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The Erotic Review’s David Elms Now Being Sued by an Escort

LOS ANGELES – David Elms, [pictured left] the owner of TheEroticReview.com, is being sued by a woman identified as Jane Doe. Elms who created and launched TheEroticReview in 1999 to rank Johns’ experiences with prostitutes is accused of cybersquatting and defamation.

Elms said he created the site because he himself as ripped off by various escort services.

But Doe the Long Beach, Calif. woman, who is involved with an escort service, alleges that Elms created a website using photos and videos of her, and that he “directed his anger and vengeance” at her because she refused to have sex with him. She also claims Elms sent letters to her family and friends saying she is a prostitute.

The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

Back in June Elms was arrested and held in a Los Angeles jail on probation violation charges related to a 2006 drug and weapons conviction.
The NY Times covered his story:

“Books have Amazon, and classified advertisements have Craigslist. Prostitutes have The Erotic Review.

In a little-known success story, TheEroticReview.com has come to dominate the country’s prostitution scene, which is increasingly migrating from the street corner to the Internet.

But now the site’s founder, David Elms [pictured left], is in jail awaiting trial in Los Angeles in a case unrelated to the site, leaving the fate of his influential underground world uncertain. In dozens of conversations and in postings on the Internet in recent weeks, prostitutes have expressed concern that if The Erotic Review goes offline it could hurt business. But in the same breath, many are rejoicing about the potential downfall of Mr. Elms.

One escort agency that was banned from the site has accused Mr. Elms of antitrust violations, suggesting that he abuses his power over the sex trade. Other critics say he accepts, and sometimes demands, sex or money to promote certain women and agencies.

He has denied the accusations.

The Web site, which is still in operation, allows visitors to rank their experiences with prostitutes on a scale of 1 to 10, as well as to leave comments. It gets 500,000 to 1 million unique visitors each month, according to companies that track Web traffic.

“He is the most influential man in the prostitution business in America,” said Jason Itzler, the former head of NY Confidential, an escort ring. Mr. Itzler was released from prison last year after serving 30 months for the attempted promotion of prostitution.

Mr. Elms, 37, was jailed this month on accusations that he failed five drug tests since October, a violation of his probation from a 2006 drug and gun conviction. If he is found to have violated his probation, he could be sentenced to four years in prison.

Mr. Elms usually does not say much publicly about his Web site, asserting that reporters twist his words. But in an interview with MSNBC.com in 2006, Mr. Elms said that he started The Erotic Review in 1999 because he wanted to empower the customers of prostitutes.

“I was getting ripped off,” he said. “There was no way to hold people accountable for their actions.”

The house in Hawthorne, Calif., where Mr. Elms lives is modest, with a well-kept yard. The only unusual signs are a surveillance camera over the porch and the late-model Mercedes sports car parked out front with the vanity license plate “Will She.”

The Erotic Review works like many consumer review sites. Visitors to the site can look for prostitutes by city or area code and find contact information, personal Web sites, physical attributes like height and body type, and numeric rankings.

More broadly, the Internet is changing prostitution. In recent years, thousands of prostitutes have posted their own Web sites, including their pictures and contact information. They are called Net walkers. The Internet, they say, has let them more easily reach clientele, particularly high-paying customers, and vet them.

Robert Weisberg, a professor of criminal law at Stanford, said that prostitution promoted online — even if overtly advertised — might not pique law enforcement interest because the crime usually received little attention.

Jodi Michelle Link, a Los Angeles County deputy district attorney who specializes in sex and vice crimes, said prosecuting Mr. Elms for his connection to The Erotic Review could be difficult for free speech reasons. She also said that the prostitutes who said they had been asked by Mr. Elms for sexual favors would have trouble making a criminal case against him because they could simply choose not to participate on his site.

As The Erotic Review has become more popular, Mr. Elms has attracted criticism. In April, a lawyer for an escort service based in Phoenix, MystiqueUSA, wrote a letter to Mr. Elms threatening him with an antitrust lawsuit for banning the agency and its escorts from the site.

“There is no question that your Erotic Review site clearly meets the legal standard of a unique facility whose use is essential to effectively compete in the upscale escort services market,” the lawyer wrote. The letter accused the Web site of favoring escort agencies that did not want competition.

Officials at MystiqueUSA would not comment. But on the home page of its Web site, it expresses regret over the assertions in the letter and apologizes to Mr. Elms.

Ms. Link, the deputy district attorney, said the criminal charges against Mr. Elms stemmed from a night in 2006 when the police were called to a hotel where they found him with 3.8 grams of cocaine and a loaded semi-automatic weapon. A prostitute was there and said Mr. Elms had forced her to perform oral sex at gunpoint, but there was not enough evidence to press charges on that accusation, Ms. Link said.

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