IF the Free Speech vs. Extortion controversy surrounding mugshot websites is ever going to end both sides of the debate must be equally made clear. Mugshots.com is the largest mugshot site and has been the most publicly ardent in refuting allegations of any wrongdoing. Astute First Amendment minds even find themselves unable to disagree with much of what the website has anonymously written about the necessity of mug shots being available for public inspection:
“Imagine a world with no transparency, ‘star chambers’ and citizens who are secretly dragged into investigation [never to see] the light of day again. No one sees. No one hears. No one knows. It’s hard to imagine this was all not so long ago. Russia? China? North Korea? Cuba? Or even today, Guantanamo Bay, or the CIA’s ‘black sites’? Greater openness and transparency are the foundation of strong government of the people.”
Sadly, it was the established Florida newspapers who were responsible for killing a would-be mugshot law last year. HB 265 was unable to overcome a swarm of published editorials written by nay-saying reporters touting the uncompromising importance of “the public’s right to know.”
In the interest of adding context to this ongoing public dispute being deliberated within courtrooms and legislative committee hearings, I declare March to be Mugshot Extortion Awareness Month! This month’s series of blog posts will delve into the origins and evolution of mugshots.com and hopefully give the public a more complete understanding of why critics have labeled its business model as extortion.
Mugshots.com according to ICANN whois lookup is currently registered to an organization in Belize. It appears this organization used an Australian company, Faboulus.com, as the registrar. According to online sources, Sahar Sarid purchased the site in 2002 and it was allegedly sold to an undiclosed buyer back in 2011. His company ashantiplc.com was the DNS server for 5 years. Florida resident, Jimmy Orfield, held mugshots.com for a period of time and transferred the site’s server’s from citydirect.com to Sarid’s company ashantiplc.com.
Please visit this blog frequently to stay updated on the continuing effort to pass state laws restricting the online mugshot publishing industry.