Hot! Old Prostitution Laws Don’t Cover Online Prostitution Rings

Photo by PlayfulLibrarian

Former University of New Mexico president Chris Garcia and David Flory, a retired physics professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey, have been cleared in an online prostitution case.

The men had been operating what police describe as an extensive multistate, online prostitution ring. The two were cleared after a judge ruled that state law said the website didn’t constitute a “house of prostitution.”

The problem is trying to apply old prostitution law in a high-tech world where prosecuting websites as “brothels” or knowing where free speech ends and the facilitation of a crime begins is a blurry line.

A 1996 federal law also makes online prosecutions difficult by protecting website owners from third-party content.

The website, called “Southwest Companions,” had a membership of 14,000, including 200 prostitutes.

Garcia, Flory, and other were arrested in June 2011 on a criminal complaint charging them with promoting prostitution. Flory bought the site in 2009 and was identified as the ringleader and accused of recruiting prostitutes.

The State District Judge said that the website wasn’t a “place where prostitution is practiced, encouraged or allowed.” However, according to police members paid anywhere from $200 for one sex act to $1,000 for a full hour. Prostitutes were paid with cash, not through the website.

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