Thursday, September 10, 2015

Why Aren't We More Concerned About Rentboy?

I've certainly seen a lot of things in my newsfeed about the raid on Rentboy but I didn't take the time to look at what actually happened until the last few days. Now I'm wondering why we haven't heard so much more about this?

If you haven't heard about it yet, here's the deal: on August 25th, the US Federal Government raided the offices of rentboy.com, a website that advertising escort services, mainly for gay men. They arrested seven staff people and seized $1.4 million dollars from rentboy's bank accounts. I have had difficulty - even after reading the actual report from the attorney responsible for the investigation and raid - exactly what it is they are charging rentboy with. It appears that it has to do with trading money across state lines for the purposes of something that could be illegal.

I don't know a lot about this yet. After a lot of reading, I still feel woefully uninformed about what is really going on here. But it's clear that there are two very serious questions that need to be answered.

1. Does the department of homeland security - that's right folks, it was the department of homeland security that conducted this raid - have the actual legal right to be involved with this and to charge these people? In the United States, prostitution is a state matter. It is, technically, illegal in the USA but each state has it's own specific legislation that deals with it. In a few places, it is legal under very specific circumstances. So if this is not a federal matter, why is a federal body involved in it? By my limiting understanding, it would seem that each state should be looking at charging and prosecuting individual advertisers on rentboy is they are conducting their activities in their state. It seems that the 'trading money across state lines' is their excuse to get involved where they have no business whatsoever.

2. Doesn't the department of homeland security have anything better to do? This raid took quite a bit of time and energy to investigate and execute and now they are spending even more time prosecuting each of these individuals. This is the same department that is responsible for investigating and preventing terrorist activity, for taking down organized crime related to the drug trade and arms dealing. Why on earth are they spending their time investigating people who are having consensual sex? The issue of whether what they are doing is technically illegal or not is really beside the point in my mind. Even if it is illegal, aren't there bigger fish to fry? Who are they keeping safe by taking down this website? What harm is being done? Why is this a priority for them when there are so many more serious matters that do involved people's actual safety at hand?

There is no real reason to shut rent boy down. They pose little if any danger to public safety. They are not, as far as is apparent on the outside, committing any crime of any real consequence. They are being targeted because they deal in sex - gay sex no less.

The owners and staff of rentboy plan to defend themselves, but with the seizure of pretty much all their assets, they have very little resources with which to do so. This is another huge abuse of power on the part of the federal government. They have no real proof that the monies they seized were actual gained as the result of a commission of a crime - at least a crime that the federal government has any business prosecuting, and yet they use their power to just take all their money and hold it indefinitely. I would venture to say that they do this specifically because they know it will make it almost impossible for them to get proper legal support.

I just wrote an article for my column on how government - both American and Canadian - use their influence to dissuade banks from working with sex-related businesses. Here's a case where they've gone one step further, bypassed the banks, and just taken the money themselves.

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