Last week, jurors in Boston sentenced Marvin Pompilus to six-and-one-half years in state prison for sex trafficking six women. Like most sex traffickers today, he advertised the women he sold via online classified advertising websites like Backpage.com.
Pompilus will now spend roughly the next 2,370 days behind bars. To some this may sound like good news, but for many of us working in the trenches to stop sex trafficking this victory feels hollow.
Locking up the individuals who, in state after state, traffic a steady supply of women and children for exploitation in the sex trade is absolutely necessary. Nevertheless, they represent the bottom feeders in the sexploitation food chain.
To significantly curb sex trafficking, law enforcement needs the ability bring down the individuals feasting at the top. But this is the great obstacle in today’s fight to stop sex trafficking: the individuals at the top of the sexploitation food chain — who provide and profit from online classified advertising connecting sex traffickers with the men seeking to buy people for their sexual use — have special immunity from prosecution. This immunity comes from a now archaic law, the Communications Decency Act of 1996.