Biased Testimony in Backpage Trial Triggers More Calls for a Mistrial
On Monday, jurors in a trial concerning whether former Backpage executives knowingly facilitated prostitution heard hours of biased testimony from an “expert” witness who has worked closely with law enforcement for decades. Again and again, Sharon Cooper—a self-described “developmental and forensic pediatrician” and a witness for the prosecution—conflated all sex work with sex trafficking and waxed on at length about child sexual exploitation, despite none of the defendants being indicted for trafficking or child-related crimes. (For a play-by-play of her testimony, check out this Twitter thread.)
Presented as an expert on online ads for commercial sex, Cooper made a bevy of dubious claims about the language in such ads, describing all sorts of terms used by adult sex workers as evidence of sexual victimization and child sex trafficking. For instance, Cooper suggested that the phrase “100% independent”—used by escorts to denote that they’re not affiliated with an agency—was language meant to trick “buyers” into thinking they weren’t patronizing trafficking victims. At another point, Cooper claimed “wifey” means “a female who is under the control of a male trafficker.”
Meanwhile, the prosecution plied Cooper with question after question of uncertain relevance to the case at hand, in which six defendants are charged with facilitating prostitution in violation of the federal Travel Act and conspiracy and money laundering related to this alleged facilitation. Many were sustained, and many were overruled—but only after jurors heard intimation after intimation about child sex trafficking.
The “expert” witness in the kangaroo trial in Phoenix against the https://t.co/PsqnnYbLeM owners is Sharon Cooper, seen below three years ago giving a smiling presentation to… NCOSE.
One of her slides illustrated the concept of “Prostitution” with a still from “Pretty Woman”: pic.twitter.com/zbhvndMYxj
— Gustavo Turner (@GustavoTurnerX) September 13, 2021
Toward the end of her testimony, Cooper—also a purveyor of dubious and disproven “science” about pornography—admitted that she doesn’t personally distinguish between consensual sex work and activities involving force, coercion, and minors.
“I don’t refer to it as sex work, I refer to it as sexual exploitat
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