News Roundup: Backpage Parent Company Pleads Guilty To Human Trafficking

Our daily look at Texas headlines.

By Alexandra HartApril 16, 2018 9:13 am

The Standard’s news roundup gives you a quick hit of interesting, sometimes irreverent, and breaking news stories from all over the state.

The Texas Attorney General’s office announced Thursday that the company behind has pleaded guilty to human trafficking.

Additionally, the CEO of the classified ads website, Carl Ferrer, pleaded guilty in state courts in Texas and California to charges of money laundering and conspiracy to facilitate prostitution.

The announcement comes less than a week after federal officials seized the website amid accusations that it was knowingly hosting ads for prostitution, and trafficking children for sex.

In a video statement, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said that Backpage was responsible for many child sex trafficking cases worldwide.

“Backpage was involved in 73 percent of all child trafficking cases reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children,” Paxton Said.

However, consenting adult sex workers have decried the attack on Backpage, saying shutting it down puts them in danger by pushing their work even further underground.

Ferrer is cooperating with the investigation. In his plea, he wrote that he quote “conspired with other Backpage principals…to find ways to knowingly facilitate the state-law prostitution crimes being committed by Backpage’s customers.”

According to Paxton, Ferrer faces up to five years in prison.

Texas’ senior senator went to bat for the Justice Department and the FBI in the face of criticism from President Donald Trump and others.

John Cornyn took to the Senate floor Thursday to say that rank-and- file agents deserve appreciation for their work, like investigating the series of bombings in Austin last month. Cornyn’s remarks follow near-constant criticism from the president of the FBI. Trump has attacked the agency over the Robert Mueller investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign as well as this week’s raid on Trump’s attorney’s office, which Trump called “an attack on our country.”

“It’s important that we let the men and women of the FBI know that we stand behind their detail-oriented approach to enforcing and upholding the law, that we support the FBI’s doing the right thing in the right way and pursuing the facts and the evidence independently and objectively, wherever they lead,” Cornyn said.

Cornyn singled out FBI Special Agent in Charge Chris Combs for praise, having lead investigations of the Austin bombings and last November’s Sutherland Springs church shooting.

A rare Texas songbird is set to be removed from the endangered species list. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will announce today that populations of the black capped vireo have recovered enough to be removed from the list.

The Austin American-Statesman notes that the move appears apolitical – as the proposal to de-list the Central Texas songbird was introduced in the Obama administration.