Friday, December 11, 2009

People v. Cason (Cal. Ct. App. - Dec. 7, 2009)

I've got no real problem with Justice Ramirez's opinion.

I recognize that there's a lingering question regarding whether California's anti-pimping statute really covers pimps who solicit existing prostitutes. After all, the statue says that you're guilty only if you cause someone "to become a prostitute." If you're already a prostitute, it seems plausible to me -- albeit not to Justice Ramirez -- that someone doesn't "become" a prostitute merely because they change pimps. I think that the text of the statute, and the rule of lenity, might come into play here in a way that's slightly different from the way Justice Ramirez pitches it.

That said, here, Michael Cason was a pimp, and he did encourage people to become a prostitute. Maybe not everyone. But some people. So he's not exactly the poster child for interpreting the statute narrowly.

But let me ask a question that's admittedly not raised by the opinion itself. What's the proper sentence for a pimp like Cason. Here's a flavor of the underlying facts:

"Q. was in debt and living with her parents in San Diego when, in June 2007, for the first time, she posted an Internet advertisement offering to provide time and companionship to persons who were willing to pay her. The day she posted the ad, defendant called and offered her employment as a prostitute. If she would work for him, he said, he would take care of her and pay her outstanding car and telephone bills. He would post advertisements and all she had to do was “take the calls” and “give him the money.” Defendant talked to Q. for about an hour.

On June 11, 2007, the day after he called her, Q. drove to Temecula to meet defendant. She agreed to work for him and stayed at his house that night. The next morning, D., who lived with defendant and also worked for him, accompanied Q. to the Comfort Inn in Temecula for her first day of work. The women both had cell phones defendant gave them and on which customers could call to make “dates.” Through his computer, defendant monitored their calls. If Q. missed any calls or stopped answering the phone, defendant would contact her and ask her why she was not answering the phone. Defendant posted Q.'s services at $200 for each half hour and gave her a daily quota of $1,000. Because she was 'just a prostitute,' she gave all the money she made, including tips, to defendant.

Q. did not like the work and tried to leave defendant's employ on several occasions. When she told him she wanted to go home, he refused to give her any money. Defendant told Q. she would never make it without him, that she “wasn't good enough” and “didn't have the looks” to be successful by herself. Nonetheless, Q. 'quit' five or six times, by turning in her phone and driving back to her parents' home in San Diego. When she again found herself in debt, she sometimes worked for a pimp in San Diego, “DK.” She returned to work for defendant because, unlike DK, he didn't hit her. . . .

D. was working as a clerk at Walgreen's in Hemet when she met defendant in 2005. Defendant told her she was beautiful and that he would like to take her and her two-year-old daughter to Disneyland. In the beginning, D. and defendant had a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship and talked about getting married. However, a few weeks after they began dating, defendant revealed that he ran an escort business and talked to D. about some of the girls who worked for him. Eventually, D. began working for defendant too. . . .

D. worked for defendant from July 2006 to August 2007. She stopped for four months between January and May 2007, hoping she could regain custody of her daughter, who had been taken by child protective services. In those four months, D. worked as a hostess at a restaurant. Defendant repeatedly called and came to the restaurant or to her apartment and tried to persuade her to return to work for him. To avoid him, D. sometimes would not answer the phone or the door. Eventually, because she needed money so badly, she returned to work for defendant. D. was afraid to leave lest, 'all this stuff he told me happened to the girls that told, would happen to me.'"

That's the basics. There are surely worse pimps. There are surely better ones. What's the appropriate sentence? Basically, Craigslist pimping.

Answer: Ten years, eight months.

Seem about right?