• After eating just one chip, NHRA drag racer says: ‘I seriously thought I was going to die’

    It likely will be a long time before NHRA Pro Stock driver Alex Laughlin takes on another challenge. Heres why.

  • Porn Producers Are Charged With Sex Trafficking

    In a case that could test the online pornography industry, the owners and two employees of two popular pornographic websites were charged this week with sex trafficking and other crimes, accused of coercing several women to engage in sex videos that were posted on the internet.According to a criminal complaint, the owners and employees "used deception and false promises" to lure women who had answered modeling advertisements on Craigslist to participate in the videos, telling them that their identities would be shielded and that the videos would not be posted online.The owners, Michael James Pratt, 36, and Matthew Isaac Wolfe, 37, and one employee, Ruben Andre Garcia, 31, were each charged with three counts of sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion, and one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion.A second employee, Valorie Moser, 37, who the authorities said helped recruit the women, was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion.Wolfe, Garcia and Moser pleaded not guilty. Wolfe and Garcia were being held in federal custody Friday and the authorities said Pratt had left the country and was considered a fugitive.Pratt, Wolfe and Garcia are currently on trial in a civil case in San Diego Superior Court that mirrors the criminal filing. In that case, 22 women said they were tricked into performing in internet pornography.Ed Chapin, the lead trial lawyer representing the 22 women, called the alleged scheme "outrageous.""It is despicable," he said, "and I am glad that the feds are stepping up and that they've seen it and are doing something about it."Corey D. Silverstein, a First Amendment lawyer based in Michigan whose practice is focused on issues of pornography and similar entertainment, said this was the first case he knew of in which a content producer was prosecuted under these types of charges."The government has a pretty high burden," he said. "They have to be able to show that someone knowingly recruited, enticed, harbored and patronized a person and then gained value from it." He said he was "not convinced the government has a case," adding, "Was the line crossed from content production to sex trafficking?"In court filings, Pratt and Wolfe, who own the websites GirlsDoPorn and GirlsDoToys, said the women had signed contracts that stated the videos they appeared in could be "used anywhere, anyhow, for any purpose."The women also recorded videotaped statements stating that they consented to the videos being used in any way and were not under the influence of drugs or mind-altering substances, according to civil filings from the defendants.Mary Anne Franks, a law professor at the University of Miami who is the president of the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, said many women in the pornography industry have lodged similar complaints of coercion but have not felt comfortable telling anyone. Or, she said, they were afraid that complaints would lead to their not working again."There's just a massive amount of fraud and coercion," said Franks, who coproduced a documentary about the world of amateur pornography. "It's a very welcome development that all porn companies will be put on notice that there is an appetite to investigate these cases."Significant criminal charges have not been brought by federal authorities against pornography producers for more than a decade. In 2008, Paul F. Little was sentenced to 46 months in jail after being convicted on multiple obscenity charges.Last year, a federal law strengthened the policing of sex trafficking online.Southern California, especially the San Fernando Valley, has historically been home to major pornography studios and producers, but the internet has made it possible for anyone with a cellphone camera to produce and upload explicit content. And the internet involves interstate commerce, which is regulated by the federal authorities."Traffickers use many ways to trick, coerce and manipulate," said Samantha Vardaman, vice president of Shared Hope International, a nonprofit organization that seeks to rescue victims of sex trafficking. "These brave women suffered exploitation and exposure but they are using the legal remedies to get control back. With the extraordinary abuses of the internet, we will surely see more criminal activity like this."Mike South, a former pornography producer who has chronicled the inner workings of the business for his blog MikeSouth.com, said he hoped the case would encourage young women to exercise caution before answering online advertisements in the future."There might be a few girls that will read about it and take heed," he said.Brian Gross, who has worked closely with pornography producers and actors for more than two decades, applauded the criminal charges."I hope it makes people take this industry as a legitimate business," Gross said. "If you think you're going to come in here and behave in this kind of manner you know there will be consequences."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2019 The New York Times Company

  • Family ends search for missing CEO after a body is found

    The family of a missing Utah tech executive has called off a search for her after police reported that a body was found inside a parked car in the San Francisco Bay Area. Police in San Jose said the body was discovered Saturday in an area where Erin Valenti's family had been searching. "While we were praying for a different outcome, we are so appreciative for the help and support you have given," according to a Facebook post by the group Help Find Erin Valenti.

