A complaint was filed today, February 25, 2019, in United States District Court against the State of Nevada. The lawsuit seeks an order declaring Nev. Rev. Stat. 201.354(1), Nev. Rev. Stat. 244.345(8), and the ordinances of Elko, Lander, Lyon, Mineral, Nye, Storey, and White Pine Counties, licensing brothels unconstitutional, null, and void as preempted by federal law; and, a preliminary and permanent injunction be issued prohibiting the State of Nevada and all of its political subdivisions from continuing to implement, enforce, or put into force and effect Nev. Rev. Stat. 201.354(1) and Nev. Rev. Stat. 244.345(8). Additionally, the law suit also requests an order for the State to create and fund a “Nevada Sex Trade Exit Fund” to provide mental health services, rent assistance, job training, scholarships, and funding for medical treatments for women prostituted through Nevada’s legal brothels. The complaint specifically argues, “The State’s creation of an intrastate commercialized prostitution market exerts a substantial economic effect, namely, the creation of an interstate and foreign prostitution market; therefore, Nevada’s legal brothels, operating under Nev. Rev. Stat. 201.354(1) and Nev. Rev. Stat. 244.345(8), are in violation of and direct conflict with U.S.C. 18 § 2422(a) (2018).”
Jason D. Guinasso, managing partner of Hutchison & Steffen’s Northern Nevada office, represents the plaintiff, Rebekah Charleston, who is a victim of sex trafficking that was trafficked through Nevada’s legal brothel system. While a victim of trafficking, Ms. Charleston was sent by her trafficker to “work” in the brothel. Here, she was not permitted to turn down a sex buyer, was a victim of serial rape for profit, and suffered multiple violent rapes and assaults. Any money not taken by the brothel owners was sent to her trafficker. The practice of legalized prostitution in Nevada is regressive, oppressive, and has predatory dependence on economically vulnerable persons. This suit seeks to end the legal loopholes which provide the way for brothel owners, pimps, and traffickers to profit from the exploitation and industrialization of women’s bodies.
The complaint also asserts that, under the cover of Nevada law legalizing prostitution, brothels, brothel owners and operators, and the women bought and sold in brothels for sex, actively and intentionally persuade, induce, entice, and coerce men and women to travel in interstate commerce to engage in prostitution by advertising and marketing brothels and the sale of people for sex to individuals outside the State of Nevada through hundreds of websites, social media accounts, and other mass media. It then provides numerous specific examples in support of this assertion. “Clearly, based on the marketing, advertising and brothel owner’s own admissions, participants in Nevada’s legal brothel industry are, “knowingly persuad[ing], induc[ing], entic[ing], or coerc[ing] … individual[s] to travel in interstate or foreign commerce… to engage in prostitution,” in violation of federal law.” Guinasso argued.
In addition to the irreparable harm suffered by Ms. Charleston and the countless other women just like her, the complaint alleges Nevada’s legalized prostitution market has exerted substantial secondary effects on the community at-large. Numerous studies have shown prostitution and sex trafficking are inextricably linked and wherever legal prostitution exists, sex trafficking increases. As a result, Nevada’s illegal sex trade is estimated to be twice as large as other states and its commercial sex market, when adjusted for population, is by far the largest of any state. The State of Nevada has not only failed to enact and uphold federal law, but also allowed Nevadans and those trafficked to Nevada to be exploited to become victims to this underregulated, exploitative industry.
In addition to the relief she is seeking in federal court, Ms. Charleston and other victims like her are hopeful that the State of Nevada will agree with the points, authorities, arguments, and evidence set forth in her Complaint and take this opportunity to repeal the laws that sanction sexual exploitation. In support of victims of sex trafficking, Mr. Guinasso believes this is the right time to bring these issues to the attention of the courts and lawmakers. "We appear to have a Governor, an Attorney General, a Legislature, and a Court system in Nevada that care about protecting women and ending sex trafficking and prostitution. Perhaps they will take the initiative to strike down and change current Nevada law given the clear conflict with federal law and the harms inflicted upon countless numbers of women."
The complaint and exhibits to the complaint can be made available upon request. Please email [email protected] or call (775) 853-8746.
Hutchison & Steffen is a solution-driven, client-centric law firm employing over 40 experienced attorneys and serving clients across Nevada from our offices in Law Vegas, Reno, and Lake Tahoe. For more information, please visit hutchlegal.com.