficking.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirty-first day of December, in the year of our Lord two thousand twenty, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-fifth.
Police searching for Polk woman
accused of hit and run, Child Abuse
POLK COUNTY, FL – Police are searching for a Haines City woman accused of driving head-on into a vehicle, causing an unrestrained child to be injured on Monday morning.
Taquire Studimire, 34, faces charges of child abuse, tampering, reckless driving, hit and run and resisting arrest without violence, police say.
Authorities say she drove her 2008 Honda Civic into the front of a garbage truck in the area of North 14th Street and Stuart Avenue before 8:30 a.m. on Monday. The driver of the truck told police that he honked his horn to try to avoid being hit, but was unsuccessful. Studimire then exited the vehicle with a young child in her hand and told the driver that he was at fault for the crash.
Video recordings from the truck’s dash camera showed the child sitting unrestrained in the front and being thrown into the dash as the vehicles collided. Studimire is then seen grabbing the child from the floorboard and immediately exiting the vehicle to confront the truck driver.
Police say at no point was she ever seen taking time to examine the child for potential injury. After confronting the truck’s driver, she reentered the vehicle and backed into traffic with the driver’s side door open, almost hitting another vehicle.
The child was later located at a daycare facility after suffering a head bruise and a swollen cheek. The child was taken to a hospital but did not suffer any serious injuries.
“The blatant disregard shown for this child is appalling,” Chief Jim Elensky said. “She proceeded to put others in danger with her carelessness and has taken no responsibility for her actions. Perhaps jail time is what she needs to mull it over. It is fortunate that no one was seriously hurt.”
There is a warrant for Studimire’s arrest. Officers made contact with Studimire by phone, but have yet to locate her. Anyone with information on her whereabouts is asked to contact the Haines City Police Department at 863-421-3636.