Is Tony Ortega in Legal Jeopardy?

tony ortega backpage

Backpage.com CEO Carl Ferrer, left, former owner James Larkin, former owner Michael Lacey and COO Andrew Padilla, in Sacramento Superior Court on Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2016. These were Tony Ortega’s employers when he was editor of the Village Voice. (Hector Amezcua/Sacramento Bee/TNS via Getty Images)

In the unceasing parade of human folly and hypocrisy, perhaps there is no better example of a man who, for years, falsely accused L Ron Hubbard and all Scientologists of endorsing and condoning pedophilia while he himself had made 90% of his paycheck off of Backpage sex traffick advertising, which led to horrific instances of child rape and murder.

The more you get past the idea that it’s all just a Scientology Fair Game operation of guilt by association to discredit one of their most vociferous critics, and look at Tony Ortega’s factual history, economic connections, and defense of the notorious BackPage.com, the more difficult it becomes to scrape your jaw off the floor in alarm.

Mike Rinder, who Tony Ortega propagandistically describes as a “former Scientology spokesman” (when in fact Rinder ran the notorious Office of Special Affairs for 22 years, reporting “dones” to David Miscavige every day) dismisses Ortega’s relationship to Backpage, saying that Tony was the Editor of the newspaper side of the Village Voice, and he had nothing to do with the advertising side of the newspaper.

Mike is doing some propagandizing himself here, because in 2011, not only did Tony Ortega endorse and condone the sex trafficking going on in his organization, he went after and tried to discredit fellow journalist Amber Lyon, a CNN reporter who was investigating the sex trafficking, including child sex trafficking, that Backpage was selling.

“What happens when two adults find each other through Backpage.com?’ Ortega writes. “I couldn’t tell you. The whole point of Backpage.com is that we aren’t involved after two consenting adults find each other through the community bulletin board, which exists solely so that people can freely express themselves—sometimes in ways that make other people uncomfortable. We’re First Amendment extremists that way. Always have been.”

“Underage prostitution is a persistent problem in this country, but as we established in last week’s cover story, it exists at a level that is nothing like what is being trumpeted by Amber Lyon on the behalf of activists who want to put us out of business.”

In this astounding article, Tony Ortega justifies the sex trafficking income which is paying his paycheck as saying that it was a matter of the First Amendment. He describes the careful process that backpage employees went through to take out words that made the ads look too much like they were ads for sex trafficking and child rape – and then going ahead and placing the advertising. Tony makes the case that this process is why the way they were making money here by advertising for sex traffickers was legit.

Well this exact process that Tony Ortega describes in his 2011 article seems to be the exact evidence which was used to charge and convict Tony’s boss at Village Voice Media, Carl Ferrer, on charges of money laundering and conspiracy to facilitate prostitution.

From the Washington Post article I linked to above, there is this chilling confession:

“In a remarkable three-paragraph admission in his federal plea agreement, Ferrer wrote that “I conspired with other Backpage principals … to find ways to knowingly facilitate the state-law prostitution crimes being committed by Backpage’s customers.”

“Ferrer also acknowledged creating a “moderation” process to remove terms and pictures indicative of prostitution. “Such editing did not,” Ferrer wrote, “of course, change the essential nature of the illegal service being offered in the ad — it was merely intended to create a veneer of deniability for Backpage.” He said that these “editing practices were only one component of an overall, companywide culture and policy of concealing and refusing to officially acknowledge the true nature of the services being offered in Backpage’s ‘escort’ and ‘adult’ ads.”

Is this the part that may very well land Tony Ortega in legal jeopardy? When you read Tony Ortega’s Village Voice article that I linked to and quoted from above, ask yourself: Is Tony Ortega not only endorsing and condoning sex trafficking here, but is he also defending and justifying it, as well as attacking and trying to discredit other journalists who are seeking to expose it?

And so does that make him an integral part of the conspiracy to traffick in sex, including child rape for pay?

Don’t take my word for any of this horror. After all, Scientology wins here in so many ways. Therefore, it must not be true, and therefore Alanzo must be a “covert Scientologist” for writing about it – or so the anti-Scientology tribal ‘logic’ goes.

Set aside the “Scientology is fair gaming Tony” conspiracy theory that’s protecting your belief system here, and explore the horrific facts of the case yourself.

And then, just like me, try to scrape your jaw off the floor.

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6 Responses to Is Tony Ortega in Legal Jeopardy?

  1. DigThatGroove June 26, 2018 at 2:00 pm #

    “Is this the part that may very well land Tony Ortega in legal jeopardy? When you read Tony Ortega’s Village Voice article that I linked to and quoted from above, ask yourself: Is Tony Ortega not only endorsing and condoning sex trafficking here, but is he also defending and justifying it, as well as attacking and trying to discredit other journalists who are seeking to expose it?”

    “And so does that make him an integral part of the conspiracy to traffick in sex, including child rape for pay?”

    I’m not a lawyer, but my amateur knowledge of first amendment jurisprudence tells me that Tony Ortega’s actions – regardless of how they are to be morally judged – are constitionally protected. To quote the majority opinion in Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969):

    “The constitutional guarantees of free speech and free press do not permit a state to forbid or proscribe advocacy of the use of force, or of law violation except where such advocacy is directed to inciting imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.”

    In light of the above quote, an examination of the info provided in this post suggests that Ortega is not in any kind of legal jeopardy. I’m seeing no eviednce that Ortega was involved in publishing and/or moderating moderating sex ads; all I can tell is that he wrote articles in defense of individuals who were involved in such matters. Speaking in defense of particular types of actions, even ones that are illegal, is constitionally protected so long as the statements in questions are not “directed to inciting imminent lawless action and [are] likely to incite or produce such action”. I don’t think that this criteria applies to Tony’s comments about the Backpage, which means that he’s in the clear.

