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"The Hill" features Law Professor Audrey Rogers in an opinion piece "Misinformation campaign is at the center of opposition to common sense sex trafficking legislation"

03/20/2018

"The Hill" features Law Professor Audrey Rogers in an opinion piece "Misinformation campaign is at the center of opposition to common sense sex trafficking legislation"

BY MARY GRAW LEARY, DONNA M. HUGHES, SHEA RHODES, AUDREY ROGERS AND PENNY VENETIS, OPINION CONTRIBUTORS

Audrey Rogers is a criminal law and computer crimes professor at Pace University, Elisabeth Haub School of Law, who has written extensively on digital exploitation.

To close an unconscionable loophole created by the courts in lawsuits brought by children sold online for sex, the House of Representatives passed sensible, narrowly tailored legislation. This bill clarifies that websites, such as Backpage.com, that knowingly partner with sex traffickers and sell sex trafficking victims online, can be sued for damages and held accountable under state anti-trafficking criminal laws. The House voted overwhelmingly (388-25) to support Rep. Ann Wagner’s (R-Mo.) bipartisan Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (“FOSTA-SESTA”).  This week, this legislation reached the floor of the Senate.  Sens. Rob Portman’s (R-Ohio) and Richard Blumenthal’s (D-Conn.) Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (“SESTA”), which is now joined with FOSTA, has bipartisan support with 67 co-sponsors from both parties.  Some in the tech world want to kill this bill by flooding the airwaves with misinformation. Their arguments make no sense.

One recent study found that 70 percent of child sex trafficking victims surveyed were sold online.  The Attorney General of California testified before the Senate that nearly every sex trafficking case his office handles involves online advertising.  For the last decade, whenever a victim who had been sold online tried to sue, or a state attorney general tried to enforce his own state’s anti-trafficking laws, websites such as Backpage.com have successfully fought them in court.  Backpage.com got their suits dismissed by arguing that a 1996 law (Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act) grants them immunity to engage in this business.

Who can oppose such common sense legislation to close this unintended loophole? Well, sex traffickers who profit from such sales of human beings can.  The ILO estimates that forced sexual exploitation generates approximately $99 billion a year in profit.  Then there are the internet companies that, unlike brick and mortar companies, have enjoyed total immunity while making money from this loophole. A Senate investigation into Backpage.com found that approximately 93 percent of its revenue  (estimated at $150 million in 2016) comes from “adult services” ads.  Other websites are seeing the high profit and no risk opportunity from ads that sell people online and they are not hesitating to join in behind this legal protection.

These tech company advocates, serving as Backpage.com's  surrogates, are engaging in a campaign of misinformation. Their arguments are legally deficient. First, they claim that FOSTA-SESTA violates free speech.  Selling victims of sex trafficking is not speech.  It is a criminal action in every state and under federal law. Furthermore, the Supreme Court has been quite clear, “[o]ffers to engage in illegal transactions are categorically excluded from First Amendment protection.” Next, they argue that this sensible and much needed law will “kill the Internet.”  Legal scholars, pro-technology and Internet advocates, as well as major tech companies have refuted this claim.  For example, Oracle stated that SESTA “does not, as suggested by the bill’s opponents, usher the end of the Internet. If enacted, it will establish some measure of accountability for those that cynically sell advertising but are unprepared to help curtail sex trafficking,” and“[f]rankly, we are stunned you must even have this debate.” Even the Internet Association supports SESTA.

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"Phys.org" features Law Professor Paul Rafelson in "Amazon sellers seek more clout with new 'merchants guild"

03/20/2018

"Phys.org" features Law Professor Paul Rafelson in "Amazon sellers seek more clout with new 'merchants guild"

The millions of merchants who sell products on Amazon.com Inc. have long craved more leverage over their powerful benefactor. Now some are creating a trade association in the hopes that a unified voice will force Amazon to take them more seriously.

Organizers began pitching fellow merchants on the Online Merchants Guild last week at the Prosper Show, an annual Las Vegas conference that drew 1,900 Amazon sellers. The group is only just getting started but has big ambitions, which include negotiating better terms with Amazon, pushing the company to respond more effectively to sellers' complaints and lobbying government officials to make sure merchants' viewpoints are being heard.

Chris McCabe, a former Amazon employee and owner of the consulting firm Ecommercechris.com is organizing the guild with Paul Rafelson, a Pace University law professor. They plan to promote the group at Amazon  events in New York and Seattle next month. It's early days, and only about 100 merchants have expressed interest in joining the association, which levies an annual fee of between $100 and $25,000, depending on the size of the business.

Merchants have mulled such a group for years but now have an issue to rally around. In recent months, states have been warning that they plan to levy back taxes on years worth of past sales. Merchants fear they'll be easier targets than Amazon and hope a guild will give them lobbying clout.

