A former Bronx prostitute who was forced into the sex trade at 13 years old became the first American citizen to have her prostitution convictions thrown out under New York’s sex-trafficking law. Hit the jump to read the rest of the story.
Leni Johnson, 22, had her convictions dismissed Wednesday after Bronx prosecutors agreed she was forced into the sex trade at age 13. The new state law recognizes child hookers as victims of sex trafficking rather than criminals – and allows their convictions for prostitution to be vacated.
“I feel very relieved and really happy,” Johnson told the Daily News. “Now I can go and apply for anything without having to worry about anything coming up, and people judging me. This has been really hard on me.”
In an unprecedented move for a Bronx prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Cassandra Abodeely told a judge on Wednesday of Johnson’s eight years of suffering at the hands of pimps.
“Ms. Johnson was a victim of human trafficking from a young age,” Abodeely said before requesting the dismissals.
The three tossed convictions were the result of a pilot program launched by the Legal Aid Society, aimed at helping victims of human trafficking. Legal Aid lawyer Kate Mogulescu, who heads the project in the Bronx, used the year-old state law to clear Johnson’s name.
Two foreign-born prostitutes also have had their convictions tossed.
“There are so many women who are prosecuted when they are in fact victims,” Mogulescu said. “This law is is monumental.”