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Friday, August 19, 2016

Former Rentboy CEO, Jeffrey Hurant, is Finalizing a Plea Deal Over his Prostitution Charges...

Lawyers for Jeffrey Hurant, 51, said they were finishing up details of the agreement. 

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The former chief executive of male escort website Rentboy.com is finalizing a plea agreement after his indictment for promoting prostitution, his lawyers said on Wednesday, in a case that has outraged gay and civil rights activists.

In a letter filed in federal court in Brooklyn, lawyers for Jeffrey Hurant, 51, said they were finishing up details of the agreement, and asked that a plea hearing be scheduled for the week of Aug. 29.

The filing does not detail to which charges Hurant or Easy Rent Systems Inc, which did business as Rentboy.com, would potentially plead guilty. Both were indicted on three counts including promotion of prostitution and money laundering.

Hurant and the company had both previously pleaded not guilty.


Demonstrators hold signs as they protest the arrests of
male escort service Rentboy.com staffers in 2015
Noam Biale, a lawyer for Hurant, declined to comment. A spokeswoman for Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Robert Capers also declined comment.


The potential plea comes a year after the August 2015 arrest of Hurant and six employees of Rentboy.com, which authorities say was the largest online male escort website.

The website, which was founded in 1996 and targeted gay men, carried disclaimers saying its advertisements for escorts were for companionship and not sexual services. But authorities say Rentboy.com was intended primarily to promote prostitution.

Escorts paid at least $59.95 per month and up to several hundred dollars to advertise on Rentboy.com, which attracted 500,000 unique visitors daily and generated more than $10 million from 2010 to 2015, prosecutors said.

On Aug. 25, 2015, law enforcement officers seized evidence
from the Manhattan offices of Rentboy.com
The case prompted criticism from some gay rights activists and sex worker rights groups, who questioned why prosecutors were targeting the service after it had operated transparently for nearly two decades.

Critics of the case have included The New York Times, which in an editorial in August 2015 said prosecutors had not justified shutting down “a company that provided sex workers with a safer alternative to street walking or relying on pimps.”


Following the criticism, federal prosecutors in February dropped charges against the six Rentboy employees. But they continued to prosecute Hurant and the company itself.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

US Navy to Name Ship After Gay Rights Activist Harvey Milk

US Navy portrait of then Ens. Harvey Milk.
The US Navy is set to name a ship after the gay rights icon and San Francisco politician Harvey Milk, according to a Congressional notification obtained by USNI News.

The July 14, 2016 notification, signed by Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, indicated he
intended to name a planned Military Sealift Command fleet oiler USNS Harvey Milk (T-AO-206). The ship would be the second of the John Lewis-class oilers being built by General Dynamics NASSCO in San Diego, Calif.
John Lewis-class oiler


The Secretary of the Navy’s office is deferring releasing additional information until the naming announcement, a Navy official told USNI News on Thursday.
Mabus has said the John Lewis-class – named after civil rights activist and congressman Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) – would be named after civil rights leaders.

Other names in the class include former Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren whose court ruled to desegregate U.S. schools, former Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, women’s right activist Lucy Stone and abolitionist and women’s rights activist Sojourner Truth.

Mabus has also named ships in the past for other civil rights icons, including the Lewis and Clark-class dry cargo ships USNS Medgar Evers (T-AKE-13) and USNS Cesar Chavez (T-AKE-14).

Milk came from a Navy family and commissioned in the service in 1951. He served as a diving officer in San Diego during the Korean War on the submarine rescue ship Kittiwake until 1955. Milk was honorably discharged from the service as a lieutenant junior grade.

Following his service, Milk was elected to the San Francisco board of supervisors and was the first openly gay California politician to be elected to office. He was killed in office in 1978. When Milk was shot he was wearing his U.S. Navy diver’s belt buckle.

Over the last several years, there have been pushes from California politicians to have a ship named for Milk since the 2011 repeal of the Department of Defense’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” policy.

Naming a ship after Milk, “will further send a green light to all the brave men and women who serve our nation that honesty, acceptance and authenticity are held up among the highest ideals of our military,” said Milk’s nephew Stuart Milk in a statement to San Diego LGBT Weekly in 2012.

SOURCE

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Criminal charges DROPPED against 6 former Rentboy employees

BE ADVISED that even though i just learned about this yesterday, 
this actually happened earlier this year on February 16th, 2016

(February 16, 2016 Brooklyn, New York) Federal authorities have dismissed charges against six former employees of the website Rentboy.com, while continuing to move forward with a case against the chief executive on counts of money laundering and promoting prostitution, according to court documents posted on Wednesday.

On Friday, Magistrate Judge Lois Bloom granted a motion by the United States attorney’s office in Brooklyn to dismiss the charges against the former employees. The move came less than a month after the former chief executive, Jeffrey Hurant, was indicted and two days after he was arraigned and pleaded not guilty.

At the time that Mr. Hurant and the six others were originally charged in August, the authorities, who raided and shut down the website, called it the largest online male-escort service and described it as an Internet brothel that made millions of dollars by promoting prostitution.

The original complaint against the seven defendants laid out prosecutors’ allegations and descriptions of the service in lurid details, including a list of sexual terms and definitions they said they culled from the website. Though the site had a disclaimer noting that paying for sex was illegal, “the entire website is designed for the purpose of advertising prostitution,” the complaint charged.

When the case was announced last summer, it drew wide press coverage and condemnation by gay rights activists, who compared it to police raids of gay bars in the 1950s and ’60s, and criticized the federal investigation of a website that had been operating in open view for more than 15 years. The Homeland Security Department became involved, apparently because the authorities believed the site promoted prostitution across state and national borders.

A spokeswoman for Robert L. Capers, the United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York, declined to comment on the dismissals. The charges were dismissed without prejudice, meaning that they could later be refiled.

Lawyers for some of the former employees whose charges were dismissed expressed relief.

Aaron Mysliwiec, a lawyer for Shane Lukas, a former chief operating officer, said: “It’s unfortunate that Mr. Lukas was ever arrested. But we’re happy that he’s able to move on with his life.”

Mr. Hurant continues to maintain his innocence.

“Mr. Hurant did not commit a crime,” his lawyer, Michael Tremonte, said on Wednesday night. “It makes no sense to single him out for prosecution.”

In addition to Mr. Lukas, the other former Rentboy.com employees whose charges were dismissed were:

  • Michael Sean Belman, the director of the site
  • Edward Lorenz Estanol, an escort and former social media coordinator for the site
  • Diana Milagros Mattos, a former saleswoman
  • Clint Calero, a sales executive
  • and Marco Soto Decker, an accountant.


On Wednesday, Mr. Estanol posted on Twitter a picture of himself retrieving his passport from the federal courthouse.

“This trial has been nothing but a huge inconvenience to me, but now that my case has been rightfully dismissed I can start to put back the pieces of my life that were taken from me,” Mr. Estanol wrote in the statement accompanying the picture. “I am forever grateful to everyone who supported me during the past few months. We will meet injustice with justice.”