By Lindsey Kortyka and Jonathan Stempel

By Lindsey Kortyka and Jonathan Stempel

 

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The former chief executive of Rentboy.com, who ran what prosecutors called the largest U.S. online male-escort service before pleading guilty to promoting prostitution, was sentenced on Wednesday to six months in prison.

 

Jeffrey Hurant, 52, was also ordered by U.S. District Judge Margo Brodie in Brooklyn to undergo a mental health treatment program and pay a $7,500 fine.

 

Hurant's lawyers asked for one week to decide when he would surrender to serve his sentence, which was shorter than the 15 months to 21 months recommended by federal guidelines.

 

Brodie said she believed that Hurant started Rentboy.com with good intentions, and that she had considered some positive work he had done for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

 

She also received more than 70 letters in support of Hurant, outlining customers' positive experiences with the website. 

“This case has kept me up many nights,” Brodie said.

Prior to being sentenced, Hurant pointed to his positive charitable contributions, such as starting a scholarship fund for sex workers, and said he thought he was "doing good things for good people" through his business.

"All of this felt right to me," said Hurant.

Michael Tremonte, a lawyer for Hurant, said after the hearing that Hurant will focus on changing the laws related to sex workers, which he viewed as "antiquated relics and irrational."

Brodie also ordered the dissolution of Hurant's company Easy Rent Systems Inc, which pleaded guilty to a money laundering conspiracy charge.

According to court documents, Hurant recently acquired legal employment in information technology at a laundry company, Laundrylux North America. Neal Milch, Laundrylux's CEO, said that job will be waiting for Hurant after he is released from prison.

“He’s a good guy,” said Milch told reporters after the hearing. “My reaction is that Jeffrey wants to move on with his life and he will.”

Hurant had agreed not to appeal any prison term of two years or less, and Easy Rent agreed not to challenge any fine of up to $10 million.

Hurant was arrested in August 2015, along with six Rentboy.com employees. Prosecutors dropped the charges against those employees six months later.

The case had angered some gay rights advocates as well as advocacy groups for sex workers, who questioned why prosecutors decided to go after a business that had operated openly for nearly two decades.

(Reporting by Lindsey Kortyka in New York)