Recently the feds handed down a 50-page indictment against one 27-year-old Johnelle L. Bell of New Jersey for allegedly running a nationwide prostitution and human trafficking ring on the Village Voice Media-owned backpage.com.
The ring was based out of Little Rock, Arkansas but trafficked women and girls as young as 17 in at least a dozen states from November of 2009 to June of 2011.
Bell is said to have used the typical cowardly pimp tactics. The girls thought they were in a relationship with Bell before he turned them out on Backpage. He violently assaulted the girls including chokings, beatings, and whippings with a belt. There was also the threats of violence against their families. He even had one girl tattooed with his street name of ‘Victorious P’.
Also charged in this ring was 21-year-old Brittany Lawson. While Bell and Lawson were advertising the girls on Backpage Lawson was checking out other women on Backpage that they thought they could ‘recruit’. So, in essence, Backpage is the new slave trade market.
Of course in such a headline-grabbing bust Backpage’s head legal weasel Liz McDougall had something to say of little to no value…
Liz McDougall, general counsel at Village Voice Media, said she was still reading through the indictment Thursday. Generally, she said, “When the feds are able to indict a pimp or a trafficker, I think that is a really good thing.”
No shit? How about commenting on how Backpage facilitated the trafficking and beatings of these girls? How about commenting on where the money goes from the ads that Bell took out goes? Anything? No. Instead, you blather about how it’s a good thing that a pimp was indicted like a mindless drone who had been fed her lines. Tell me, Ms. McDougall, is someone at Village Voice Media beating you and threatening your family? If not you’re sure acting like it.
UPDATE 6/7/2012: Johnelle Bell has had his bail denied.
UPDATE 10/14/2012: Lawson has pleaded guilty.
UPDATE 12/2/2012: Bell has been convicted.
UPDATE 7/22/2013: Bell was sentenced to 30 years.