April 30, 2019 / 8:30 PM / 20 days ago

Florida man imprisoned for trafficking girl, 14, via Backpage.com

(Reuters) - A former middle school teacher who admitted paying for sex with a 14-year-old girl who was trafficked on Backpage.com has been sentenced to 10 years in federal prison, prosecutors said on Tuesday, in the latest criminal case stemming from the now-shuttered site.

Backpage.com was the dominant Internet marketplace for buying and selling sex in the United States before federal authorities seized it in April 2018 as part of an investigation into human trafficking and child prostitution.

Former Chief Executive Carl Ferrer agreed to shut down the site as part of an agreement with prosecutors in which he pleaded guilty to conspiracy and money laundering charges and cooperated in the investigation. [nL1N1RQ01J]

Prosecutors say Jeffrey Farrell Davis, 36, was among the men who responded to ads on Backpage.com offering a 14-year-old girl for sex. The child was delivered to so-called johns at homes and motels across north central Florida.

Davis, who taught middle school in a Gainesville, Florida, suburb until 2015, pleaded guilty in March 2018 to charges of child sex trafficking and obtaining a minor for purposes of engaging in sexual activity.

In sentencing him to 10 years behind bars, U.S. District Judge Lawrence Keefe also ordered Davis to pay $3,000 in restitution to the victim and $5,000 in fines.

As part of the plea agreement prosecutors agreed to dismiss a charge of using a minor to produce child pornography against Davis, stemming from accusations that he filmed the victim.

A study released to Reuters earlier this month found that after Backpage was put out of business, U.S. demand for prostitutes dropped 67 percent and search volume plunged 90 percent. [nL1N21K1X1]

The website’s founders, Michael Lacey and James Larkin, have pleaded not guilty. They are scheduled to stand trial next year along with other defendants in the high-profile case.

Days after the Backpage seizure, President Donald Trump signed into law the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act and Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act, or SESTA-FOSTA.

The new laws amended the “safe harbors” provisions of the Communications Decency Act that had protected websites from criminal liability over third-party or user-generated content.

Earlier this month a Wisconsin man who prosecutors say transported seven young women across state lines and forced them into prostitution using ads on Backpage was found guilty of federal sex trafficking charges.

Erin Graham, 37, faces a sentence of 15 years to life in prison when he is sentenced on July 1.

Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; editing by Jonathan Oatis

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