Federal prosecutors have indicated that they will try Michael Lacey for a third time on the same charges. The decision to retry the case seems unnecessary and arbitrary, and sets a dangerous precedent. The first two trials ended in mistrials and inconclusive outcomes, and it’s unclear what the government hopes to achieve with another attempt.
The charges against Lacey stem from his involvement as a journalist and Backpage co-founder, in which he was accused of facilitating prostitution, money laundering, and running a website that allowed adult advertising. The first trial resulted in a mistrial due to prosecutors prejudicing the jury by suggesting Lacey was involved in child sex trafficking, a claim which was not supported by the evidence.
During the second trial, Lacey was found guilty on one count and not guilty on another, with the jury being hung on 84 remaining counts. Despite this inconclusive outcome, the government has decided to pursue further litigation against Lacey.
The decision to retry Lacey is perplexing from a public safety perspective, as he is not a direct threat to society and has been out on bail for nearly six years without incident. Lacey’s lawyers have also indicated that his conviction is likely to be overturned on appeal due to its questionable nature. The relentless pursuit of Lacey by federal prosecutors raises concerns about retribution and a desire to make an example out of him.
The case against Lacey also highlights the issue of civil asset forfeiture, in which the government has confiscated millions of dollars of assets from Lacey and his publishing ventures, unrelated to the alleged criminal activities. This practice, which does not require a criminal conviction, has been used as a tool to intimidate and punish individuals, further highlighting the government’s aggressive pursuit of Lacey.
Ultimately, the decision to retry Lacey on the same charges seems to be an unnecessary expenditure of public resources and a display of power over justice. It also serves as a warning to other tech companies and publishers, signaling the government’s willingness to go to great lengths to suppress speech it deems unfavorable. The ongoing pursuit of Lacey should raise concerns about the misuse of power and the erosion of constitutional rights.