Your charge is escorting without a license. How do you plead?”
“No contest.” I said softly.
“Can you speak up?” the judge said
“No contest.” I said. Reluctantly. I should have said. “No, WAIT. That is NOT what I want at all. I would like to FIRE my lawyer and go to trial with a public defender.” Like the dramatic “I don’t” vow that comes at the chapel scene of many a Hollywood movie marriage. But I didn’t. I came upstairs still wanting to fight, but again my lawyer and the public defender available that day, urged me to take the deal. There is a chance that your case could be dropped, but you would be gambling, she said. I took the deal that I said I would never take. 18 months probation, pick up garbage at the beach and highway for 4 days (or go to jail for 4 days), mandatory AIDS testing and ‘education’..
“You’re honor, I was an HIV outreach counselor when I was arrested and I have a 40 hr certification to do Basic HIV testing from AIDS healthcare foundation…”
It didn’t matter the judge said. This type of thing is standard for these types of arrests.
Just because it is standard does not mean it is justified, I thought but did not say. Even saying that I was opposed to the mandatory testing of sex workers and the felony charge that is imposed on sex workers who test positive for HIV. I am opposed to everything that I have been going through. I am opposed to the lack of individuality that the convicted get, the belitting process of having a lawyer be the mouthpiece of your fate, and that lawyer being responsible for pressuring you into decision that really aren’t what you came there to do. Lawyers are the master of double speak.
“This is your case, and I cannot tell you what to do.” They say and look at you. But you could be convicted and spend up to a year in county jail…[take the deal, take the deal.]
I woke up this morning and cried tears of anguish and frustration because I realized that it was over. My fighting had come to a halt and there was no taking back the words that I said before the court. I felt resentment towards the public defender, who was not willing to try to fight this case with any fervor, her main concern was trying to protect me from a prostitution charge which I had already agreed to endure if it meant that I could change the way things were looked at or handled in LA county. I will forever regret that moment, my decision, how I caved in under pressure from the system, and all the time and money I spent trying to fly in a private lawyer to defend me when he was the biggest fan of me taking the deal all along.
I think of the male escort in SWOP who fought his charges for a year and WON. It is not so easy to fight and fight. It takes a lot of inner strength (FEARLESSNESS), lots of support that many of us don’t have, and of course…MONEY.
I just simply ran out of resources. I couldn’t pay for the expenses to go to trial. I still owe my lawyer money for just his expenses. To take this case to trial I would have had to fly him down to LA for a week and put him up in a hotel. We were prepared to do that. Until my sugar daddy dropped me, right before the crucial point of being able to feel confident that I could continue this fight for myself and for other sex workers. But he didn’t believe it was a good cause, he told me,” I would rather feed mouths that can’t eat.” He said. And so I felt that he, too was responsible for the immediate halt of the hopes for a trial. I cried in desperation for help for this and other looming financial crisis, and he cut me off the very next day. “You’re wasting your time with SWOP” he told me. [Unpaid activism is your problem]
To a certain extent, I believe that it could be seen as a problem and I’m sure people told Jesus Christ that he was wasting his time when he should be making a decent living as a carpenter like his father.
Mentoring young activists into the sex worker movement is extremely rewarding. Doing outreach to college students and drug using sex workers in ways that they had never experienced before is my reward for enduring the bullshit of criminalization. Most of my time and energy goes into directing the non profit SWOP-LA. I am a fool for continuing day and day out to work for the greater community, the marginalized and voiceless of even the greater sex worker population simply just to create social justice for us all. I am fool for risking my mental health and life just make enough to survive and pursue my dreams, one of which is sex worker rights in LA.
In my activism, I have felt like Jesus lately. I was ready to go to jail if I thought that it would change the perception of how prostitutes were viewed or treated or convicted. I am positive people thought he was wasting his time and I’m pretty sure he didn’t get paid. I felt like Martin Luther King Jr. because fighting a prostitution charge is a form of civil disobedience and not many of us are willing to even try to take their cases as far as I did and even the Dr. did some time in the clink. I wish I could have sat like Rosa, but no. Lately I feel like I am always regretting what I did not do in situations…
I still feel like I wasted my time, energy and money on a case that will go down in history unnoticed. I will regret my decision for a good while. I will resent everyone that could have lent a hand to help me but didn’t, including this bitch who is in charge of creating the first ever diversion program for prostitutes in LA. She creates this diversion program patting herself on the back that she is helping prostitutes stay out of prostitution. She handles a pilot program of street walking younger mostly Black women who have been arrested multiple times. If they complete a diversion program their cases will go unfilled as if it never happened. Only the arrest will remain. She could have put the good word in and let me into her program, but she wouldn’t. She said, “Ms. Passion is at the planning meetings because she wants to legalize prostitution and we feel differently than that.” She, the judge, the system fail to see the humanity of some of the women who do sex work every day. She feels that having a criminal charge record will sure teach me a good lesson. She does not see the inherent relationship between legalization (decriminalization) and human rights for sex workers. Not that diversion is the best program for either johns of working girls, but what it does is save you from a criminal charge and allow more employment doors outside of sex work (which they claim to want) to open for you. I believed and tried to get my lawyer to believe that advocating for one’s own diversion program by volunteering for a non profit (like SWOP) helping mentor and educate and do harm reduction with sex workers would be a huge step. But I did not and could not achieve that. Not even with a private attorney.
Money should not have been a factor since public defenders are not only local but they are free. But they call them,”public pretenders” for a reason. They don’t fight for you, they just help you shuffle through the system guilty but with lesser punishment. I was going to go to trial with my private attorney. But I lost my sponsor for the trial and so I lost hopes for continuing to fight this year long battle. I couldn’t even afford the expenses that were associated with flying him down for a trial and housing him for a week. I only would have a 25% chance that the case would be dismissed. In retrospect, I wish I would have gone for it. I came up from the car ready to fight with the public defender, but the two lawyers were shaking their heads saying take the deal and then in the next sentence saying,”It’s your case, I can’t tell you what to do..”
It was extremely aggravating. Just got a crisis line call from another LA masseuse who got busted at her incall. I think the case before me was a skinny skinny Thai boy who got busted for massage without a license…it will only end until we stand up and continue to fight. But I honestly feel pain when I sit there and tell people to stand up and fight because I tried it and felt like i lost. This whole ordeal has cost me almost $2000 of money that I really never had and I ended up just taking a deal??? Escorting without a license. Probation, AIDS test, beach clean up for 4 days…that really not only helps LA as a whole, but teaches me a lesson, and I will never ever do prostitution ever again..
I spent all of Wednesday, frantic and depressed. I can barely work. I am a mess. On top of that, I am still all PTSD from that incident with the agency that I last posted about. . No disability for sex workers.. My boyfriend has been great through this..but he is broke too.