The #HookUp Collaborative is not affiliated with any company or organization, but is instead a loose working group of people who have advertised – and people in community with advertisers – on Rentboy.com, including lawyers, community members and organizers.
#HookUp views the raid on Rentboy.com in the larger context of criminalization of people who trade sex. We know that the laws used to criminalize people in the sex trades are currently, and historically, used to target people of color, especially trans-women and gender non-conforming people of color. They are not concerned for our safety, but instead would like people who trade sex in rehabilitation programs and/or incarcerated. We can see this when we look at the endless harassment, physical violence, sexual violence, extortion, arrests, criminal convictions, and more, that people in the sex trades face at the hands of law enforcement. The shutting down of Rentboy.com is one more example of the State putting people in the sex trades at a greater risk of harm.
What Do We Know?
On Tuesday, August 25, 2015, seven employees of Rentboy.com were arraigned on charges of interstate and foreign travel or transportation in aid of racketeering enterprises. See 18 U.S.C. § 1952. Specifically, subsections (a)(3) and (b)(1). These charges apply to persons who travel “in interstate or foreign commerce or uses the mail or any facility in interstate or foreign commerce, with intent to … promote, manage, establish, carry on, or facilitate the promotion, management, establishment, or carrying on, of any unlawful activity.” The term “unlawful activity” means “any business enterprise involving … prostitution offenses in violation of the laws of the State in which they are committed or of the United States.”
For the Complaint itself, see here (courtesy of Towelroad). The Complaint alleges in ¶ 61 that the state law bases for the prosecution include N.Y.P.L. §§ 230.25 & 230.20. The former, Promoting Prostitution in the Third Degree, provides that “A person profits from prostitution by managing, supervising, controlling or owning … a prostitution business or enterprise involving prostitution activity by two or more prostitutes.” The latter, Promoting Prostitution in the Fourth Degree, provides that “A person is guilty … when he or she knowingly … advances or profits from prostitution.”
Rentboy.com is being targeted by the police and people who have advertised their services on the platform are concerned. The federal search warrant that was executed yesterday resulted in the seizure of personal information and financial data. For instance, the Complaint alleges in ¶ 33 that “Rentboy.com allows payment for advertisements in cash at its office, money order, and credit cart.” However there is no internet card processing system and instead an advertiser must fill out a Credit Card authorization form and send it by fax or e-mail to Rentboy.com. It is possible that the servers seized contain this information.
Need Legal Advice?
Do not discuss anything related to your individual circumstances with anyone whatsoever. In the event you are contacted or arrested by law enforcement, instruct them that you are remaining silent, that you do not consent to a search, and that you wish to speak with an attorney. If you need direct legal representation or you have questions about a pending case, call the Sex Workers Project at (646) 602-5617 to be connected to a lawyer. Being a prospective or actual client of a lawyer is the only way to ensure your statements will be protected by attorney-client privilege.
The #HookUp Collaborative will also be releasing an FAQ sheet in the next several days, which will include more information.
Thinking of Talking to the Press? Hold Up! …
If you would like to speak with the press, please first connect to the #HookUp Collaborative account with firstname.lastname@example.org. This e-mail account is operated by members of #HookUp, and is designed to field press inquiries and connect journalists with people who would like to speak, provided their conditions, including but not limited to anonymity, are respected.
A smart way to add a layer of protection with the press is to set up a dummy e-mail account that is not connected to your legal name or any other name you use, and to contact the #HookUp team with that address and an alias. We insist that you do not share information about your circumstances or your story to this e-mail account.
Want to Organize?
Contact email@example.com or keep a look out on social media or this WordPress blog to connect with our community organizing working group.