The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled yesterday against prosecutors who argued two individuals broke the law by promoting prostitution online, but today the man who argued the District Attorney’s case told the Santa Fe Reporter “we haven’t given up.”
Michael Fricke, Assistant District Attorney in Albuquerque, lost his case against F. Chris Garcia and David Flory for allegedly using the Southwest Connections website to promote prostitution. The state’s highest court, Fricke said, “spoke loudly on the issue.”
Fricke argued these individuals broke a state law, written before the Internet, which prohibits the promotion of prostitution within physical places, such as houses or buildings. The state supreme court did not accept his argument that websites occupy physical space.
Robert Gorence, defense attorney for Garcia, told SFR the DA repeatedly sat on alleged evidence, waiting long periods before taking their case to court. He pointed out neither district court nor the supreme court ever found Garcia and Flory guilty.
Fricke told SFR the statutes of limitations have not yet expired. State law sets them at two years for misdemeanors and five years for fourth-degree felonies. When asked, Gorence deferred to the prosecutors, saying it would depend on the charges.
The customers of Southwest Connections, who allegedly solicited sex, if guilty, would have committed petty misdemeanors. A one-year statute of limitations applies to these kinds of minor offenses, but 19 months have passed since Albuquerque police began their investigation.
When asked whether the number of customers numbered 1,400 or 14,000, as SFR reported yesterday, Fricke explained he would have to revisit the evidence before he could confidently estimate the scope of the alleged promotion of, and solicitation for, prostitution.
“We have to follow the evidence when we file the charges,” Fricke said. The DA has no timeline for this case, but Fricke and other prosecutors are “taking a careful look now.”
Fricke suggested the DA would pursue different charges and different ways of presenting evidence. A different prosecution method might take note some, but not all, sections within the state law on promoting prostitution make reference to a “house of prostitution.”
The DA’s office still wants to present evidence in this case to a grand jury, Fricke said. At no point so far, Fricke said, have Garcia and Flory ever faced charges in courts with felony jurisdiction.
Fricke confirmed to SFR the DA pursued just Garcia and Flory and not any of the customers who allegedly used Southwest Connections to solicit prostitution.
Gorence and Fricke agreed any law the legislature might pass this session to criminalize the online promotion of prostitution would not apply to Garcia and Flory, since their alleged criminal activity would have happened well before the law's implementation.
Garcia formerly served as president of the University of New Mexico. He went by the name "Burque Pops" at Southwest Connections.
Photo via unm.edu.