Backpage trial suspended as defendant undergoes virus test | Arizona News

PHOENIX (AP) — A judge on Thursday canceled testimony at the trial of former operators of the classified site Backpage.com so that one of them could get tested for the coronavirus.

The suspension came after Andrew Padilla, who worked as the site’s operations manager, told the court he was not feeling well.

Judge Susan Brnovich told jurors to plan to return to court Friday morning. If Padilla tests positive, the judge said court staff would contact jurors to let them know what the plan would do.

Michael Lacey, James Larkin, Padilla and three other Backpage employees are on trial on charges of facilitating prostitution in what authorities say was a scheme to knowingly sell sex advertisements. All six pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Prosecutors say the site hired content moderators whose job was not to remove the prostitution ads but to edit them so they weren’t so blatant.

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Defendants argue that they did not post ads for sex and that the site was protected by the First Amendment by posting legally permitted ads for escort services. Their lawyers also say the site has stepped up its efforts to spot illegal ads and has received praise from law enforcement for their help in investigations.

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