Trans woman wins appeal of conviction for “walking while trans”
PHOENIX, Arizona — A transgender woman who became a cause célèbre after being convicted in Phoenix Municipal Court for “walking while trans” has won the appeal of her case.
Monica Jones was arrested in May 2013 and charged under a local law designed to curtail prostitution. She was convicted of manifesting an intent to commit or solicit an act of prostitution in April 2014, and then filed an appeal in August 2014.
Jones was well-known to Phoenix police because of her work in opposition to Project ROSE, a controversial city program that promotes the arrest of sex workers under the guise of “saving them” from the streets, according to its critics.
LGBT activists and the ACLU rallied behind Jones, whose story quickly went viral. Jones swiftly became an advocate for transgender issues.
Jones was thrilled to see the conviction overturned on appeal.
“Today is a great day! My wrongful conviction under the Phoenix manifestation law was vacated this morning,” she said.
“I am so grateful to my legal team and all of my supporters across the country and world. My conviction being vacated is important but it is a small win in our larger fight for justice. There are so many trans women and cisgender women who might be charged under this law in Phoenix and similar laws across the country. There is so much more work that needs to be done so that no one will have to face what I have no matter who they are or what past convictions they have.”
Jean-Jacques “J” Cabou, a partner at the law firm of PerkinsCoie, represented Monica in her appeal and argued her case.
“Monica was convicted in an unconstitutional trial, under an unconstitutional law, of a crime she didn’t commit. We are incredibly pleased that the appellate court agreed that Monica was unconstitutionally denied the presumption of innocence and that the court vacated her conviction,” Cabou said.
Chase Strangio, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s LGBT & HIV Project, has been working with Monica for the past year and a half.
“Like so many trans women of color, Monica Jones was profiled and targeted by police for walking down the street. Today’s reversal of her conviction is an important validation of Monica’s brave fight to be seen and treated like a human being,” Strangio said.
Dan Pochoda, senior counsel at the ACLU of Arizona, has also been working on Monica’s case.
“Monica Jones was targeted by law enforcement after her public opposition to the coercive treatment of sex workers by Project ROSE. The demise of this Project is based on the inaccurate claim that most adult sex workers are ‘trafficked’ is further vindication of Monica,” Pochoda said.
The City of Phoenix issued a “Notice of Dismissal” of all charges against Monica Jones on Feb. 19, 2015, according to her lawyers, Perkins Coie attorneys Jean-Jacques “J” Cabou and Alexis Danneman.
“Throughout this case we have stressed that Monica was convicted in an unconstitutional trial, under an unconstitutional law, of a crime she didn’t commit,” Cabou said. “We are thrilled that the case is finally over and that Monica was vindicated. We and Monica regret that the law remains on the books for now, but we will continue our efforts to get the City of Phoenix to repeal this ordinance.”
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Ken Williams is Editor in Chief of SDGLN. He can be reached at [email protected], @KenSanDiego on Twitter, or by calling toll-free to 888-442-9639, ext. 713.