In The City Of Chicago, Someone Is Getting Screwed, For Money

Law, Technology

Could it be taxpayers?  Thomas Dart, the sheriff of Cook County Illinois, is suing Craigslist.

In the words of Sheriff Dart…

Prohibited activity rarely transpires in secret.  Rare is the instance when such conduct occurs unabashed.  Yet as these words are read, Defendant's website Craigslist.org ("Craigslist") is facilitating prostitution.  To say Craigslist's "erotic services" forum makes prostitution accessible is an understatement.  Advocacy groups consider the website to be one of the largest sources for prostitution in the country.

Informed sources tell us that Craigslist is also one of the nation's leading sources for broken down cars, slightly used mattresses, and cheap yard work.  The site facilitates those who would play Dungeons and Dragons in secret, but those activities escape Sheriff Dart's attention for now.

No, Craigslist, according to the complaint filed by Sheriff Dart today in the Northern District of Illinois, is a public nuisance, and must be abated.  Read his complaint, in page after page of lurid detail that reads like the script from a 50s  exploitation film titled "Prostitution: Communist Threat to America's Children?" for yourself:  dart-v-craigslist.

I have not yet had time for full digestion of Dart's masterwork, but a few thoughts stand out:

  1. This appears to be a shakedown without legal merit.  This is a civil suit, not a criminal action.  The Communications Decency Act immunizes websites for postings by third parties (which the denizens of Craigslist's "erotic services" forum assuredly are), unless the site's very purpose is illegal.  Presumably plenty of people use Craigslist for unpaid hookups that are entirely legal, unless Dart also intends to enforce antiquated sodomy and cohabitation laws in the future.  The other exception to this shield is for violations of federal criminal law, and while interstate prostitution is a federal crime (remember the Mann Act?), this is not a criminal action, and Dart has no more authority to prosecute criminals in Illinois than I do.  He isn't even a lawyer.
  2. The Communications Decency Act's shield preempts state law, and yes, it even preempts the municipal code of Chicago.
  3. It would appear that Dart was unable to get the Cook County District Attorney to go along for this ride.  The suit was filed by private counsel, Daniel F. Gallagher, Paul O'Grady, and Christopher P. Keleher of Querrey and Harrow in Chicago, all of whom I congratulate for drafting some of the most wretchedly purple prose I have ever seen in a legal pleading.  Truly outstanding, guys.
  4. Isn't this killing the goose that laid the golden egg?  Come on, guys, if you want to end prostitution, use the Craigslist!  If Craigslist makes it so easy to find a prostitute for Johns, surely it makes it just as easy for cops.
  5. Doesn't the sheriff of Cook County have better things to do than suing Craigslist?  Or did crime and corruption in Chicago end with the impeachment of Rod Blagojevich?
  6. Depositions in this case, if it ever gets that far, should make for endlessly entertaining reading.  I particularly want to know how many Cook County users of Craigslist's "erotic services" forum are cops, as well as how many of the posts on said forum are "stings" set up by cops masquerading, or not masquerading, as whores.

Once again, read the complaint.  If you live in Chicago, note the multiple references to "the Sheriff's constant surveillance of Craigslist's erotic services," and consider how Tom Dart uses his time when next you have an election.

Last 5 posts by Patrick Non-White

12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. Brian Dunbar  •  Mar 5, 2009 @4:37 pm

    I'll have to dig into that – but Craig's List only duplicates – actually does it better and faster – what you can find in weekly alt rags like the Chicago Reader.

    The heck, Chicago?

  2. Andrew  •  Mar 6, 2009 @7:20 am

    I initially read the last word of this post as "erection," which actually works just as well given the context.

  3. Xmas  •  Mar 6, 2009 @9:43 am

    Patrick,

    It's all about the money. Craigslist allows for willing buyers to find willing sellers (of the sex). Chicago police can seize the cars of people soliciting prostitutes. If the guys no longer have to troll the streets looking for hookers, then the police can't seize their cars. No seized cars means less money when they sell them. etc. etc.

  4. colin  •  Mar 7, 2009 @9:46 am

    I really thought that with this title the post was going to be about Roland Burris. Seems to me that is the sort of "screwing" the taxpayers should be far more worried about.

  5. E.D. Kain  •  Mar 10, 2009 @9:06 am

    But it's great press. That's the thing. The Good Sheriff can now tout his very public anti-prostitution creds without really raising a finger to actually stop any real prostitution…

  6. steve fischer  •  Mar 11, 2009 @9:04 am

    I really couldn't care less about Chicago, Cook County, or even Illinois, but way to go Mr. Dart. So it seems that in the name of personal freedom the article writer and his responders are simply announcing to America that they like 15 year old girls. Unfortunately that is what we're talking about here. So may I suggest that you stop thinking with your undersized pencils and use your brain for a change, it might be refreshing.

  7. Patrick  •  Mar 11, 2009 @10:01 am

    Perfect Steve. I couldn't have asked for a more thorough and thoughtful rebuttal.

  8. steve fischer  •  Mar 11, 2009 @11:03 am

    I wasn't trying to be thorough, just succinct.

  9. Patrick  •  Mar 11, 2009 @11:45 am

    And you succeeded beyond your wildest dreams Steve, at whatever it was you tried to do. You've shown me up by stating that I am sexually attracted to underaged girls, and that I wrote this post out of frustration that I may no longer be able to slake my lusts through Craigslist, rather than out of dismay at a frivolous lawsuit and publicity stunt by a politician who should be focusing his attention toward more serious problems.

    Brilliant. I'll have to shut this blog down, now that Steve Fischer, internet ferret of pedophiles, is on the case. Perhaps Sheriff Dart should skip the lawsuit and hire you to head Cook County Vice, since you seem to be such a gifted detective.

  10. Brian Dunbar  •  Mar 11, 2009 @11:54 am

    There is a character in 'The Phantom Tollboth' called the Humbug. He specializes in producing wrong answers very quickly and leaping to conclusions.

    We have met the Humbug and his name is Steve Fischer.

  11. steve fischer  •  Mar 11, 2009 @3:40 pm

    I'm truly amazed that you have read "The Phantom Tollbooth". Pretty high brow stuff. So tell me which answer did I get wrong, about your little pencil or that you having something to say. At least I got my 15 seconds of fame. Just remember everybody has to be something.

  12. Patrick  •  Mar 11, 2009 @3:51 pm

    Steve, I'm banning you, not because you're a troll, but because you're an unamusing troll. I'll ban you if you add any further comments from your home account, though you're free to try there until I find you.

    Even though you're an unamusing troll, as you say, you're still something in my book!