From: Courthousenews.com

Activists See Stonewall in Rentboy.Com Raid

By Nick Divito
September 03, 2015

 

BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CN) - Though Rentboy.com is adamant that its service for like-minded men is not an Internet brothel, dozens of sex-rights activists rallied in the website's defense Thursday outside the courthouse where seven RentBoy officers face a federal indictment.
     "I consider it a digital version on Stonewall," said Allen Roskoff, referring to the riots that erupted after police raided a Greenwich Village gay bar called Stonewall Inn in 1969, unwittingly kicking off the gay-rights movement.
     In addition to Roskoff's group, the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, other civil rights groups including Amnesty International, the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the Transgender Law Center have banded together in support of Rentboy.com.
     The 20-year-old website's main offices in Manhattan were raided about a month ago, and seven of its officers were arraigned last week on charges of running a multimillion-dollar Internet brothel.
     With about 50 protesters marching in a circle outside Brooklyn Federal Court on Thursday, local activist Bill Dobbs called the Rentboy.com raid a "wake-up call."
     "There's something of a war on sex in New York City," Dobbs said, noting that there are no federal laws on the books banning sex work.
     "It's time," Dobbs said. "People want to be able to control their own bodies."
     About seven New York City police officers stood by as protesters chanted around them, "Stand up, fight back!"
     Their signs read, "Sex work is not a crime" and "Criminalization = dehumanization."
     The groups rallied on the heels of similar efforts to decriminalize sex workers from Human Rights Watch, the American Civil Liberties Union, the World Health Organization, the Global Commission on HIV and the Law, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, the UN Development Programme, UN Women and UNAIDS.
     Prosecutors allege that Rentboy.com's subscribers paid a minimum monthly fee of about $60 to set up profiles and search through profiles to find the "sexual services they are willing to perform and the price charged."
     Authorities seized more than $1.4 million during the raid, then froze the site.
     Jeffrey Hurant, a 50-year-old Manhattanite who founded the business in 1997, and six other Rentboy.com co-defendants face up to five years in prison and $250,000 if convicted of sex trafficking.
     The defendants have denied allegations that they ran a sex service, insisting that website merely connected like-minded men.
     An attorney for Edward Lorenz Estanol aka Eli Lewis, one of the seven defendants, saw no problem with the protests, however.
     "This business has been operating openly for almost 20 years," attorney Joyce David said in an email. "If they can shut down Rentboy and arrest these seven, then why not shut down the Village Voice and arrest anyone who works on the 'personal ads' ... at the end of the newspaper?"
     Rentboy.com's raid was set against a series of sexual dustups nationwide.
     The cheating website Ashley Madison faces a series of class action lawsuits after a group of hackers culled its database and exposed the identities of its 37 million subscribers.
     Several reality stars were implicated in the scandal and publicly apologized for their membership.
     Earlier last month, delegates with Amnesty International's decisionmaking body, International Council, met in Dublin and voted to adopt a 13-point manifesto that provides the "highest possible protection of the human rights of sex workers."
     New York's Police Chief William Bratton is also making headlines for grappling with topless buskers in Times Square.
     In addition to Hurant and 23-year-old Estanol, the other Rentboy.com defendants arrested last week are Michael Sean Belman, 47; Clint Calero, 48; Shane Lukas, 41; Diana Milagros Mattos, 43; and Marco Soto Decker, 28.

Officers

BOARD OF GOVERNORS

  1. Hon. Eric Adams
  2. George Arzt
  3. Lance Bass
  4. John Blair
  5. Mark Benoit
  6. Hon. Rodneyse Bichotte
  7. Hon. Jonathan Bing
  8. Matthew Bond
  9. Erik Bottcher
  10. Hon. Gale Brewer
  11. Danny Burstein
  12. Robin Byrd
  13. Tiffany Cabán
  14. Christian Campbell
  15. Gus Christensen
  16. Hon. Martin Connor
  17. Tom Connor
  18. Hon. Jon Cooper
  19. Wilson Cruz
  20. Hon. Laurie Cumbo
  21. Alan Cumming
  22. Michael Czaczkes
  23. Hon. Bill de Blasio
  24. Aries Dela Cruz
  25. Jon Del Giorno
  26. Kyan Douglas
  27. James Duff
  28. Hon. Ronnie Eldridge
  29. Hon. Rafael Espinal
  30. Marc Fliedner
  31. Hon. Dan Garodnick
  32. Dan Gettleman
  33. Jason Goldman
  34. Emily Jane Goodman
  35. Hon. Mark Green
  36. Tony Hoffmann
  37. Hon. Brad Hoylman
  38. Binn Jakupi
  39. Hon. Letitia James
  40. Hon. Corey Johnson
  41. Camille Joseph
  42. Phillip Keane
  43. Suzanne Kessler
  44. Yetta Kurland
  45. Dodge Landesman
  46. Hon. Melissa Mark-Viverito
  47. Phillip McCarthy
  48. Matt McMorrow
  49. Michael Mallon
  50. Mike C. Manning
  51. David Mansur
  52. Cathy Marino-Thomas
  53. Troy Masters
  54. Hon. Carlos Menchaca
  55. Hon. Rosie Mendez
  56. John Cameron Mitchell
  57. Donny Moss
  58. Barry Mullineaux
  59. Denis O'Hare
  60. America Olivo Campbell
  61. Noah Pfefferbilt
  62. Josue Pierre
  63. Bob Pontarelli
  64. Billy Porter
  65. Hon. Keith Powers
  66. Randy Rainbow
  67. Hon. Gustavo Rivera
  68. Hon. Helen Rosenthal
  69. Maer Roshan
  70. Sheila Rule
  71. Toby Russo
  72. Bill Samuels
  73. James Sansum
  74. Scott Sartiano
  75. Hon. Arthur Schwartz
  76. Lynn Schulman
  77. Cecile Scott
  78. Frank Selvaggi
  79. Rev. Al Sharpton
  80. David Siffert
  81. Hon. Jo Anne Simon
  82. Kathy Slawinski
  83. Tom Smith
  84. Anne Strahle
  85. Hon. Scott Stringer
  86. Wayne Sunday
  87. Hon. Bill Thompson
  88. JD Thompson
  89. Bjorn Thorstad
  90. Hon. Matt Titone
  91. Jessica Walter
  92. Barry Weinberg
  93. Seth Weissman
  94. Hon. Jumaane Williams
  95. Emma Wolfe
  96. Hon. Keith Wright
  97. Zephyr Teachout