SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The New Mexico Supreme Court has agreed to take up a case involving two college professors accused of helping run an online prostitution ring.
The Albuquerque Journal reports (http://bit.ly/U889T2) that the state’s highest court will hear arguments Feb. 6 after prosecutors appealed a lower court’s ruling that the website was legal.
In June, a state judge ruled that the website “Southwest Companions” linked to former University of New Mexico president F. Chris Garcia and retired Fairleigh Dickinson University physics professor David C. Flory violated no laws. That ruling complicated the case for prosecutors, who were planning to present their case to a grand jury.
Garcia and Flory were arrested by Albuquerque police in June 2011 on charges of promoting prostitution after a yearlong police investigation into an alleged multistate operation where prostitutes and patrons could meet.
But District Judge Stan Whitaker found that an online message board could not be a house of prostitution under state law.
Prosecutors took the functional equivalent of an appeal — an extraordinary writ — to the New Mexico Supreme Court. They said Whitaker had exceeded his authority in requiring the grand jury to be informed of the ruling, and they said his decision relied on facts not in evidence.
Garcia’s attorney, Robert Gorence, demanded that prosecutors apologize for buying into “APD’s flawed investigation” and “explosively damaging” allegations that led to the one-time UNM president being barred from campus.
He called on Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg to make a statement clearing Garcia.
Attorneys Teri Duncan, who represents Flory, and Gorence filed a joint response asking for the writ to be dismissed, contending the writ was filed too late to be heard and that Whitaker correctly stated current New Mexico law.
Experts said that decades-old laws in New Mexico and other states make it difficult for authorities and prosecutors to go after prostitution-linked websites because the laws don’t necessarily outlaw the practice in cyberspace. They said most states’ laws only address street prostitution and brothels.
Gov. Susan Martinez said after Whitaker’s ruling that state laws aimed at fighting prostitution are outdated and need to be fixed to help authorities go after online sites that promote prostitution.