Several New York Democrats Ask For Lenient Sentence For CEO of Male Escort Service

NEW YORK – Some Democratic politicians are asking a federal judge to go easy on a former CEO of a once-popular male escort service website who pleaded guilty last year to promoting prostitution in a case that prompted accusations of anti-gay bias.

Jeffrey Hurant, who ran the Rentboy.com site, is facing sentencing on Wednesday in federal court in Brooklyn.

Prosecutors want him to serve at least a short term to deter operators of other escort services from similar misconduct, while his lawyers have argued that he deserves no more than probation.

In letters to the court, the lawmakers, civil rights organizations and other supporters have cautioned that a tough sentence could send the wrong message to the gay community.

The case is troubling “because it harkens back to a dark chapter in our nation’s history when the government used its vast resources to target and threaten LGBT adults by exposing their private consensual sexual activity,” wrote state Sen. Brad Hoylman, a Manhattan Democrat.

Five New York City council members from the LGBT community also signed a letter arguing that “a harsh sentence will serve neither society nor the rehabilitation of Mr. Hurant.” Other letters written last year by two Democratic congressmen from New York, Jerrold Nadler and Sean Patrick Maloney, to the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security questioned whether the agencies had wasted time and resources on pursuing a victimless crime.

Before authorities arrested Hurant and seized the Rentboy site, it had thousands of advertisers paying up to $300 a month, 500,000 visitors a day and revenues of $10 million in the past five years. The business hosted parties and an annual awards show for escorts called the Hookies.

Prosecutors had alleged that Rentboy was the equivalent of an online brothel, and what the site called escorts were actually prostitutes.

They said part of the proof was in the explicit ads that featured nude photos, listings of all manner of physical attributes and pricing options ranging from $150 an hour to $3,500 for a weekend.

Homeland Security’s involvement in the takedown, along with an absence of any allegations that Rentboy was a menace to society beyond simple prostitution — like engaging in human trafficking or exploiting minors — stirred anger and fear in the gay community.

Activists questioned why the agency would single out Rentboy when other escort websites, gay or straight, continue to do business.

1 reply
  1. Joe Levin
    Joe Levin says:

    A Brooklyn judge handed the founder and CEO of Rentboy a six​-​month sentence Wednesday — saying she was convinced he built what was once the largest gay escort site ever “for a good purpose.”

    “I struggled with sentencing of this case,” Brooklyn Federal Court Justice Margo Brodie told Jeffrey Hurant. “It kept me up at night.”

    “I am convinced you started this site for a good purpose,” said Brodie.

    The jurist added she relied on the deluge of letters submitted on the 52-year-old’s behalf.

    “There is no doubt in my mind based on everything that has been said that you will continue to be a productive member of society,” she told him.

    “I never intended to hurt anyone,” Jeffrey Hurant told the packed courtroom before he was sentenced. “I’m very sorry if I ever put anyone in harms way. I want to apologize to everyone I hurt.”

    The Rentboy founder had initially faced up to 20 years behind bars on charges of promoting prostitution and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

    He pleaded guilty last October, admitting to operating an online brothel that knowingly allowed escorts to pay for ads that touted sexual services.

    “Money can’t buy you love … but the rest is negotiable,” the site once crowed.

    As part of the deal, he has agreed not appeal the sentence.

    Brodie also ordered Hurant to shell out $7,500 in fines.

    “We must fearlessly fight for the rights for consensual adults to choose what they do with their bodies,” Hurant said as he left court, hugging some 30 friends and family members who had come to show their support.

    “Although we are very disappointed that he has been sentenced to a term of incarceration, we are also very grateful to the court for acknowledging Rentboy.com was conceived for great intentions and for acknowledging all the good it has done for the [LGBTQ} community,” defense attorney Michael Tremonte said.

    Hurant will surrender to begin serving his sentence at an undetermined date.

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