Friday, June 24, 2011

Has The Hartford Advocate Stopped Human Trafficking Advertising? "Not Yet."

It was a tense moment in the courtroom, the jury listening to every word spoken by the witness on the stand.

During the 2007 human trafficking trial of Dennis Paris, in which he was charged with sex trafficking of a minor among other crimes, his defense attorney, Jeremiah Donovan, asked him a key question about what he called his ‘escort’ business. The question dealt with how Paris advertised the girls he was selling to the men of Connecticut. At this point his attorney asked him about one victim in particular, Marianne.

According to the court transcripts, the line of questioning went like this:
    “Did you from time to time send Marianne out on dates?” Donovan asked.
    “Yes,” Paris said.
    “How did it come about that you had people who wanted to go out on dates with Marianne?”
    “They would call numbers that I advertised,” Paris explained.
    “And where would you advertise?” Donovan asked.
    “Hartford Advocate. It’s like a local, I don’t want to say trade paper, but it’s a free paper. They have a section in the back called the Back Room. They have an escort section.”
    “Now, the Hartford Advocate has never been charged so far as you know with promoting prostitution, right?” Donovan asked.
    “Not yet,” Paris replied.

“Not yet” indeed. And four years after the end of that trial, in which Paris was convicted and sentenced to 30 years in federal prison, has the Hartford Advocate stopped running these advertisements

Not yet.

Recently, the weekly alternative paper ran an article about the Paris trial, briefly mentioning their central role in Dennis Paris’s crimes. The story quoted Joshua Mamis, the paper’s publisher. (The Advocate is published by “New Mass Media, which is owned by the Tribune Company's Hartford Courant and publishes the Hartford Advocate, New Haven Advocate and Fairfield County Weekly.”)

Mamis’s comment on the continuation of these ads, proven to promote human trafficking by the Dennis Paris trial, only brings up more questions: “Like most alternative publications, we legally provide advertising services to a wide variety of businesses with diverse and sometimes controversial messages, services and products. When questions arise about the lawfulness of an advertiser's operations, we fully cooperate with the investigating law enforcement agency that has the expertise and resources to make those determinations. We routinely examine our advertising standards and practices, including advertising relating to adult businesses, to ensure that we meet the needs of the community that we serve.”

After I sent an email inquiry to Mr. Mamis, his response was limited to the exact statement that had appeared in the paper. My second email to him posed the following questions:
  • “Are we to take this as the Advocate's final word on the topic?”
  • “Are we to gather from this that the printed 'Escort' advertisements will continue to be published in the Advocate papers?”
  • “Why were they pulled from your website and Facebook?”
  •  “Will there be any further acknowledgment of the Advocate's extensive role in the Dennis Paris case or an explanation as to why the paper's standards and practices missed his ads?”
After being mentioned more than 60 times during the Paris trial, neither Mamis nor the Advocate responded. Though they have taken down their ‘escort’ ads’ Facebook page and emptied the contents of their “Back-Room” website, the printed ads continue to run each week.

So what kind of ‘escort’ advertisements do the Advocate’s “standards and practices” allow? Here is a recent example from Lullaby Escorts: “What is GFE? And Do Your Connecticut courtesans offer it? GFE stands for girlfriend experience. It is the passionate kissing, hugs, love, and romance that you would expect from your girlfriend. It is you, being the center of the universe to this girl!! Only most girlfriends and wives don't even know about GFE!! Our exceptional ladies do, and they will always offer it for any escorting occasion. You will never feel lonely or like a number when in the presence of our stunning companions, that's a guarantee."

Fortunately, pressure is building on the Hartford Advocate. Vanity Fair published an article on the Paris case and an extensive new book, “The Berlin Turnpike: A True Stoy of Human Trafficking in America,” examines the case and the Advocate’s role in detail.

And recently, the popular activist website, ran an article exposing the Advocate’s refusal to take responsibility for these ads and crimes. They also initiated a petition which you can sign here.

Dennis Paris, the man convicted of human trafficking, can say “not yet.” The Hartford Advocate, which continues to profit from advertising trafficking victims, can say, “not yet.”

Can you?