  • Helena Christenen & Norman Reedus' Son Just Turned 20, & He Looks Exactly Like His Model Mom

    That model DNA must run deep! Helena Christensen shared photos of her lookalike son Mingus on his 20th birthday, and he clearly inherited a few of his mom's famous traits. Sure, the series of snapshots shared by Christensen suggests that Mingus also slightly favors his dad, The Walking Dead's Norman Reedus. But no ifs, ands […]

  • John Oliver Thinks Rudy Giuliani Is Totally Screwed: ‘Trump Will Abandon Him’

    HBOLate Sunday, John Oliver kicked off the latest episode of Last Week Tonight by recapping all the drama surrounding President Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, who is under federal criminal investigation for his ties to two shady Ukrainian associates. “It’s true, Giuliani may finally be under federal investigation, meaning events have finally caught up with his face, which perpetually looks like someone who just found out they’re under investigation,” cracked Oliver. “And look, this news shouldn’t be remotely surprising. On a list of things that Giuliani is likely to be under, federal investigation might even narrowly beat out his own cousin.” (Yes, Giuliani notoriously married his second cousin.) The federal probe is reportedly tied to two of Giuliani’s associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who’ve been arrested and charged with illegally funneling foreign donations to political campaigns-including $325,000 to a pro-Trump super PAC.  John Oliver on His Immigration Battle Against Trump: ‘Their Actions Have Been Heinous’Hillary Clinton Blasts Mike Pompeo, Rudy Giuliani on ‘Colbert’ for Aiding Trump’s Alleged Crimes“OK, come on! These two men are just cartoonishly suspicious!” Oliver joked of Parnas and Fruman. “They look like they’re about to sell you a rocket launcher in a Grand Theft Auto game. And if that wasn’t suspicious enough, they were arrested at the airport trying to fly out of the country with one-way tickets.” “In any case, thanks largely to their political contributions, these two gained entry to Republican inner circles. Here is a photo that [Parnas] posted, captioned ‘Power breakfast !!!’ with Don Jr., whose very presence alone disqualifies this meal from being a ‘power breakfast,’” Oliver added.Parnas and Fruman also posed for a photo with President Trump and Vice President Pence at the White House. “And it’s going to be pretty difficult for Giuliani in particular to distance himself here,” Oliver opined, “because he reportedly had lunch with them just hours before they were arrested, and it is not hard to find evidence of their relationship online.” The HBO host then threw to a viral online video of Parnas, Fruman, and Giuliani partying it up at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., last year. The plot thickens. “We know Giuliani wanted career diplomat Maria Yovanovitch removed as ambassador to Ukraine because he felt she was blocking his anti-Biden campaign. Igor and Lev also wanted her gone-enter [former] congressman Pete Sessions. Igor and Lev donated a bunch of money to him, and at a meeting, Parnas apparently told him the ambassador was ‘disloyal to Trump’ and that she’d been ‘bad-mouthing our president,’” explained Oliver. Sessions, a former House Republican from Texas, subsequently wrote to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo alleging that Yovanovitch had “disdain” for the president, and she was subsequently removed-something that Trump brought up on his infamous phone call with the Ukrainian president, asking him to investigate the Bidens numerous times and saying Yovanovitch was “bad news” and “going to go through some things.” “Wow. That’s ominous,” said Oliver. And, when Trump was asked during a press scrum whether Giuliani was still his personal attorney, he replied, “Well, I don’t know… he’s a very good attorney, and he has been my attorney.” “Oh, that is not good, Rudy, because history suggests that sooner or later Trump will abandon him, at which point, to paraphrase his maybe client, Giuliani’s going to be ‘going through some things.’” Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast hereGet our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.