Recently Backpage.com filed a federal lawsuit against Hawley in an attempt to stop his investigation of the classified website’s alleged involvement with human trafficking. On Tuesday, Hawley filed a motion in St. Louis with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri to have the lawsuit dismissed.
“It is a shameless to stop our investigation and keep my office and the people of Missouri from getting the truth about Backpage, but today the truth is coming for Backpage. “ Hawley said during a press conference at his office in downtown St. Louis.
With this motion, Hawley said he filed documents of evidence uncovered by his office, which suggests that the website is engaging in illegal human trafficking.
“The evidence we are making public today indicates Backpage has directly and actively promoted illegal sex trafficking,” Hawley said.
The Attorney General had a stern warning for the ad website: “My message to Backpage is this: The truth is coming for you. We have evidence including audio recordings, photos and various documents. You cannot hide from the truth. And I will not stop until the full truth about Backpage’s involvement in trafficking is exposed and those responsible are held to account.”
Hawley said his evidence shows that Backpage.com contracted with an off shore digital consulting firm, Avion, to help the website allegedly profit from illegal trafficking activity.
In April, Hawley announced new initiatives to combat human trafficking in Missouri, including new regulations under Missouri’s consumer protection laws. These regulations prohibit the use of businesses as “fronts” for trafficking, make debt bondage illegal, and provide for new civil and criminal penalties on traffickers.
In addition, announced the creation of a new Anti-Trafficking Unit in the Attorney General’s Office to enforce the new rules.