I have long found fascination and abundant interest in not only law enforcement and forensic science but also the practice of law. As the daughter of a police officer I was fortunate enough to see a number of facets in our law enforcement and judicial system in action. I also got in trouble as a teen so I saw both sides of the law (and no, my father being a cop didn’t get me out of anything, I was treated the same as anyone else in that court). But, because Dad was a cop and I was around law enforcement all the time, and because one of his former partners on the force (the only female partner he had while a police officer) went on to become an Assistant District Attorney for our county, and later a judge where she still presides today, I was well exposed to the reality of the world we live in. And I was fascinated. Although I would later discover that careers in these fields would be too overwhelming for someone with my particular personality and health issues, the fascination remained strong. And thus began my consistent interest in true crime. So, when the opportunity to read this book came my way, I jumped at the chance.
Blurb for book:
“For almost a decade, Backpage.com was the world’s largest sex trafficking operation. Seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day, in 800 cities throughout the world, Backpage ran thousands of listings advertising the sale of vulnerable young people for sex. Reaping a cut off every transaction, the owners of the website raked in millions of dollars. But many of the people in the advertisements were children, as young as 12, and forced into the commercial sex trade through fear, violence and coercion.
In Taking Down Backpage, veteran California prosecutor Maggy Krell tells the story of how she and her team battled against this sex trafficking monolith. Beginning with her early career as a young DA, she shares the evolution of the anti-human trafficking movement. Through a fascinating combination of memoir and legal insight, Krell reveals how she and her team started with the prosecution of street pimps and ultimately ended with the takedown of the largest purveyor of human trafficking in the world. She shares powerful stories of interviews with survivors, sting operations, court cases, and the personal struggles that were necessary to bring Backpage executives to justice. Finally, Krell examines the state of sex trafficking after Backpage and the crucial work that still remains.”
This is a true story written by the prosecutor herself. Nothing can top a first-hand accounting of a case or situation other than being there and involved yourself. In this book, Prosecutor Maggy Krell tells the story of her long and arduous battle within the bounds of the law and the walls of the courtroom. But, she’s not telling about just any random old case that might be interesting or entertaining. This case is about taking down literally the largest sex trafficking ring in the world, Backpage.com.
Backpage was a website that, on the surface, looked like any other website that collects and runs personal ads. It was supposedly like the newspaper’s version of the personals section, publishing ads for things like handyman work, furniture sales, various services and items for sale including actual personal ads where people were looking to meet new people to date. It quickly became obvious that this website was mostly in the business of publishing the personal ads. But not all these ads were just regular personals, they were ads for sexual services. Girls and women of varying ages, some as young as twelve years old, with pictures of them in scantily clad clothing (if you can call it that) and suggestive poses advertising dates and services, quoting prices and providing contact information to schedule a purchase. A purchase, mind you. As if these human beings were material possessions. This is the very essence of sex trafficking.
One must realize the difference between sex trafficking and sex work as a chosen profession. The ones that choose this work are exercising free will. But a large portion of the ads on this site were selling services of those who were not given the choice. These are girls and women that have been kidnapped from their homes and hometowns, smuggled into the country, found as runaways, etc. and then forced into selling their bodies to pay their captors for whatever these morons think these girls owe them for. They are often kept like prisoners in warehouses, basements and homes. They are forced to have sex with people they don’t know and don’t like for money that they don’t get to keep for up to twelve or more hours each day, constantly having “dates” scheduled the whole time. The people that pay money to violate these women are allowed to do anything they wish with them, so long as they have negotiated what both parties would perceive as a proper and agreeable price with the handler or pimp. And that’s the life these ladies are forced to lead. Forced to start doing the sex work, forced to live in the abusive and dangerous hell and forced to do whatever it takes to survive.
Now, you would think if the owners of this website were helping traffick young girls and women for sex and getting money in return, it would be relatively easy to arrest them and shut them down. However, this is not the case.
Within the pages of this book you’ll read about how the owners of Backpage, which I have personally dubbed the BP3 for easy reference when reading this book, operated with impunity under the protection of a general publishing indemnification act called the Communications Decency Act. The BP3, which consisted of James Larkin, Mike Lacey and Carl Ferrer, which basically states that they as publishers are not responsible for the content that is posted on their site nor are they responsible for the activities that stem from said content. So, they can basically let anything get posted on their site (sites, explained in the book) and anything can happen from that and they are just publishers. If I understand the Act correctly it basically means that if you see something on let’s say a social media website and it offends you, under the protection of this Act the owners of that social site cannot be sued or held liable for anything that is posted on the site nor any illegal or offensive activities resulting from any of those posts.
Prosecutor Maggy Krell tells the experience she had in fighting this particular piece of legislation that was being exploited in order to commit horrendous crimes against women and avoid any liability or accountability. She expertly breaks down and through all the legalese that frustrates so many people and explains the events that occurred so clearly that there is no room for confusion. Something I’m sure she did while presenting her case in the courtroom as well.
Krell skillfully tells of overcoming the painstaking obstacles, hurdles, mindsets and ignorance involved when bringing together a case of this magnitude. The pushback from so many sides would have been enough to wear on any prosecutor, any lawyer really, and yet she continues in her fight for justice for these exploited and abused survivors and to get the laws changed so the trafficking of human beings into sexual slavery wouldn’t be so easy and convenient for the bad guys. Ms. Krell also truly realizes the significance of sex crimes against women and the enormous impact such things as being trafficked can have.
Prosecutor Maggy Krell is a rare type of person. She is truly a soldier of justice, speaking for the victims and survivors, helping to tell their stories to the world and tirelessly working for the protection of all crime victims, regardless of their current apparent circumstances or what led them to that situation to begin with. It is clear that she is a compassionate woman with a firm belief in getting justice for those who have been violated in some of the most vile ways imaginable. And what this one woman accomplished by leading the charge against Backpage.com and their owners and publishers is nothing short of heroic and historic.
Anyone who is looking for a little glimpse of reality not only into the world of a prosecutor’s life and work, but also to what the victims and survivors of sex trafficking actually go through. This book is also quite the eye-opener in what lengths some people will go to in order to avoid the law, avoid prison and avoid going broke by continuing to commit these heinous offenses over and over and over again.
This is definitely a true crime book for the true crime lover. Any person who is passionate about stopping sex crimes and abuse towards women and children will find this book quite informative as well as motivating to get involved in the fight to stop human trafficking.
Get your copy at the link below: