‘Orlando Weekly’ Stops Adult Ads As State Drops Charges Against Salespeople

By E&P Staff

Published: February 28, 2008 12:55 PM ET

CHICAGO In a plea bargain disclosed in court Wednesday, the Orlando Weekly agreed to stop publishing “Adult Services” ads, and Florida authorities dropped criminal charges of “aiding and abetting prostitution” against the alternative paper and three of its sales staff.

Last October, following a nearly two-year undercover investigation in which Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation (MBI) agents posed as prostitutes looking to advertise their services in the paper, three salespeople were arrested at a job fair and charged with aiding and abetting prostitution.

At the time, the MBI said it acted because the Weekly had refused its requests to drop advertising for escorts, massage parlors and other so-called “adult” services that it claimed were fronts for prostitution. The law enforcement agency dubbed its investigation “Operation Weekly Shame.” The newspaper charged that the arrests were retaliation for its investigative reporting over the years into MBI incompetence and misdeeds.

Under the plea agreement, the arrested Weekly employees — Christopher Matthew Whiting, Jarrell Brian Martin, and Katherine Casey Miller — will perform 100 hours of community service, and the charges will be dismissed within nine months.

The Weekly also agreed to pay about $10,000 to reimburse the MBI for investigative costs.

In a statement, the MBI said the Weekly had done “the right thing” by dropping the adult advertising, “which was a category of advertising that was fueling the Central Florida organized prostitution trade. This will solve the problem that the MBI’s investigation sought to address.”

An attorney for the Weekly said the paper never had knowledge of any illegal activity, and would not condone it.

On its Web site, the Weekly said the charges of selling ads to prostitutes were dropped because “the MBI brain-trust hit a small hitch — there’s not really anything illegal about that.”

http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003717417

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