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Lawsuit aims to end prostitution in Nevada

Updated September 14, 2021 - 9:23 am

Two women who claim they were forced into sex trafficking filed a federal lawsuit Monday against Nevada officials and others, including a Nye County brothel and imprisoned pimp, over the state’s lax prostitution laws.

Angela Delgado-Williams, a Texas woman at the center of a previous federal complaint, and an unidentified California woman, allege in the lawsuit aimed at ending sex trafficking in the state that for years officials have illegally protected the sex trade and enabled sex slavery.

“It is axiomatic that the right to be free from slavery is among the most basic of human rights: uncontested in international law, and enshrined in the United States Constitution at significant cost,” states the complaint filed by the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, along with lawyers from Reno and Washington, D.C. “Yet it is a right numerous women and girls are denied in Nevada, where they are bought and sold in a glamorized, lucrative monument to male sexual entitlement: the state’s prostitution industrial complex.”

Williams and the California woman, identified in the suit as Jane Doe, allege that because of legal prostitution in rural Nevada counties, they were forced into sex acts through “fraud and coercion – including psychological manipulation and debt bondage – in legal strip clubs, legal escort businesses,” and the Chicken Ranch Brothel in Pahrump.

Nevada, which “in turn failed to enforce or violated state and federal laws against prostitution, prostitution advertising, debt bondage, and sex trafficking, has allowed sex traffickers to operate in Nevada with impunity.

In October 2019, a federal judge in Nevada dismissed the previous lawsuit filed by Williams and two other women, who were not named in Monday’s complaint, after finding that the harm the women suffered was not a function of the state’s prostitution laws.

In that decision, the judge found empathy with the women but also said they had been forced to perform sex acts in other states.

Williams alleges that she was forced into what amounted to sex slavery by Jamal Rashid, the ostracized former hip-hop producer Mally Mall, who was sentenced earlier this year to 33 months in federal prison for owning and operating a prostitution business.

Several companies named in the suit received revenue and engaged in profit sharing with Rashid’s escort companies for a dozen years, according to the complaint and other court records.

Nevada officials cooperated with Rashid and his companies, the brothel and others “to maintain and profit from a legalized system of prostitution,” the suit alleges.

Benjamin Bull, general counsel for the exploitation group, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that Nevada’s treatment of sex trafficking was “rotten to the core and when exposed to public scrutiny cannot be defended.”

The suit alleges that more than one-third of roughly $14 million in revenue generated from illegal prostitution in the United States was collected in Las Vegas, citing a 2021 report. Legal brothels generate an estimated $75 million a year in Nevada, which in turn collects 9 percent in tax revenue.

Media relations officials for Gov. Steve Sisolak, Attorney General Aaron Ford, Las Vegas and Clark County declined to comment. A Nye County spokesman could not immediately be reached, and a woman who answered the phone at the Chicken Ranch said the business would not comment on the lawsuit.

The FBI began investigating Rashid in 2014 and found that he “persuaded, induced, enticed and caused” hundreds of women to engage in prostitution across state lines. Rashid pleaded guilty in 2019 to one count of use of an interstate facility in aid of unlawful activity.

“Nevada’s legal prostitution system has inherently contributed to the sex trafficking of these plaintiffs for both the benefit of sex buyers who flock to Nevada and for the profit of Nevada and its tourism industry,” Christen Price, senior legal counsel at the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, said in a news release about the lawsuit. “The plaintiffs were subjected to violence, threats, and other forms of control by sex trade profiteers, which is precisely what the Thirteenth Amendment forbids. Ultimately, these Nevada defendants must be held accountable for enabling this abuse.”

An effort to reach the Nevada Brothel Association on Monday was not successful.

Contact David Ferrara at dferrara@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039. Follow @randompoker on Twitter.

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