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Larkin and Lacey are on trial in Arizona on federal charges of facilitating prostitution and money laundering in what authorities say was a scheme to knowingly run for sexual services. In opening statements on Wednesday Sept, 8,their lawyers said the site ran legally allowable for escort services, but didn't publish for sex.

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Associated Press. Attorneys for Michael Lacey and James Larkin said in opening statements at their trial that the site ran legally allowable for escort services, but didn't publish for sex. They say the site beefed up its staff and methods for spotting illegalhelped authorities in investigating sexual trafficking cases and earned compliments from law enforcement for their assistance.

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Last week, a prosecutor told jurors that the majority of the site's revenue came from prostitution but the founders and operators of Back tried to conceal it. The prosecutor said the site hired content moderators whose job was not to remove prostitution but to edit them so they weren't so blatant.

The prosecutor also said the website developed a partnership with a website where customers wrote reviews of prostitutes, which drove ificant traffic to Back. On Wednesday, U. District Judge Susan Brnovich denied a request for a mistrial made by defense lawyers, who argued a prosecutor's repeated references to sex trafficking during opening statements were inflammatory. While prosecutors say the site published many that depicted children who were victims of sex Lacey escort classified, no one in the federal case in Arizona is charged with sex trafficking or child sex trafficking.

In all, six former Back operators have pleaded not guilty to charges of facilitating prostitution. Of the six, Lacey, Larkin and two others have pleaded not guilty to money laundering charges.

Authorities also issued arrest warrants for Back's controlling shareholders: Michael Lacey, 68, and James Larkin,

The site's marketing director has already pleaded guilty to conspiring to facilitate prostitution and acknowledged he participated in a scheme to give free to prostitutes to win over their business. Additionally, the CEO of the company when the government shut the site down, Carl Ferrer, pleaded guilty to a separate federal conspiracy case in Arizona and to state money laundering charges in California.

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Lacey and Larkin founded the Phoenix New Times, held ownership interests in other weeklies such as The Village Voice and ultimately sold their newspapers in The site's operators are accused of giving free to prostitutes and cultivating arrangements with others who worked in the sex trade to get them to post with the company.

Thomas Bienert, an attorney defending Larkin, read aloud to jurors compliments that law enforcement agencies gave to Back for their cooperation in sex trafficking investigations. Bienert also said the operators of Back had reason to think they were operating legally, saying judges who presided in now-dismissed lawsuits over Back found that its adult services were protected by the First Amendment.

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Some people might not like the material published on Back but the were still legal, Bienert said. Defense lawyers say 1st Amendment protected on Back. Get articles sent to your inbox.

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