Eddie Farnsworth's Flaccid Rationale For Not Closing Child Prostitution Loophole
Courtesy of the conservative Western Free Press, we finally have state Representative Eddie Farnsworth's lame attempt to justify not allowing a bill that would have cracked down on pimps selling teenage prostitutes to have a hearing in the Judiciary Committee, which Farnsworth chairs.
In a press release published on WFP, titled, "Arizona Gives No Quarter to Child Prostitution Offenders," Farnsworth defended his position, with the assistance of some colleagues who are obviously giving him cover by signing onto this nonsense.
Not surprisingly, co-signers include Farnsworth's seat-mate in Legislative District 12, state Senate President Andy Biggs, who, quite likely, was instrumental in blocking a different bill that would have placed the corrupt Colorado City police force under the threat of a takeover, if its gendarmes did not mend their ways.
Despite sailing out of the House Government Committee 9-0, and overwhelmingly passing the state House 52-to-7, Biggs assigned the Colorado City bill to two committees, whose chairs promptly sat on it.
One word from Biggs would have gotten House Bill 2648 a hearing and a possible pathway to the Senate floor.
Now, why, oh why, would Biggs want to block a bill that might have prevented Colorado City law enforcement yokels from playing pen-pal with FLDS cult leader Warren Jeffs, marrying underage women, and returning recalcitrant wives to their husbands?
The bill's sponsor, Republican state Representative Michelle Ugenti was recently on KFYI's Mike Broomhead show to talk about the logjam, and she was at a loss to explain why the bill was being blocked.
Maybe Biggs and Farnsworth should pen a little ditty for the WFP, explaining why what's going on up in Colorado City is really no big deal.
But back to the "No Quarter" piece, to which House Speaker Andy Tobin and Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery also, according to WFP, affixed their names.
Essentially, the bill they oppose, House Bill 2569, would have increased the sentencing range for those pimping teens, from seven to 21 years up to 13 to 27 years for a first offense.
As the law currently stands, there are different sentencing guidelines for pimping or buying children who are under 14 versus the same crimes where the victims are 15, 16, or 17.
Sentences for the latter are less severe.
A joint task force co-chaired by Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton and Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne recommended closing the loophole for both pimps and johns as a first step toward addressing the problem.
Jodi Liggett, a senior policy adviser to Mayor Stanton, told me that as part of negotiations with Farnsworth, it was decided that the bill would only close the loophole for pimps, not for johns, so as to make it more palatable to Farnsworth.
Why Farnsworth cares so much for the rights of johns buying teens for sex is an open question.
The bill's primary sponsor was Republican state Representative John Allen, a member of Farnsworth's Judiciary Committee. The bill boasted 14 other GOP House members as co-sponsors. Still, Farnsworth did not grant the bill a hearing.
The WFP "No Quarter" piece doesn't explain why Farnsworth wouldn't grant the bill a little time in his committee. Instead, it begins with a false premise.
"Recent claims that Arizona law penalizes only those engaged in child prostitution with minors less than 15 years of age are simply untrue," states the editorial. "In fact, since 2007, there has been a systematic increase in penalties for those who prostitute teenagers and, in particular, those who engage in prostitution with 15, 16 or 17 year olds."
Liggett was quick to point out the logical fallacy.
"They set up a straw man argument here," she told me of the opinion piece. "We never said there were no penalties for victimizing children 15, 16 and 17. Our coalition simply disagrees with these folks that the protections described are adequate."
Farnsworth and his pals try to make the case that the laws are already plenty tough, and that under Arizona statute, if you're convicted of "five acts of child prostitution involving a 15, 16 or 17 year old minor," then you'll get 35 years in stir, because of mandatory consecutive sentencing.
But that's not very convincing when you consider that Arizona Revised Statute 13-3212 provides for a "knowingly" defense.
If a prosecutors cannot prove someone knowingly engaged in prostitution with a minor 15 and up on a first offense, the crime is knocked down to a class six felony, and a perp could get as little as 90 days.
Previous stabs at this same legislation would have done away with the "knowingly" defense. Liggett said her coalition dropped that change to the law as "a compromise" in an attempt to get some stiffer penalties through Farnsworth's committee.
"Vice cops will tell you that demand drives the entire child sex industry," Liggett explained. "If demand goes away, the victimization largely goes away. So how do you deal with incessant demand? The penalties have to be harsh. And you can't have loopholes that you can work through."
Bottom line, even if Farnsworth, for whatever reason, disagrees that the law should be toughened-up, why not at least allow the bill a hearing? Particularly since so many of Farnsworth's colleagues, the AG's office, the Phoenix Mayor's office, and a broad coalition of academics, cops and activists think it's a good idea.
But as he has in the past, Little Lord Farnsworth nixed the possibility of getting tougher on those who sell or buy teen-age kids for sex. It's too late to move the bill this session. And no doubt, Farnsworth will kill the bill again in the future, if he can.
"You almost want to ask, `What are you afraid of?'" asked Liggett of Farnsworth's stubbornness. "Let's at least have a conversation. We would have appreciated that courtesy."
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Phoenix, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.