The California Supreme Court ruled in San Francisco today that a pimp can be convicted of pandering even if the person he tries to recruit is already a prostitute or is an undercover officer. Pandering is defined in state law as encouraging another person “to become a prostitute” by means of promises, threats or violence. The court issued its ruling in the case of Jomo Zambia, a janitor who was convicted of pandering by trying to recruit an undercover officer to join his prostitution business in Los Angeles County in 2007. Zambia encountered Officer Erika Cruz, who was posing as a prostitute, on Sepulveda Boulevard in Van Nuys on June 8, 2007. He ordered her to get in his truck, said he was a pimp and said he would give her housing and clothing if she worked for him and gave him her money, according to the court ruling. Cruz then alerted her backup unit and Zambia was arrested and was later convicted of pandering and sentenced to four years in prison. In his appeal, Zambia argued that the pandering law’s use of the word “become” meant that the law didn’t apply when the target was already a prostitute or was an undercover officer. But the state high court by a 5-2 vote said that the law referred to encouraging a person to engage in future acts of prostitution, even if the person is already a prostitute. Justice Carol Corrigan wrote that the court’s interpretation “carries out the Legislature’s intent to combat the social evils inherent in recruitment for acts of prostitution.” Pandering is a separate crime from the offense of pimping, which is defined as making money from another person’s prostitution and is punishable by similar prison terms.
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