Interjecting himself into a federal law enforcement action that has stirred considerable controversy in the LGBT community, US Representative Sean Patrick Maloney, an out gay upstate Democrat, has written to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Attorney General Loretta Lynch questioning the motivations and priorities behind a 2015 raid on Rentboy.com that led to a January indictment of its owner on charges of promoting prostitution.
Maloney, in a February 22 letter, conceded that federal officials “no doubt believe you have uncovered evidence suggesting Rentboy.com was profiting from illegal activity,” but went on to note that “this website has operated entirely out in the open for nearly two decades.”
Maloney quoted from a New York Times editorial about the raid which charged that “prosecutors… have provided no reasonable justification for devoting significant resources” to the case, particularly in light of terrorism threats facing DHS. He also noted a Gay City News editorial that highlighted how the original federal complaint played up salacious details about Rentboy.com in an apparent effort to “incite visceral homophobic attitudes.”
The raid on Rentboy.com's Manhattan offices last August sparked protests in four cities and angry denunciations by a host of LGBT and civil liberties groups.
While saying he does not question “strong enforcement” in cases “where there is even a hint of minors being exploited,” Maloney reminded Johnson and Lynch, “In America, gay sex is not a crime… By elevating the investigation and prosecution of Rentboy.com into a matter of ‘national security,’ your departments run the risk of resurrecting discredited and discriminatory about the sexual activity of LGBT adults.”
Jeffrey Hurant, Rentboy.com’s owner, was indicted on federal charges on January 27 by the Brooklyn-based Office of the US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and shortly after that charges against his six employees arrested at the time of last year’s raid were dropped. Hurant and prosecutors are continuing discussions about a possible plea agreement.