Jury Selection Begins in Backpage Prostitution Trial of Former Phoenix New Times Owner; Underage Victim Tells Her Story

Jury selection in the second trial over the facilitation of prostitution by former Phoenix New Times owner Michael Lacey and some of his former associates began on Tuesday in federal court. Co-owner Jim Larkin, who was also being prosecuted, killed himself on August 1. Both were accused of facilitating the sex trafficking of minors through their site Backpage, but since the pair were charged with facilitating prostitution and money laundering instead, an earlier trial ended in a mistrial since a judge concluded prosecutors had too many references to child sex trafficking. Lacey and Larkin owned the Phoenix New Times for years, known for its scathing attacks on conservative Republicans.

A victim who said she was sex trafficked at age 14 through the now-defunct website is helping bring the site operators to justice. Testimony from Eryka Brewster, now 24, helped lead to a conviction of the former site’s CEO, Carl Ferrer, her pimp, and the ongoing prosecution against Lacey.

Some of the underage victims have been too upset to testify and come forward, so much of the prosecution’s case has relied on the testimony of Brewster (pictured above). She told The Arizona Sun Times that she fell into trafficking at 14 due to trying to escape an “unfit, unstable home.” A man named “Weezy” offered her a way out. She said he threatened her that if she did not work for a pimp, he would sell her to someone in Mexico. Feeling trapped, she complied, and Brewster said the pimp, Jovan “Jay” Miles, trafficked her in Houston and Corpus Christi through the use of backpage.com. She said she was a victim of statutory rape over a period that lasted over two months, including by five to 10 men within 24 hours.

“The only way my trafficker could make any money off of me was through a Backpage ad; he worked nowhere else but there, although I did later find out that I showed up on other sites like Erotic Monkey which basically scraped ads from Backpage and posted them to their site without knowledge,” she said. Investigators found the ads about her on Backpage, and her father put out a Missing Persons bulletin on her.

Read the rest of the article at The Arizona Sun Times

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