"There has not been one single issue to galvanize Amazon sellers like the sales tax issue," McCabe says.

Merchants' complaints about Amazon are numerous and long-standing. With 300 million customers around the globe, including its big-spending Prime subscribers, the world's biggest online retailer wields tremendous leverage over the people who keep its web store stocked with an abundance of goods.

Amazon can dictate terms and fees with minimal input from sellers, who have to accept the take-it-or-leave-it approach because there are millions of merchants and only one Amazon. Merchants love it when the orders are rolling in. They hate it when there's a problem and Amazon doesn't seem to care nearly as much as they do because it has plenty of other merchants selling the same things.

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"Euronews" featured Law Professor Bennett Gershman in "Exclusive - Sources contradict Sessions' testimony he opposed Russia outreach"

03/19/2018

"Euronews" featured Law Professor Bennett Gershman in "Exclusive - Sources contradict Sessions' testimony he opposed Russia outreach"

...Other legal experts said, however, that repeated misstatements by Sessions could enable prosecutors to build a perjury case against him.

“Proving there was intent to lie is a heavy burden for the prosecution. But now you have multiple places where Sessions has arguably made false statements,” said Bennett Gershman, a Pace University law professor.

The March 2016 campaign meeting in Washington was memorialized in a photo Trump posted on Instagram of roughly a dozen men sitting around a table, including Trump, Sessions and Papadopoulos.

Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty in October to lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation about his Russia contacts, is now cooperating with Mueller.

According to court documents released after his guilty plea, Papadopoulos said at the campaign meeting that he had connections who could help arrange a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Papadopoulos continued to pursue Russian contacts after the March 2016 meeting and communicated with some campaign officials about his efforts, according to the court documents.

Trump has said that he does not remember much of what happened at the “very unimportant” campaign meeting. Trump has said he did not meet Putin before becoming president.

Moscow has denied meddling in the election and Trump has denied his campaign colluded with Russia.

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"News12" featured Law Professor Bennett Gershman in "Legal expert: Case against Mount Vernon mayor not a slam dunk"

03/19/2018

"News12" featured Law Professor Bennett Gershman in "Legal expert: Case against Mount Vernon mayor not a slam dunk"

The case against the mayor of Mount Vernon may not be a slam dunk, according to one legal expert.

Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Thomas was arrested Monday on corruption charges. Thomas, 35, is in his first term as mayor and is accused of using campaign and inauguration funds as his own personal piggy bank. Authorities say he spent thousands of dollars on rent, car payments and expensive purchases.

Some of Thomas' constituents are standing behind him, saying they don't believe the allegations are true.

Bennett Gershman, a legal scholar and Pace Law School professor, says the charges against the mayor are serious but he believes the mayor could potentially mount a powerful defense because the campaign finance laws offer a lot of leeway for politicians.

"As I see it, I don't see it as a slam dunk," says Gershman. "I see there are certain places where he could argue lack of intent, mistakes and argue he had no culpable intention."

Residents say they are willing to give the mayor the benefit of the doubt until his day in court. 

Thomas is due back in court May 1. He faces six years behind bars if convicted.

Watch News12 clip.

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"The Wave" featured Pace University Students in "Rebuild Crew Comes To Belle Harbor"

03/16/2018

"The Wave" featured Pace University Students in "Rebuild Crew Comes To Belle Harbor"

Pace University students chip in on local relief effort

As many college students indulged in the sun and sand of Cancun, Los Cabos and other tourist destinations during their spring break, a group of community-minded Pace undergraduates opted to spend their week contributing in the rebuild of a Belle Harbor residence that hasn’t yet fully recovered from the onslaught of damage wrought by Superstorm Sandy.

Starting on Tuesday, March 13, the 16 students spent three days toiling at the Newman residence at Beach 126th Street, where they installed new sheetrock in the basement that had been flooded with eight-feet of water during Superstorm Sandy over five years ago. The work also included the addition of new insulation along with painting and finishing upstairs.

The basement was still attracting mold, according to St. Bernard’s Project (SBP) Disaster, Relief and Recovery Community Engagement Manager Angela Calabro, who was at the site monitoring the work along with two of her supervisors and two Pace program coordinators, Ashley Kueneke and Tyler Kalahar.

The homeowners were able to get some money from their flood insurance company to address their living space on the main floor, according to Calabro, but they weren’t able to obtain any financial assistance to address the other areas of the two-story dwelling.

The homeowners were able to get some money from their flood insurance company to address their living space on the main floor, according to Calabro, but they weren’t able to obtain any financial assistance to address the other areas of the two-story dwelling.

Pace University’s Annual Spring Break (ASB) effort has agreed to lend a hand in the renovation of homes, like the Newman property, by teaming up with SBP by allowing students to perform much-needed volunteer work for low-to-moderate homeowners on the peninsula.

