For immediate release

June 25, 2019

Tony Ortega, former Editor-in-Chief of The Village Voice, Must Answer for Backpage.com Crimes

Christine Biederman recently published an article in Wired that delved into the men behind Backpage.com, their actions in making it the “Google of commercial sex ads,” and the criminal charges they now face.

I am Jane Doe” - documentary on the victims of Backpage.com

Backpage.com, the ancillary to Village Voice Media, and Tony Ortega, former Editor-in-Chief of The Village Voice, were for years closely tied together.

Indeed, Ortega’s association with Voice owners Michael Lacey and James Larkin began long before investigations into Backpage.com were launched. Their relationship began in 1995 at the Phoenix New Times, which Lacey helped establish in 1970.

An employee of various New Times publications from 1995, Ortega was promoted to Editor-in-Chief of The Village Voice in early 2007, a position he held for more than five years, until September 2012.

During Ortega’s tenure at the Voice, he was one of the principal apologists for Backpage.com. On various occasions he came to the strident defense of Backpage.com, launching tirades against other journalists, law enforcement, and Congressional leaders, for exposing the online sex trade and Backpage.com’s facilitation of prostitution and human trafficking.

Ortega, however, was more than a mere apologist for this growing hub of online prostitution and child sex trafficking. During his tenure as Editor-in-Chief of The Village Voice, numerous arrests and prosecutions were conducted in connection with the sex trafficking of children via Backpage.com. As the Editor-in-Chief, how could it be possible he was not aware of these?

A litany of examples of sexual abuse of children and teens connected to Backpage.com occurred under Ortega’s tenure as Editor-in-Chief.

Christine Biederman’s article noted, “The government indictment that triggered Lacey and Larkin’s [2018] arrests, United States v. Lacey, et al., includes 17 ‘victim summaries’—stories of women who say they were sexually exploited through Backpage. Victim 5 first appeared in an ad on the platform when she was 14; her ‘customers’ made her ‘perform sexual acts at gunpoint, choked her to the point of having seizures, and gang-raped her.’ Victim 6 was stabbed to death.”

A litany of examples of sexual abuse of children and teens connected to Backpage.com occurred under Ortega’s tenure as Editor-in-Chief.

Website for Backpage.com as it is today

As he wrote readily and often about the subject, how could it be possible he knew nothing about the abuses attributed to his own publication?

The facts are far too brazen, Ortega’s proximity to the crime scene far too intimate, his control far too direct for him not to be aware of the crimes, cover-ups, and ruined lives.

The questions which then arise include: Why did Ortega do nothing about the flagrant human trafficking and child abuse taking place right under his nose? Was he a hidden beneficiary of this modern-day slave trade?

“STAND is ready to aid law enforcement in their pursuit of all perpetrators of the heinous crimes committed against children and young adults. It is time to obtain justice for these victims,” said Edward Parkin, STAND’s International Director.

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