On June 21, 2012, the Ramsey County Attorney's Office in St. Paul, Minnesota, in the United States, charged a local man with four counts of Engaging in Prostitution with a Minor in connection with an incident involving two under-aged girls at a motel in Eagan, Minnesota. The defendant had arranged to meet with the girls through an ad posted on Backpage.com.
According to the criminal complaint, in May 2012, a Criminal Investigation Officer with the Minneapolis Police Department began tracking one of the two girls on suspicion of being prostituted. After they were located, the two girls explained that they were forced to prostitute themselves at the Eagan hotel. Both victims had ads listed on the website, Backpage.com, complete with explicit photos and their cell phone numbers.
"Again, we are presented with a case involving the selling of Minnesota children for sex on Backpage.com at a suburban hotel. The children who have been victimized are ages 16 and 17. Like many cases throughout the state, the victims are runaway girls who are extremely vulnerable to exploitation by manipulative and coercive pimps who sell them and johns, like the defendant, who purchase them without regard to the harm that they do to the lives of children," said Ramsey County Attorney John Choi. "We will vigorously prosecute this case against the defendant, and the investigation involving the traffickers is ongoing."
Using cell phone records and video surveillance from the hotel, the investigator identified the defendant as one of three men who paid for sex with the girls on May 9, 2012. Surveillance video captured his image as he entered the hotel lobby. Afterwards, both girls also received from the defendant texts that were sexual in nature.
Pursuant to the policy of Ramsey County Attorney John Choi and his County Attorney colleagues, the prostituted girls will not be charged with prostitution, but rather will be treated as victims of sex trafficking.
"I applaud the excellent work of the Minneapolis Police Department to bring the defendant to justice and treat the juveniles as victims in this case," remarked Ramsey County Attorney John Choi. "I also repeat my call for Village Voice Media to shut down the adult section of its online classified site, Backpage.com, because it serves as a platform to traffic minors for sex, as it was in this case." Previously, Choi had stated, "By its acts and omissions, Backpage.com is encouraging, causing and contributing to illegal sex trafficking of children in our community."
It should be noted that a criminal complaint is merely an accusation and that a defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.