Los Angeles Prosecutor to ‘Make a Statement’ by Asking for ‘Enhanced’ Sentence for HIV-Positive Prostitute
A Los Angeles County deputy district attorney today at a pretrial hearing is expected to ask for an "enhanced" prison sentence for an HIV-positive prostitute who has been charged with the felony of prostitution while knowingly HIV-positive, the Los Angeles Times reports. Deputy District Attorney Lori-Ann Jones, who said she is "furious" that alleged prostitute Panchita Hall appears to have a "disregard for public health" and that the system is unable to stop her, wanted to charge Hall with attempted murder when Hall was arrested for prostitution for the seventh time since she discovered she was HIV-positive from a court-ordered HIV test. Although prostitution usually carries a misdemeanor charge, prostitutes who have previously tested positive for HIV can be charged with a felony. Conviction of such felony charges usually results in a maximum three-year sentence. Jones plans to "make a statement" with this case and ask the judge for a nine-year sentence for Hall because "the criminal justice system has failed to sufficiently punish" her following her previous arrests. Hall "doesn't care" that she is having sex with people while infected with HIV, Jones said, adding, "It's like she's someone walking around with a loaded gun on her hip, indiscriminately shooting people. She knows when she goes and stands on the corner she could pass on" HIV. AIDS Healthcare Foundation President Michael Weinstein agrees with "stiffer penalties" for such offenders. "Someone who is turning tricks is having a large number of partners and is likely spreading the virus," Weinstein said, adding, "I don't think it's unreasonable to use punitive measures. ... I think the government's first responsibility is to protect public health" (Mitchell, Los Angeles Times, 7/22).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.