ST. LOUIS, MO - Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley filed documents in federal court Tuesday he says contain explosive new evidence revealing Backpage dot com`s involvement in human trafficking.
This motion by the attorney general is the latest in an ongoing court battle between Mr. Hawley and Backpage. In May, Hawley announced he was investigating the company. In July, Backpage filed a lawsuit to block the investigation. Now in August, Hawley is attempting to dismiss that suit.
"That lawsuit is merit less. It is a shameless attempt to stop our investigation and keep my office and the people of Missouri from getting the truth about Backpage." said Hawley.
Hawley says backpage.com is a company directly and actively promoting illegal sex trafficking.
“Federal law does not protect illegal trafficking activity. The first amendment does not protect illegal trafficking activity. It doesn't protect websites that solicit illegal ads. It doesn't protect people who create those ads and seek to profit from them. The evidence we`ve put on the record today suggests Backpage has done all of the above.” Added Hawley.
Hawley shared a picture with reporters. He says it shows Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer with a person Hawley believes to be the CEO of offshore digital consulting firm Avion. Connecting the two men is important to Hawley because he thinks their companies may have a role in this suspicious audio recording.
Hawley alleges the conversation is between an Avion contractor working for Backpage and a sex worker being recruited to advertise services for free on backpage.com.
As Hawley spoke in St. Louis, Missouri U.S Senator Claire McCaskill and a bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation in Washington to ensure justice for sex trafficking victims. Accompanying that legislation, the release of all materials gathered in a two year backpage.com investigation.
"I'm hopeful the prosecutors that have criminal jurisdiction will be anxious to get this information and use it accordingly on any cases where they think someone in their jurisdiction has been victimized." said McCaskill.
“It is time for Backpage to stop stonewalling and come forward with the truth because I can promise you this, I`m not going to stop until we get it.” Added Hawley.
Mr. Hawley did not say how his office obtained the picture and audio recording filed in Tuesday’s motion.
Fox 2’s Mike Colombo reached out to backpage.com for a response to these developments. The companies general counsel declined comment citing the ongoing litigation.