Retrial of Backpage execs would not be double jeopardy, court docket says

The prosecution of Backpage founders Michael Lacey and James Larkin and several other different former executives for the classified-ad firm can proceed to pull on, per a brand new ruling from the U.S. Courtroom of Appeals for the ninth Circuit. The court docket stated that attempting them once more after a mistrial was declared of their first trial wouldn’t rely as double jeopardy.

“Nobody is the least stunned by ninth Circuit ruling,” Lacey tells Purpose in an e mail. “Now we have at all times believed we should depend upon jurors, not judges, for a good shake. And so to trial.”

Lacey, Larkin, and the opposite defendants are prone to face trial once more in 2023, although no date has been set. That may imply a sixth calendar 12 months through which their lives are upended by this prosecution.

(To this present day, Lacey and Larkin are required to ask permission in the event that they need to depart Maricopa County, Arizona, and should put on ankle displays always. “They’re a relentless reminder of captivity,” says Lacey. “Once they go off, they’re loud and startle individuals in eating places, tremendous markets, stores.”)

The Backpage execs have been arrested again in April 2018 and charged with facilitating prostitution. After federal prosecutors pulled a bunch of questionable strikes—and a choose dominated that exculpatory proof by chance despatched to the defendants by federal prosecutors was inadmissible—the case lastly went to trial in September 2021.

At that trial, prosecutors could not cease speaking about baby intercourse trafficking—a criminal offense the defendants on this case are not charged with—and U.S. District Decide Susan M. Brnovich declared a mistrial.

Lacey, Larkin, and the others then filed a movement to dismiss the case, arguing that placing them on trial once more would quantity to double jeopardy. A district choose dismissed that movement final December. They appealed.

Now, a three-judge panel from the ninth Circuit has weighed in. In a September 21 ruling, the ninth Circuit judges notice that below Supreme Courtroom precedent, the Structure’s prohibition on double jeopardy solely applies when a mistrial stems from prosecutorial conduct meant to goad defendants into shifting for a mistrial. It doesn’t apply if a mistrial was declared due to impermissible conduct meant to assist the state win.

Lacey and Larkin had argued that prosecutors did need them to ask for a mistrial, because the first few days of the trial weren’t making the federal government’s case look good. The ninth Circuit judges rejected this argument, writing that “the authorities’s case-in-chief was nonetheless in its infancy” when the Backpage defendants requested for a mistrial.

“At minimal, the federal government nonetheless had a transparent path to prevailing at trial” and “had no cause to sabotage its personal trial,” the judges concluded, affirming the decrease court docket choose’s denial of the movement to dismiss.

Meaning the federal prosecution of Lacey, Larkin, and the opposite Backpage executives—on pause because the motions associated to double jeopardy have been thought-about—can resume.

And U.S. taxpayers can proceed footing the invoice for this seemingly everlasting try and put individuals in jail for operating an internet site the place intercourse employees marketed.

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