In November, San Francisco failed to pass Proposition K , which would have decriminalized prostitution -- indicating a majority of city dwellers still think it should be illegal to pay or be paid for sex. Yet in a ruling handed down in state court last week, pimps, madams, or other folk who coerce a prostitute to work for them are home free. (Hat tip to The Recorder
The ruling of People v. Wagner
by the Fourth District Court of Appeal in Santa Ana found that a pimp who had tried to persuade a sex worker to work for him wasn't guilty of pandering since the woman was already a prostitute.
The judge was following the letter of the pandering law -- which states it's a crime when someone "by promises, threats, violence, or by any device or scheme, causes, induces, persuades or encourages another person to become a prostitute." The operative word is "become," wrote Justice William Bedsworth. A woman who is already a prostitute would be merely "chang[ing] her business relationship."
Pimping, or taking a cut of a prostitute's earnings, remains a felony regardless of the woman's employment history.
San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris, who has long talked tough on sex trafficking, lambasted the decision in a statement to the press through a spokesperson: "This decision plays into the long discredited myth that many women are willing participants in their own victimization because they are 'working girls.' If someone is being recruited to engage in prostitution, that is a crime, not a business transaction. the pandering law should not depend on the status of the victim, and the decision is troubling."
The DA's office conceded the ruling could affect a few current cases.
Now that Craigslist has cracked down on its adult ads, can pimps and madams host a recruiting fair for unemployed (ahem, laid off) sex workers looking for a new venue to ply their trade? Why not?