“SBP coordinates all the contracts. So, once we leave here, another group comes in,” explained Kueneke, who along with Kalahar, select and help train the ASB applicants before driving the students to their work sites in school vans.

“They sign up for this because they’re interested in volunteering and they want to get more involved in the community,” continued Kueneke. “We’re from this area, so they get to learn a little bit about the Rockaways. It’s an opportunity to give back and learn a little about disaster relief. We talk about the impacts of race and class, and so it’s an educational experience.”

ASB has been helping in the relief effort on the peninsula since 2012 by providing new rotations of student workers, who spend eight-hour days tearing down old walls, ceilings and floors as well as replacing damaged infrastructure, under the supervision of SBP personnel that remain on-site to ensure that the work is performed both properly and efficiently.

Calabro informed The Wave that the Newman home is on-schedule for a March 30 completion, and unlike Build-It-Back contractors that specialize in elevating residential properties, SBP is a non-profit organization that focuses on interior work.

SBP, which is reportedly the only remaining rebuilding agency, is a nationwide outfit that most recently partnered with NFL star J.J. Watt in rebuilding homes in Houston and is actively contributing to the disaster relief taking place in Puerto Rico. The group came into existence 13 years ago in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

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"Westchester Rising" featured "Pace Joins Ellen DeGeneres' 'Acts of Good' Campaign

03/15/2018

"Westchester Rising" featured "Pace Joins Ellen DeGeneres' 'Acts of Good' Campaign

More than 100 students at Pace University gathered February 27 to pack boxes with food and inspiring notes as part of Ellen DeGeneres’ Million Acts of Good campaign, aimed at spreading good will. In partnership with General Mills, the campaign donated pallets of food to be packed by students across the country and donated to charitable organizations.

Pace donated more than 250 “Matter boxes” with food, supplies and personal notes to Food Bank for Westchester for distribution.

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"Westmore News" featured Pace University's Elisabeth Haub School of Law in "Facts of Life"

03/15/2018

"Westmore News" featured Pace University's Elisabeth Haub School of Law in "Facts of Life"

Pace University’s Elisabeth Haub School of Law has announced that the school will accept Graduate Record Exam scores in addition to those from the Law School Admissions Test for all applicants. The school is currently accepting applicants.

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"Westchester County Business Journal" features "Pace Students Volunteer To Do Good"

03/15/2018

"Westchester County Business Journal" features "Pace Students Volunteer To Do Good"

The One Million Acts of Good campaign launched by TV personality Ellen DeGeneres came to the Pace University campus in Pleasantville recently. More than 100 students volunteered to prepare boxes of food and other items for the Food Bank for Westchester to distribute. The students assembeled what are called “Matter Boxes,” filled with food, supplies and personal notes.

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"NY1" features Pace University in "Students' Spring Break At The Beach — To Fix Sandy-Damaged Home"

03/15/2018

"NY1" features Pace University in "Students' Spring Break At The Beach — To Fix Sandy-Damaged Home"

College students are hitting the beach for spring break — but it's not warm and sunny.

16 Pace University students are spending their vacation at Beach 126th St. in the Rockaways, repairing a home that Hurricane Sandy damaged.

"When you're, you know, our age and in college, you have a lot of free time on your hands — more than you probably realize — so it's a good time to make a difference," said volunteer Joseph Kelly, a college junior.

They are volunteering with the storm recovery non-profit organization, the Saint Bernard Project.  For four days this week, they are renovating and painting.

The students also take part in a series of discussions about the impact natural disasters can have on a community.

While the homeowners did not want to appear on camera, they said they felt blessed to have the support.

They lived in their Belle Harbor house for 27 years before Sandy hit, and said they cannot wait until it feels like home again.

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"News12" features "Pace University journalism students to cover Puerto Rico"

03/14/2018

"News12" features "Pace University journalism students to cover Puerto Rico"

A group of Pace University journalism students plans to head to Puerto Rico in an effort to shed light on the continuing hardships residents of the island are facing following the slow recovery after Hurricane Maria.

About a dozen students are preparing to head out next Tuesday and cover what appears to be the biggest story of their fledgling careers.

But it's also going to be educational.

"Students learn how to tell a story from start to finish," says Maria Luskey, who has overseen the school's documentary program for the past 15 years.

Past trips have sent students to Costa Rica, Brazil and Cuba. The school had planned to go to Puerto Rico earlier, but the storm forced Pace to cancel those plans.

Months later, with the recovery lagging and many on the island left isolated and ignored, the school decided to try again.

"These are 3.5 million American citizens who are in a desperate and dire situation, that months after the hurricane, they still need our help," says Gabriel Rivera, a Bronx native who has relatives in Puerto Rico.

In the next two weeks, News 12's Aime Rodriguez will be following the class to Puerto Rico for updates.

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