|Dr. F. Chris Garcia: behind that Mona|
Lisa smile, who'd have suspected there
lurked the entrepreneur who opened
new frontiers of cybersex freedom?
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A website that authorities say two aging professors used to run a multistate prostitution ring is legal, a state judge has ruled, highlighting the difficulties that prosecutors face in using decades-old laws to combat a modern phenomenon.
The ruling comes as prosecutors were scheduled to present to a grand jury their case against former University of New Mexico President F. Chris Garcia, who is accused of helping a physics professor from New Jersey oversee a prostitution website called "Southwest Companions."
State District Judge Stan Whitaker ruled that the website, an online message board and Garcia's computer account did not constitute a "house of prostitution," the Albuquerque Journal reported.
Whitaker also said the website wasn't "a place where prostitution is practiced, encouraged or allowed."
The prosecution whined that old-time anti-prostitution laws just had not kept pace with the internet:
Investigators said the prostitution ring had a membership of 14,000, including 200 prostitutes. Members paid anywhere from $200 for a sex act to $1,000 for a full hour. Prostitutes were paid with cash, not through the website, according to police.
But the ruling also showed the difficulty that prosecutors have in trying prosecute owners of websites that promote or facilitate prostitution because of laws created long before the Internet age, experts say.
"Most state laws only address street walkers and brothels and are so narrowly written that it's hard to prosecute these new cases," said Scott Cunningham, a Baylor University economics professor who has written about technology and prostitution.
For example, Cunningham said, Craigslist withstood lawsuits and challenges by law enforcement agencies and district attorneys' offices to shut down its erotic services section and only closed them later for publicity reason.Here is the "money quote"--noting that the activities of the two retired academics had turned out to be legal, Professor Cunningham did not say the government should stop pursuing sexual free enterprise, but that
To change laws, Cunningham said, some states will have to pass laws that outline step-by-step regulations on websites.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Mark Drebing said prosecutors' options are limited because New Mexico has laws on the books for computer fraud and use of computers and the Internet for child pornography, but none geared toward prostitution.In other words, when the authorities decided to pursue conduct that was legal, they weren't wrong: the State just had not criminalized enough behavior.
It is a bedrock Libertarian proposition that your body and your sexuality belongs to you. If there is no force or fraud involved in the transaction, you have the right to peddle yourself for dinner and a movie (which is OK with the State) or just skip the amenities and ask for cash (which apparently offends the State because it will lose the restaurant taxes).