New sex-trafficking law in New York clears prostitute's record

New York at night 
 
A new New York law that recognizes minors forced into the sex trade as victims not criminals was used Wednesday to cleanse the record of a former Bronx prostitute.

Leni Johnson, 22, became the first American to have her convictions for prostitution dismissed after a Bronx prosecutor agreed she had been forced into the sex trade at age 13, according to the New York Daily News.

"I feel very relieved and really happy," Johnson, who uses a pseudonym, 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."

New York passed a law last year that enables women who have worked as prostitutes to have their convictions erased if they became hookers at a young age.

Johnson spent eight years on Bronx street corners with pimps ordering her to sell her young body, clothed in short shorts and a tank top, for as much as $2,500 a night, the New York Times reported. She turned almost all her earnings over to the men who strong-armed her into the business.

Johnson apparently finally broke away when she gave birth to her second child; she now lives in Georgia and works in a grocery store. But she has had a hard time with job applications that ask about previous convictions, she told prosecutors.

Johnson and two foreign-born prostitutes who also have had their convictions thrown out were supported by New York's Legal Aid Society, which launched a pilot project focused on the comprehensive needs of women who are victimized at a young age.

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--Geraldine Baum in New York

Photo: A young prostitute forced into the sex trade in New York City has had her record cleared via a new New York law. Here, in this file photo, the sun sets over the city after a power outage. Credit: Associated Press / Frank Franklin II

 
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Rene Lynch has been an editor and writer in Metro, Sports, Business, Calendar and Food. @ReneLynch

As an editor and reporter, Michael Muskal has covered local, national, economic and foreign issues at three newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times. @latimesmuskal


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