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As AG’s wife, judge won’t recuse herself in Backpage case

PHOENIX — A federal judge married to Arizona’s attorney general says she will not recuse herself from a criminal case against the former executives of Backpage.com, who are accused of using their classified section for soliciting prostitution.

U.S. District Court Judge Susan Brnovich stated in a ruling filed late last week that her marriage to Attorney General Mark Brnovich, who’s made critical statements about sex trafficking and Backpage, won’t affect her ability to be objective.

In September, attorneys for Backpage founders Michael Lacey and James Larkin criticized statements made in a human trafficking booklet published by the attorney general’s office, which describes the ad site as a place where sex is frequently purchased.

The request for Judge Susan Brnovich to recuse herself also said the attorney general has invited members of the public to visit websites that contain inflammatory information about Backpage and its operators.

In the order, Judge Brnovich says their filing came a year and a half after she inherited the case and she has already made some rulings against them. But the issue of timing aside, her husband isn’t a member of any organization representing any party in the case.

Attorneys for Lacey and Larkin did not immediately respond Monday to requests for comment from The Associated Press.

Backpage’s operators are accused of ignoring warnings to stop running prostitution ads, sometimes involving children, after the site brought in $500 million of prostitution-related revenue since its inception in 2004. Prosecutors alleged the site gave free ads to prostitutes and cultivated arrangements with others who worked in the sex trade to get them to post ads with the company. Some of the site’s operators also are accused of laundering money earned from ad sales after banks raised concerns that they were being used for illegal purposes.

Lacey, Larkin and four employees have pleaded not guilty to the charges. Their trial is scheduled to begin in January.



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