BROOKLYN, N.Y. — A federal judge today sentenced Rentboy.com founder Jeffrey Hurant to a six-month prison term.
Hurant operated the gay hookup site Rentboy.com in the open for about two decades. But in 2015, the government raided its offices and seized the website. Hurant subsequently pleaded guilty to one count of promoting prostitution and, on behalf of his business, one count of money laundering.
Federal authorities already seized about $1.5 million that they claim was laundered money from Hurant's company, Easy Rent Systems Inc. The government, however, did not pursue a seizure of $101,000 from Hurant’s personal bank account.
Prosecutors, calling the website Rentboy.com “one of the largest prostitution enterprises,” recommended a prison term for Hurant in the range of 15 to 21 months.
But Hurant’s attorneys contended that he couldn’t be guilty of a prostitution enterprise felony because he had no involvement in brokering or facilitating the activities of advertisers and their clients following their connection through the Rentboy.com site.
U.S. District Judge Margo K. Brodie agreed with federal prosecutors that Hurant’s offenses were felonies and analogous to the Mann Act.
The Mann Act states, "Whoever knowingly transports any individual in interstate or foreign commerce ... with intent that such individual engage in prostitution, or in any sexual activity for which any person can be charged with a criminal offense."
Brodie concurred with a U.S. Probation Department’s report recommending a base offense level of 14 for Hurant’s offenses of promoting prostitution and sentenced him to six months in prison. She also fined him $7,500.
After sentencing, Hurant told reporters at the courthouse in Brooklyn that he still believes that consensual sex work between adults should be decriminalized and destigmatized.
“But that hasn’t happened yet,” Hurant said. “My business was ultimately illegal, but it shouldn’t have been. We must fearlessly fight for the rights to allow consensual adults to choose what they do with their bodies.”
Eric Paul Leue, who leads the Free Speech Coalition as executive director, told XBIZ that while the adult entertainment industry trade group is glad Brodie resisted more extreme sentencing, Hurant never should have been arrested in the first place.
"Hurant was a responsible, ethical businessman whose only real crime was challenging outdated notions about sex work," Leue said. "He not only provided a safe, public platform for an otherwise marginalized group of workers, he was a passionate supporter of both the LGBTQ community and sex worker rights.
"Like Amnesty International and many others, the FSC calls for the decriminalization of sex work, and an end to the harassment of consenting adults working in the industry."