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PIMPS AND JOHNS BEWARE. DA HARRIS HAS YOUR NUMBER It looks like California prosecutors will soon get to threaten people who hire young prostitutes with longer sentences. The California Senate passed a bill last week that would allow judges to tack on another year in state prison for people convicted of certain felonies involving unlawful intercourse, sodomy, lewd acts or oral copulation — if the non-forcible acts are committed with a minor for money “or other consideration.” If the governor signs AB 3042 as expected, San Francisco DA Kamala Harris can chalk it up as a success. Shortly after taking office, she suggested the legislation to Assemblyman Leland Yee, D-San Francisco. Going after pimps and johns is one of Harris’ “biggest advocacy points,” notes spokeswoman Debbie Mesloh. Harris hopes the bill will also help change the way people view child prostitution. Rather than “mini prostitutes,” Harris said, “we’re looking at the issue as young people who are being sexually exploited for money.” The way the crimes are reported and investigated should change in kind, she added. Los Angeles Public Defender Michael Judge, who chairs the California Public Defenders Association’s legislative committee, predicts that defendants who don’t even know they’ve been with a minor will wind up with extra punishment. Teenage prostitutes can “look pretty old,” Judge said, and for most offenses covered by the bill, it makes no difference if the defendant knew the person was underage. What passed was a scaled-down version of the two-year sentencing enhancement originally proposed, thanks to the cost-conscious Assembly Appropriations Committee, said Jodi Hicks, a legislative aide in Yee’s office. According to a legislative analysis, another year in prison for just 1 percent of people incarcerated for the underlying felonies — it’s not clear how many serving time for them now were involved in child prostitution — would cost the State Department of Corrections more than $150,000 annually. The bill eased through a Senate vote Wednesday. — Pam Smith DARK DAYS Growing up these days is hard enough. But when your streets don’t have lights and the police don’t come when you call them, it can be downright terrifying. That’s what some Stanislaus County residents were trying to address when they filed a federal civil rights lawsuit Wednesday in U.S. district court in Fresno. They charge the city of Modesto, its mayor, some city council members, Stanislaus County and several county agencies with discrimination against the predominantly Latino neighborhoods. The plaintiffs charge that Latino areas in the unincorporated “islands” of Modesto receive public services inferior to those of white neighborhoods. “Numerous promises were made about what the county was going to do to remedy these things,” said Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe attorney Brian Brosnahan of San Francisco, who worked on the case pro bono. “A 1948 study recognized these areas had inferior services and should be annexed to the city.” The unincorporated areas in Stanislaus County are surrounded by Modesto neighborhoods but are not considered part of the city. “It’s positively bizarre,” Brosnahan said. “A block away, everything is completely different.’ Brosnahan and Heller Ehrman colleagues Bethany Glover and Hans Hull joined the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, citizens groups and two other law firms to call for an end to what they see as “inhumane circumstances,” including sewage-flooded streets, illegal trash dumping and traffic injuries to children. Modesto City Attorney Michael Milich’s office said that, as a litigant, he is prohibited from comment. Maria Blanco, the executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, said, “While Stanislaus and Modesto spend public funds on the multimillion-dollar Gallo Arts Center, and Modesto maintains more than 60 parks and three golf courses, these residents live in neighborhoods with no sidewalks and roads that become deeply rutted, muddy and flooded with pools of water that stagnate for weeks at a time.” — Adrienne Sanders STICKS AND STONES Talk about a rock-solid case. The Santa Clara County district attorney’s office, along with Monterey and Merced prosecutors, last week settled a civil suit against Basalite Concrete Products, a cement, sand and masonry distributor. The complaint alleged that the Dixon-based company sold underweight masonry products. The company did not admit wrongdoing in the settlement but agreed to pay $150,000 in civil penalties and almost $47,000 in investigative costs and restitution, according to District Attorney George Kennedy. The alleged violations were discovered during routine product inspections and weigh-ins at stores like Home Depot, prosecutors said. Robin Wakshull, a deputy district attorney with the consumer protection unit, said the case shows how important it is for all businesses to provide consumers with exactly what is advertised. “It’s not unusual that there would be some problems. � We’ve handled other cases like this previously,” Wakshull said. “But sometimes the shortage is more than just a little. Consumers are harmed when businesses charge for a certain amount of product and don’t provide it. It is a violation to sell things less than what they are represented to be.” Attorneys say the company has also beefed up quality control. The case was initiated by California Department of Food and Agriculture inspectors. The final judgment was filed in Monterey County Superior Court. — Justin M. Norton

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