    • Alanzo June 26, 2018 at 3:11 pm #

      Fantastic post, once again, DTG.

      I’m sure that if Tony has lawyered up, this would be part of their argument in defending him. It’s my understanding that while Tony’s old CEO Ferrer has pleaded guilty, his other two friends/direct employers at Backpage have not. And prosecutors may be turning the screws on Ortega right now to get him to flip on them, a la Mueller on Cohen & Manafort to get at Donald Trump.

      Even with fancy First Amendment arguments like yours, they can make the seat Tony might be sitting in very very hot. And you can already see it in his “reporting” at his blog – more and more guest pieces, fewer original posts. Getting more and more nattery and bitter about Scientology beliefs (or his understanding of them) without any hope of reporting any kind of crime at the source of the problems in Scientology – David Miscavige.

      He’s either given up, or he’s distracted by the Backpage thing, or something else is going on.

      But I’ll bet SOMETHING is going on!

      • DigThatGroove July 7, 2018 at 5:56 am #

        “Fantastic post, once again, DTG.”

        Thank you for kind words (and sorry for the tardy reply). With that being said, I think that there are some serious misunderstandings of the law and how it relates to the issue being discussed. Let me go over my argument again, premise by premise.

        Premise #1 – Per my understanding of your post, you’re suggesting that Ortega is legally complicit in the Backpage’s actions based on no more than having written an article that is both defensive of the Backpage and critical of its critics. Am I correct in my characterization of your position? If not, can you please explain to me what exactly did I misunderstand?

        Premise #2 – Per my understanding of Brandenburg v. Ohio (a SCOTUS decision that so far has yet to have been overturned), advocacy of illegal acts is constitutionally protected unless it both calls for “immimnent lawless action” and is likely to produce such action. Is this understanding correct? If not, can you point out why?

        Premise #3 – If the above premise is correct, wouldn’t it follow that an article defeding the Backpage and criticizing its critics is automatically constitutionally protected, so long as it does not call for immimnent lawless action and is likely to result in such an action occuring?

        Premise #4 – It is my contention that the Tony Ortega article referred to in your post does not call for immimnent lawless action and is not likely to result in such a thing.

        Premise #5 – If premises #2, #3, and #4 are all correct, shouldn’t it follow that Tony Ortega cannot be legally considered an accomplice of the Backpage merely due to having written that article you referred to? Doesn’t this demolish your entire argument (as it’s been been restated in premise #1) regarding Ortega’s legal complicity in the Backpage’s sex operations?

        Premise #6 – If all of the aforementioned premises are correct, shouldn’t it be considered very unlikely (at least in the face of evidence you presented) that a federal proescutor will charge or even investigate Ortega with any Backpage-related crime, in contrast to what you havre suggested?

        In your comment you wrote “[P]rosecutors may be turning the screws on Ortega right now to get him to flip on them, a la Mueller on Cohen & Manafort to get at Donald Trump.” This sentence implicitly suggests that Ortega was privy to information about operations of the Backpage that was not available for the public at large. Otherwise there would be no way for him to provide testimony against Backpage employees. Unfortunatley for our proprietor, this premise is not borne out from his post. As far as I know, Ortega was not employed by the Backpage but by one of its sister properties, the Village Voice. Merely being an employee of a Backpage sister property does not make one privy to non-publicly available information about the Backpage’s operations. There’s no evidence in this post to suggest that Ortega had any kind of access to such info.

        To conclude, it’s a real a shame that any valid criticism you may have against Tony is discredited by the virtue of being coupled with with these meritless accusations.

        • Alanzo July 7, 2018 at 6:08 am #

          This is quite a handsome defense you’ve constructed for Tony here, DTG.

          Handsome and formidable. You should realize that my post was merely asking the question whether Tony was in any legal jeopardy.

          But now you’ve inspired me to look into this closer. Brb

  2. statpush June 28, 2018 at 2:35 pm #

    Worth pointing out that this is a federal investigation. The power the federal government wields is far and wide. And with one conviction in the bag, it wouldn’t surprise me that others will follow. If they can prove Backstage et al, were part of a criminal conspiracy; senior members, including Ortega, have cause for concern.

  3. AlanzoReader July 11, 2018 at 10:48 am #

    Dear Alanzo,

    I read in a blog that is exposing Tony and his family connection to an anti-religious group of people, and his way to make up for being an idle worker who is not making a penny. If you look at his blog you will see that he publishes an article every 24 hours at exactly 07:00AM and most of his articles are actually bunch of texts that other people have written. I think he is in his end of the profession of defaming such a group which he is not liking, and he is doing that instead of showing the REAL fault of that group.. He is basically harming himself and it is sad as he could have done a much better job.

    Like for instance, look at Tony at the Howdy-con, this is just ridiculous! Why does he place himself in such level with bad/weird/psycho-like people… this is another action he is doing which harms himself.

    Also his story tale with Dani & Tami Lemberger from the Haifa mission which quit the Church – here is the same – Tony goes to visit them, raises a glass of wine with them and parties with them like never before – on which side are you on? LRH-SPs-CHURCH-INDEPENDENTS or just there for the $ and FAME?

    Dani & Tami Lemberger are probably the last unsuccessful group that tried to continue Scientology out of the Church, and it for sure does not go well for them, as they have Tony on their side which harms them as well, sad story..

    If Tony would read my comment, I would suggest for him to open up his cards, and come clean about his work relating Backpage . com sex-slave advertisement which he was part of, I would suggest to him to get a REAL job where he can actually earn money and support his wife and children and stop getting support from his WIFE ONLY and from his wife’s parents which are over-rich.

    Really, come on… If you do something, do it professionally and not as sad as it is being done.

    I rest my case.

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