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Church State Issues

Phoenix transgender activist's conviction in prostitution case thrown out

Jan 27, 2015

Arizona Republic

Don't these police officers have any real criminals to hunt down??? You know real criminals that hurt people like robbers and rapists. Not some harmless prostitute!!!


Megan Cassidy, The Republic | azcentral.com 10:36 p.m. MST January 26, 2015

A judge has vacated the prostitution-related conviction of a Phoenix transgender activist on the grounds that she failed to receive a fair trial.

The Maricopa County Superior Court ruling Monday did not address arguments leveled by civil-rights advocates that the Phoenix prostitution ordinance under which Monica Jones was charged is unconstitutional.

Jones, 30, was arrested in May 2013 after accepting a ride from an undercover officer during a prostitution-related sting operation conducted by the Phoenix Police Department.

The trial relied on the word of Jones and the arresting officer. The officer and Jones both agreed that she accepted a ride from the officer, but the two disagreed on several key factors, including who initiated the ride and who instigated sexual contact.

Jones was found guilty of "manifesting prostitution" in April after a trial in Phoenix Municipal Court, but she appealed the decision. Jones' attorneys maintained that her trial was riddled with errors and based on an ordinance that violated fundamental free-speech protections.

The ordinance outlaws the intent to buy or sell sex. To be arrested under the law, a person may have attempted to engage a passer-by in conversation, stopped cars by waving at them, inquired whether someone is a law-enforcement officer or requested that someone touch his or her genitals.

But critics like Jones' attorney Jean-Jacques Cabou and attorneys at the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona say the ordinance allows too much leeway for officers to target minority populations. Further, they say, it criminalizes free speech, like the freedom to ask if someone is a police officer.

But critics said the ordinance allows too much leeway for officers to target minority populations and criminalizes free speech.

In the ruling filed Monday morning, Superior Court Judge Crane McClennen found that the lower court had improperly considered Jones' potential punishment — mandatory jail time — in gauging her credibility.

"In Arizona, trial courts routinely instruct jurors not to consider the possible punishment in determining the defendant's guilt or innocence," the ruling states.

After the filing, Jones said in an interview: "I hope that more people fight this law — that shouldn't even be a law or ordinance — and that this gives people more grounds to fight."

It is at city prosecutors' discretion whether to retry the case. Prosecutors did not return calls for comment by Monday afternoon.

McClennen disagreed with Jones' other challenges to the Municipal Court verdict — that the court had wrongly prevented her from receiving a jury trial and that the court had improperly admitted evidence about Jones' previous prostitution conviction.

Jones' lawyer, Jean-Jacques Cabou, said he and ACLU attorneys are mapping out their next steps in challenging the ordinance.