Transgender woman wants prostitution-related conviction overturned

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By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas

PHOENIX – A transgender woman says she was targeted unconstitutionally and wants her conviction overturned.

Monica Renee Jones was prosecuted on a law related to prostitution.

Jones had so many supporters in court Monday that it was standing room only in the tiny courtroom. People came because they want to see her conviction overturned and also because they want to see this law taken off the books.

"This is my opportunity to fight for all those people that were convicted, wrongfully convicted, underneath this law," Jones said.

One of the people Jones is fighting for is herself.

"I'm just not one of those girls that's going to take it lying down," Jones said. "I'm going to fight back."

In April, Jones was convicted for exposing herself to an undercover police officer and then asking him if he's a cop.

"I'm very flirty," Jones said. "I flirt with everyone."

Jones was sentenced to 30 days in jail.

"This law makes asking someone if they're a cop a crime," Jones said. "You can only imagine who else can be targeted by this."

She's right. Under the city ordinance, not only is it illegal to solicit sex, but also to act like you intend to solicit sex. Anything from talking to strangers to flagging down cars can be considered a crime.

"This law bans pure speech," said Jones' attorney, Jean-Jacques Cabou. "It makes it a crime simply to say certain things to certain people. The cop on the street doesn't get to pick what's illegal and what isn't. They have to be bounded by firm, clear laws that are, in constitutional terms, not vague."

It's a case that's even attracted attention from Hollywood. "Orange Is the New Black" actress Laverne Cox is one of Jones' supporters.

"When I first heard about this case I was like, OK, this is ridiculous," Cox said.

And now, a crowd of supporters outside of court Monday want the conviction and the law overturned.

"Transgender women of color especially face a really tough road and are discriminated against in so many ways," said Jones supporter William Simmons.
Jones is vowing to use her case to make a difference -- win or lose.

"That ruling took so much out of me that I tried to commit suicide," she said. "I don't have to end my life to make a change."

It could be weeks before the judge rules in this case.


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