New Yorker expunges prostitution record under trafficking law

Wed Sep 21, 2011 6:53pm EDT
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By Barbara Goldberg

NEW YORK (Reuters) - She will not forget the "pimp stick" beatings and forced sex, but a 22-year-old New Yorker was allowed on Wednesday to erase her criminal prostitution record, the first U.S. citizen to do so under a new sex trafficking law.

Identified by authorities only as Ms. Johnson, a pseudonym used out of concern for her safety, the woman was a 13-year-old runaway when she was pushed into prostitution by a 21-year-old man she thought was her boyfriend, according to documents filed in state Supreme Court in the Bronx.

Over the next six years, the Bronx native was sold by pimps on the street and convicted three times for prostitution before a customer helped her to escape.

On Wednesday, her criminal record for prostitution was expunged by a judge who agreed with both prosecutors and defense attorneys that she was protected under a recent New York State law that equates pimps with sex traffickers.

Under the law, "pimp-controlled" prostitutes of any age are considered victims who should not bear the burden of convictions that can interfere with employment, housing, government benefits and other aspects of a law-abiding life.

"The law says any survivor of sex trafficking can try to have their record expunged if they prove the conviction obtained was the result of having been trafficked," said Legal Aid lawyer Kate Mogulescu, who defended the woman in court.

"This is the first case that involved pimp-controlled prostitution," Mogulescu said.

She said New York was the first state to pass a law to allow pimp-controlled prostitutes to expunge their records, and noted the woman is the first U.S. citizen helped by the law. Two other women aided by the law were not citizens.   Continued...