6 April 2021
A federal appeals court has refused their request to remove Judge Susan Brnovich from the case.
The executives, most notably James Larkin and Michael Lacey, who also operated the Phoenix New Times alternative weekly, are accused of facilitating prostitution by knowingly using the classified advertising website as an online brothel. Lacey and Larkin also face money laundering charges.
Judge Brnovich has scheduled the trial for August in U.S. District Court in Phoenix.
12 February 2021
Federal Judge Susan Brnovich again rescheduled the start of the Lacey/Larkin trial due to COVID-19 issues, while the Ninth Circuit considers ordering her to step aside.
As the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ponders her removal from the case, U.S. District Court Judge Susan Brnovich on Friday reset the start of the trial for veteran newspapermen Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin to August 23 in Phoenix’s federal court over COVID-19 concerns.
It is the sixth continuance in the case, and the third due, in part, to COVID. The trial promises to be the First Amendment donnybrook of the century, with the federal government squaring off against Lacey and Larkin, former owners of the now-defunct online listings giant Backpage.com.
6 April 2018
United States of America v. Ferrer (Arizona)
On April 6, 2018, a 93-count criminal indictment was unsealed against Jim Larkin, Michael Lacey and 5 other key Backpage executives. Less than a week later, Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer entered into a plea agreement agreeing to cooperate with prosecutors in the criminal case against Lacey and Larkin (and assist federal authorities in the immediate shutdown of Backpage.com.)
In April of 2018, after Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer pled guilty, Backpage’s longtime law firm, Davis Wright Tremaine (DWT), attempted to withdraw as counsel for the company and Ferrer, opting to represent only the founders. Ferrer responded, demanding return of the $6.25 million retainer paid to DWT. On August 28, Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin, founders of Backpage, filed suit against Backpage and Ferrer, contesting the reclamation of this retainer.
On April 25, 2018, federal prosecutors filed a motion to disqualify Lacey and Larkin’s long-time law firms David Wright Tremaine (DWT) and Henze Cook Murphy (HCM). SEE: Lacey and HCM responses. DWT and HCM have bought sought to continue representing Lacey and Larkin, but not Backpage or its CEO, Carl Ferrer.
On August 17, 2018, Backpage Sales Director Daniel Hyer entered a plea agreement, stating that Backpage employees would use the term “models” in intra-company emails when referring to persons in Backpage ads who appeared to be underage.
Lacey, Larkin and five other Backpage executives, have all plead not guilty. The trial is scheduled for January 15, 2020.
While Lacey, Larkin and other Backpage executives will have their trials in January 2020, Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer’s was pushed back to July 18th, 2020 by the US District Court in Arizona.
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