Governor signs sex trafficking bill aimed at pimps

CARSON CITY — Any pimps out there? Keep your hands off young girls and boys or you might be sent to prison for a long time.

Gov. Brian Sandoval on Thursday signed Assembly Bill 67 to create the new crime of sex trafficking. The bill, championed by state Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, is directed at pimps who take over the lives of young people, often homeless and runway children, and turn them into prostitutes.

“This bill will protect so many people for generations to come,” said Masto, adding it was one of the most important bills with which she has been associated in two terms as attorney general.

“It will help our young kids and young adults,” added Sandoval, who praised Masto for her passion and tenacity in fighting for the bill. “It will save lives in the future.”

About 40 people, including police, clergy, victims right group members and victims themselves, attended a signing ceremony in the Capitol.

One of them was Las Vegas businesswoman Amy Ayoub, who revealed at a legislative hearing that she had been a prostitute as a young woman. Ayoub was named to the National Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities in March.

Officials from the Metropolitan Police Department testified during packed legislative hearings that they have arrested more than 2,100 underage prostitutes since 1994. Under the new law, approved unanimously by the Legislature, those who trick out children could be sentenced to life in prison.

Sex trafficking is defined an offense against anyone who “induces, causes, recruits, harbors, transports, provides or maintains a child to engage in prostitution.”

A convicted offender would be sentenced to a 15-year-to-life sentence if the prostitute were under age 14. The sentence would be 10 years to life if the child were 14 or 15 and at least five years if the child were 16 or 17.

Masto said in an interview Thursday that the bill is directed at pimps, not at customers who pay for sex in cases where they do not know the prostitute is a minor. But johns who sell children for sex still can be charged under “pandering” laws, she said.

Pandering is a felony crime that leads to at least one year in prison.

The new law stipulates that underage children cannot voluntarily consent to sex for pay, a clause that led to disputes in hearings by organizations that work with underage prostitutes. Testimony was that some children engage in prostitution for survival without the presence of pimps.

Sandoval also signed Assembly Bill 311, sought by Assembly members John Hambrick, R-Las Vegas, Michael Sprinkle, D-Sparks, and others. This law sets up a fund for victims of human trafficking. The director of the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services will seek grants and donations for the fund.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at evogel@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901.