UPDATED (2:50 p.m.): Hurant makes statement after today's hearing. "I was not alone as I faced the frightening judicial juggernaut," he said.
BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Jeffrey Hurant, the former CEO of the gay escort website Rentboy.com, pleaded not guilty this morning to promoting prostitution and money laundering, but apparently he is trying to cut a deal with federal prosecutors.
Federal prosecutor Tyler Smith informed a magistrate judge today that Hurant and the government have been engaged in plea negotiations to resolve the case.
The 30-minute hearing at Brookly federal court was attended by Hurant’s supporters.
Gay rights activist William Dobbs, who was at the hearing today, told XBIZ that "several dozen people protested outside the courthouse calling for the charges to be dropped and for the decriminalization of sex work."
Last month, a federal grand jury indicted Hurant on two counts of using his parent company Easy Rent Systems as a front to promote prostitution and to launder money.
Hurant was released on a $350,000 bond after his August arrest and has defended his online hookup operation as perfectly legal.
Before authorities shut the website and offices down, Rentboy.com garnered about 500,000 unique visitors each day, according to an indictment.
Prosecutors said the website Hurant founded in 1997 took in at least $10 million in annual revenue.
According to the indictment, Hurant and staff charged advertisers up to about $300 per ad. Advertisers were encouraged to publish their penis size, build, indicate whether they had foreskin and whether they preferred to have safe sex or bareback sex.
Rentboy.com employees would monitor escorts' ads and reject suspicious ones that blatantly advertised sex. They would send emails back to users, saying: "If you describe a sex act to be performed in exchange for money, the authorities may use it as evidence in prosecuting you.”
The indictment also noted that Rentboy failed to verify ages of those who advertised on its site, especially in Asia since at least 2006.
Hurant is represented by attorney Michael Tremonte of Sher Tremonte LLP in New York. Tremonte is a former federal prosecutor who now handles commercial litigation and white collar defense.
Hurant, after the hearing today, posted on Facebook, “I want to thank everyone who braved the cold today and showed support at the courthouse.”
“I am humbly grateful for your efforts today,” Hurant said. “Your faces made me feel that I was not alone as I faced the frightening judicial juggernaut. I will be eternally grateful for that. I wish for support, strength and peace for everyone enduring struggles today and everyday.”
The next court date is a status conference set for March 15.
Pictured: Rentboy.com offices raided in August