Woman appeals prostitution-related conviction

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by Jacques Billeaud, Associated Press

Video report by Amanda Goodman

Posted on August 5, 2014 at 5:36 PM

Updated Friday, Aug 8 at 11:55 AM

PHOENIX (AP) -- A transgender woman who is an advocate for sex workers filed an appeal Tuesday of her conviction on a prostitution-related charge as her lawyers argued that the Phoenix law that led to her arrest was overly broad and violates free-speech rights.

Monica Renee Jones, 29, was convicted in April under a city ordinance that prohibits people from demonstrating - or "manifesting" - an intent to sell sex in public places by flagging down passers-by, asking whether someone is a police officer or taking other steps.

The Arizona State University student was accused of exposing herself in May 2013 to an undercover Phoenix police officer, asking him if he was an officer and grabbing him.

Lawyers for Jones said their client didn't commit the crime and had only accepted the undercover officer's offer to give her ride to a bar near her home. They said she was flirting with the undercover officer and never intended to solicit sex for money.

The municipal judge's guilty verdict had a deep impact on her, Jones said. "For someone to say my truth - my story - was a lie affected me so greatly," she said.

A call to the Phoenix Prosecutor's Office, which pressed the case against Jones, wasn't immediately returned Tuesday afternoon.

Jones was joined at a Tuesday news conference by Laverne Cox, a transgender actress who stars as a transgender character in the Netflix prison series, "Orange is the New Black."

Cox said she was moved by Jones' bravery in challenging her conviction. "Laws like this manifestation law really support systematically the idea that girls like me, girls like me and Monica, are less than (others) in this country," Cox said.

Jones was convicted in Phoenix Municipal Court of the misdemeanor charge and sentenced to 30 days in jail. Jones also had a 2012 misdemeanor prostitution conviction. She is now appealing her latest conviction to Maricopa County Superior Court.

Her attorneys say the law is overbroad and prohibits speech that's allowed under the First Amendment, such as talking to passers-by.

Jean-Jacques Cabou, the attorney leading the appeal, said the city law doesn't draw a line between which behavior is acceptable and which is not.

"We all have a right to know what's a crime and what's not," Cabou said.

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