Sex Worker Activist Found Guilty Of Prostitution-Related Charges

April 11, 2014

(Photo by Nick Blumberg-KJZZ)
Monica Jones talks to the crowd gathered to support her before the trial Friday morning.

A trans woman and sex work activist was found guilty Friday on prostitution-related charges. She believes she was targeted by law enforcement, but a judge didn't agree.

Friday morning, a crowd gathered outside Phoenix Municipal Court in support of Monica Jones.

"When trans rights are under attack, what do you do? Stand up, fight back!" the crowd chanted.

Jones is a former sex worker who said she is now an advocate for sex worker rights. Jones believes she was targeted for arrest because she's a trans woman of color, and she's protested a prostitution diversion program.

Phoenix police deny that. Jones was arrested during a police sweep and charged with manifestation of an intent to prostitute, which Phoenix code defines using behaviors like flagging down cars and asking people if they're a cop.

"I want Arizona and America to reevaluate those laws," Jones said. "I wouldn't change nothing I did that night. The only thing that needs to be changed is the justice system here."

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona's legal director argued the manifestation charge is unconstitutional, violating the rights to free speech and due process. The judge said he couldn't dismiss the charge on those grounds, and after testimony from an undercover police officer and from Jones, found her guilty.

Jones plans to appeal.