Louis Lanzano/AP
Joseph Brooks is led by police in handcuffs, Tuesday, June 23, 2009, in New York City.

Academy Award Winner Accused as Latest Craigslist Offender

June 25, 2009 06:30 PM
by Liz Colville
Joseph Brooks, an Academy Award-winning songwriter and director, has been arrested in New York following allegations that he sexually assaulted women he met through Craigslist.

Brooks Targeted Women in Pacific Northwest

Joseph Brooks has been indicted on 91 counts, including "multiple rape, criminal sexual act, sexual abuse, attempted sexual abuse, forcible touching, grand larceny, and criminal mischief charges," according to The Oregonian.

Brooks ran ads on Craigslist that were "specifically targeted to run in the Pacific Northwest," The Oregonian reports, and it appears he was "seeking women who likely were not familiar with the New York City area."

The ads claimed to be for movie auditions, which took place at Brooks' New York City apartment. Brooks paid for their plane tickets and once there, the women were plied with alcohol and assaulted, according to Manhattan District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau, speaking at a news conference on June 24.

Eleven victims have so far been accounted for, according to the U.K.'s Daily Mail, including an "American Idol" auditioner. Brooks has denied all charges. Brooks' assistant, Shawni Lucier, has also been indicted on charges of criminal facilitation, The Oregonian adds.

Brooks, 71, won an Oscar in 1977 for his song, "You Light Up My Life," from the movie of the same name, which he directed, according to the Daily Mail.

Background: Other criminal cases involving Craigslist

Brooks' arrest comes just days after Phillip Markoff, accused of murdering a masseuse at a hotel in Boston's Back Bay earlier this year, was arraigned in Massachusetts' Suffolk Superior Court. Markoff was arrested April 20 and has pleaded not guilty to the murder of the masseuse, Julissa Brisman, whom he met through Craigslist, as well as the robbery of Trisha Leffler, a 29-year-old prostitute from Las Vegas, The Boston Globe reported June 22.

Markoff has also been linked to the Rhode Island robbery of another woman who was held at gunpoint, according to The Boston Globe.

In March, a prominent radio host was "stabbed to death, allegedly by a teen answering an ad for rough sex" on Craigslist, the San Francisco Chronicle reported in April.

Earlier this year, Michael John Anderson of Minnesota was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Katherine Ann Olson. In 2007, Anderson lured the 24-year-old woman to his home with a fake Craigslist ad for a babysitter and shot her to death, the Associated Press reported.

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Reactions: Craigslist takes action

San Francisco-based Craigslist changed its policy on erotic services ads in November 2008. It started requiring ad posters to provide a “working phone number and credit card” in accordance with negotiations with 40 state attorneys general, CNET reported in 2008. Craigslist also began suing “14 of the companies accused of helping illegal advertisers to evade the site's defenses" as part of that agreement.

In a May blog post, Craigslist announced that it was replacing its erotic services section with a new section called “adult services” that features “postings by legal adult service providers," each of which is "reviewed before appearing on the site.”

Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster said in an e-mail statement sent to the Los Angeles Times, “Criminal misuse of Craigslist is absolutely unacceptable, and we are committed to working together with law enforcement to eliminate it.”

But the company called online classifieds safer than print classifieds in its May blog post, citing "Community moderation," as well as “blocking, screening, and telephone verification” and other features. The company highlighted the reduction in illegal posts since its November agreement with attorneys general.

Related Topic: Preventing similar crimes

Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick Lynch “took aim at Craigslist" following Markoff's link to a robbery in the state, saying he is working with others to “get Internet companies including Craigslist to be better corporate citizens,” The Boston Globe reported. Lynch said the Internet has its pluses, “but it allows a very dangerous vehicle into your home as well.”

As more phony Craigslist ads came to the fore in 2008, TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington called the site “just a mirror, and we have to take the good with the bad.”

Buckmaster emphasizes that people meeting through the site should “take the same kinds of precautions” they would take when meeting a stranger “offline," he told the Associated Press. This includes always having someone accompany you and telling others where you're going.

Reference: Internet safety for kids; Online dating safety

Visit the "Online Dating Safety" section of findingDulcinea's Dating Web Guide for more resources and tips.

Point parents and children to the "Internet Safety for Kids" section of our Internet Security Web Guide.

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