SACRAMENTO -- The operators of controversial classified ad site Backpage.com are one step closer to getting pimping charges dropped.
A Sacramento judge ruled Wednesday he's tentatively tossing out charges against the site's CEO Carl Ferrer and operators Michael Lacey and James Larkin.
Lacey was the only one to appear in court Wednesday.
"We're happy with the ruling, we obviously believe that Kamala Harris doesn't know what she's talking about, and we wish her luck in the U.S. Senate,” said Lacey.
The pimping charges follow a three-year investigation by Attorney General Harris’ office.
Prosecutors say Backpage is generating millions of dollars off the illegal sex trade and exploiting vulnerable victims.
The judge has tentatively sided with the defense because of a federal law that protects website operators from third-party postings.
The Attorney General’s Office insists the operators of Backpage create illegal content.
"We can show that the defendants actually created profiles for the victims,” said Supervising Deputy Attorney General Maggie Krell.
Outside of court, a group supporting the decriminalization of prostitution insisted Backpage.com provides them a safety net.
Jackie Monroe says she’s advertised herself on the site.
“If it's shut down we get pushed to the streets, we don’t know whose car we're hopping in, no number to trace if something did happen,” said Monroe.
Another group fighting to protect young sex trafficking victims showed up to court.
They’re glad there’s still a chance for Backpage's operators to face charges.
"We're really just advocating for the children that we really do have a sex trafficking problem and of children and Backpage has hundreds and hundreds of cases,” said Kristina Kavanau from Shared Hope International.
A final ruling is expected Dec. 9.