TIME trafficking

Mastercard Agrees to Withdraw Support from Backpage.com

American Express, Discover, MasterCard and Visa credit cards are displayed for a photograph in New York, U.S., on Tuesday, May 18, 2010. Credit-card firms caught off-guard by U.S. Senate passage of curbs on debit fees are facing what one executive sees as a "volcanic" eruption of legislation, including possible limits on interest rates. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Bloomberg/Getty Images

As part of an effort to fight sex trafficking

Mastercard has agreed to withdraw as an ad payment option on the adult section of Backpage.com, after Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart asked credit card companies to pull support from a site that is often used for trafficking and prostitution.

The Chicago-area sheriff wrote to Mastercard CEO Ajaypal Banga on Monday requesting the change, and on Tuesday the company agreed to sever ties with the adult section of the site, citing “rules that prohibit our cards from being used for illegal or brand-damaging activities.” American Express has already withdrawn as a payment option. Requests for comment from Visa were not immediately returned.

Further details about Dart’s initiative to fight trafficking by taking on Backpage.com will be announced Wednesday.

If the Sheriff’s effort succeeds, it will become increasingly more difficult for pimps to place ads for sex. Backpage.com charges a small fee to place adult ads, which can cost anywhere from $5 to $17 and bring the website about $9 million in revenue per month, according to Dart’s office, and 1.4 million ads for sex were placed in April alone. Right now, the only way to post an ad is to pay the small fee through Visa, Mastercard or Bitcoin.

“Backpage has significantly lowered the barrier to entry for would-be sex traffickers, giving them easy access to millions of johns while cloaking them in anonymity and putting all risk on the shoulders of their victims. Raising that barrier will lead to less would-be sex traffickers entering the business as well as less victims,” said Dart in a statement.

He added that he asked Visa and Mastercard to “defund this criminal enterprise and join us in the fight to seek justice for sex trafficking victims across the globe.”

TIME Crime

14 Los Angeles High Schoolers Suspected of Sex Crimes

Police officers walk in front of Venice High School where they are investigating allegations of sexual assault in Los Angeles
Jonathan Alcorn—Reuters Police officers walk in front of Venice High School, where they are investigating allegations of sexual assaults centered on students, in Los Angeles, March 13, 2015.

About 10 have been arrested

Los Angeles police made several arrests at an area high school Friday as part of an investigation into 14 high school boys accused of sex crimes.

The crimes–involving two underage victims—allegedly began over a year ago, police say many of the incidents occurred in the last two months, with several of the accused boys present. The police have also discovered photos of the sex acts, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Authorities were made aware of the incidents on Tuesday. The boys were not identified since they are minors between the ages of 14 and 17. The police arrested nine of the boys from Venice High School on Friday morning and a 10th turned himself in. There are still four more wanted in connection to the crimes.

The crimes are sexual assault and lewd acts with a minor, the Times reports. They involve a group of high school boys allegedly working together to pressure girls into having sex with them through a variety of threats.

The events allegedly occurred both on and off campus.

TIME Crime

New Orleans Police Routinely Fail to Investigate Sex Crimes, Report Says

New Orleans Police patrol the French Quarter on Jan. 28, 2014 in New Orleans.
Sean Gardner—Getty Images New Orleans Police patrol the French Quarter on Jan. 28, 2014 in New Orleans. An inspector general's report shows that NOPD detectives routinely fail to follow-up and investigate sexual assault cases.

Report shows only 14% of cases over two years were properly investigated

The city of New Orleans’ top inspector has accused its police force of multiple failures to properly investigate sex crimes, in a damning new report.

Detectives ignored reports of sex crimes, failed to follow up on reported sexual abuse cases and routinely failed to provide documentation of sexual investigations, often writing up questionable case files, according to a report released by the city’s inspector general.

The report identified 1,290 sex crime incidents from 2011 to 2013 assigned to five detectives; only 179 (14%) included supplemental reports showing that they properly pursued and investigated those cases. In 450 cases with initial investigative reports filed by the detectives, 271 (60%) did not include documents showing that there was any additional follow-up.

While the report didn’t name the detectives, it did describe multiple instances where additional investigation appeared warranted, but wasn’t pursued. In one case, an infant was brought to an emergency room with a skull fracture from what a nurse described as “suspected non-accidental trauma.” The detective, however, did not investigate the incident further and closed the case.

In another case, involving a different detective, a woman who told police she had been sexually assaulted and that her iPhone had been stolen. But there was no follow-up investigation nor apparent efforts made to track her phone or obtain phone records.

The New Orleans police department has a history of mismanagement and problematic practices and has been under federal court supervision since 2012 in part due to issues like those raised by the inspector general’s report.

The federal oversight came about in part due to issues in investigating sexual assaults, with detectives often misclassifying or reclassifying sex crime incidents as lower-level “miscellaneous” offenses, leading to citywide numbers appearing lower.

TIME sex crimes

This Guy Is Using ‘Good Looks’ as a Rape Defense

Good looking alleged rapist says the sex was consensual because he is hot stuff

A man charged with kidnapping, robbing and raping an Atlanta woman says the sex was consensual because he’s just so damn good looking.

A previous trial resulted in a hung jury, where one juror believed Darriuos Mathis’s “good looking” defense while 11 voted to convict him.

The 24-year old survivor testified Wednesday that one night over two years ago, Mathis stopped her as she was leaving a CVS and kidnapped her at gunpoint, forced her to take money out of various ATMs and ultimately sexually assaulted her. “He had told me to get in the car and I actually begged him to take my car,” she said. “I had pushed my wallet that was in my hand and my keys toward him and I was like ‘Please take my car. You can take my cards and everything.”

Mathis’s defense attorneys are arguing that the victim consented to the sex, mostly because of Mathis’s sexy appearance and the fact that she gave him her phone number. The survivor says she gave him the phone number because she was terrified.

Mathis’s lawyer presented an alternative narrative to the evening; he said that the victim was taken with Mathis’s good looks and sparkling personality and she also wanted to buy drugs from him. “He walked up to her with a bottle of Vicodin and said, ‘Wanna buy some pills? She said, “Sure,” get in. We’ll go to the ATM,” said attorney Carter Clayton.

Neither Clayton nor his good-looking client could not be immediately reached for comment.


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