Supreme Court refuses to allow prosecution of prostitution cases until constitutional challenge is resolved

The Nevada Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to let Clark County prosecute a group of prostitution cases until it decides a constitutional challenge.

The lawsuit filed by William B. Terry charges the Clark County District Attorney and Las Vegas Metro Police Department deputies with blatant sex discrimination by allowing men arrested on prostitution charges a plea bargain that eliminates the charge from their record while denying any plea bargain to women defendants.

That policy was laid out in a written memo from Clark County District Attorney Stuart Bell, which Chief Justice of the Peace Jennifer Togliatti described as "a prima facie case of gender-discriminatory plea bargaining."

It prompted District Judge Joe Bonaventure to stay prosecution of 55 prostitution cases Terry is handling until the test case involving Virginia A. Salaiscooper is resolved by the Supreme Court.

Clark County appealed, charging that Bonaventure exceeded his jurisdiction in blocking all those proceedings, but the high court panel of Miriam Shearing, Bob Rose and Nancy Becker refused to overturn him saying the high court's intervention isn't warranted at this time.

That means the stay order stands while the issue of sex discrimination is resolved.

Terry argues that Bell's policy is blatantly discriminatory. The memo signed by the DA states that, "It has been agreed amongst metro, the district attorney's office and the city attorney's office that (except in the cases of first time male offenders who opt for the diversion program) we will not negotiate the value of cases of soliciting prostitution ... ."

Bell said that was intended to mandate prosecution of "sellers of sex" while giving first time "buyers of sex" a plea bargain. But Terry said nowhere does the policy memo say that.

He also cited more than once situations where males charged with attempting to sell sex to customers were plea bargained into the diversion program.

Now Clark County must file its response to the issues in the sex discrimination case and the Supreme Court will decide whether to hold oral arguments.


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