The Supreme Judicial Court ruled today a man convicted of deriving support from prostitution should have quit when he was behind and accepted his punishment, because he was caught pimping out two women and the law is pretty clear on that, even if it doesn't actually use the word "pimp."
Jonathan E. Brown was arrested at a Saugus hotel in 2012 by law-enforcement officers responding to Internet ads for prostitutes there who found him with the $250 - in one of his shoes - that an undercover officer had earlier handed over to one of the women for a tryst later in the evening.
Brown's appeal is based in part on the argument that because the law does not specifically use the words "pimp" or "pimping" to discuss people who "derive support" from prositution, it is so vague it could theoretically be used to arrest children accepting sandwiches from mothers who happen to double as prostitutes or store owners who sell the women the fixings for those sandwiches.
In its ruling, the state's highest court all but tossed Brown a dictionary with a sticky note on the page with the definition for "pimp" and essentially said: Please, even if the law doesn't specifically mention "pimping," you know, we know, in fact, everybody knows it's pretty obvious what the law's writers were referring to, and it was not children wolfing down sandwiches:
We conclude that G. L. c. 272, § 7, is constitutional, as we construe it to target those who, with the intent to profit from prostitution, live or derive support or maintenance from, or share in the earnings or proceeds of, the known prostitution of others. We reach this conclusion from reading the statutory language in the context of common understanding and ordinary usage, as well as the statute's legislative history and severe penalty provisions, all of which demonstrate with sufficient clarity that G. L. c. 272, § 7, is directed at so-called "pimping." Because a pimp knowingly and intentionally profits from the prostitution of another, he or she differs from the child of a sex worker, a local merchant who sells food to a known sex worker, or a medical professional who provides a sex worker with counselling services; the literal language of the statute may reach all of these individuals, but, unlike a pimp, they lack the intention to profit from the prostitution of another.
Here, the evidence was sufficient for the jury to conclude that the defendant -- who accompanied a woman to a prearranged prostitution transaction and was caught, immediately after leaving the scene with that woman, with the entire proceeds of the transaction hidden in his shoe -- knowingly and intentionally profited from the prostitution of another, and therefore engaged in pimping within the meaning of G. L. c. 272, § 7. While we prospectively clarify the jury instructions to avoid any possible confusion that this statute might apply to those who lack such an intent, we discern no prejudicial or other reversible error in the instant case.
The court added:
Unlike the hypothetical prosecutions the defendant imagines, the conduct of the defendant fits within the core concern of the statute. In short, the defendant can only challenge the constitutionality of the statute as applied to him, and consistent with our judicial construction of the statute to target those who intend to profit from the prostitution of another, we hold that G. L. c. 272, § 7, is not unconstitutional as applied to this defendant.