A lawyer for a former prostitute who ran for lieutenant governor this year argued Monday that the Libertarian candidate's 1984 pandering conviction should be thrown out because the state law under which she was sentenced is unconstitutional.
Attorney Lawrence Teeter, who represents Norma Jean Almodovar, 35, told a three-judge panel of the 2nd District Court of Appeal that the 1982 pandering law does not pass legal muster because, among other things, it applies to too many different types of conduct.
The law provides for a mandatory prison sentence of at least three years for anyone convicted of soliciting another to become a prostitute.
Under the law, Teeter said, "Pandering can be committed through fraud, through violence, through duress, through intimidation--or by a simple act . . . of nonviolent procurement for a single sexual act."
Imposing the same mandatory penalty on a pimp who makes a living by forcing women into prostitution and on a woman who engages in a single, nonviolent solicitation amounts, in the latter case, to cruel and unusual punishment, Teeter said.
Furthermore, Teeter argued, defendants convicted of offenses considered by many to be far more serious, including robbery and nonviolent child molestation, are eligible for probation under California law, while those convicted of pandering are not.
Arguing for the government, Los Angeles County Deputy Dist. Atty. Dirk L. Hudson told the appellate panel that it should reverse a lower court's decision to ignore the mandatory three-year sentence and to grant probation to Almodovar.
"The (California) Supreme Court has pointed out that there is a considerable burden the defendant must overcome" to prove that a law violates the "cruel and unusual punishment" prohibitions of the U.S. Constitution, Hudson said. Almodovar has not met that burden, Hudson argued.
The state Legislature has a clear right to impose a minimum sentence for crimes such as pandering, Hudson said.
An Outer Range
"When we talk of cruel and unusual punishment, we're talking about an outer range, or an outer limit," Hudson said. "Clearly if the maximum penalty is not cruel or unusual, how can the minimum range be cruel or unusual?"
Almodovar served as a civilian traffic officer for the Los Angeles Police Department from 1972 until 1982, when, by her own account, she quit the force to become a high-paid call girl.
She was convicted of pandering by a Los Angeles Superior Court jury in September, 1984, for trying to arrange a meeting between a man who was offering money for sex and a woman with whom she once worked as a traffic officer.
Almodovar contended that she was entrapped by her former colleague because Los Angeles police wanted to discourage her from writing a book about the sexual escapades of her former colleagues on the police force. The book, to be titled "From Cop to Call Girl," has yet to be published.
Book Called Irrelevant
The district attorney's office and police spokesmen have said the book was irrelevant to their investigation and prosecution of Almodovar.
After her conviction, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Aurelio Munoz granted Almodovar probation, even though the law called for a three-year sentence. The district attorney's office then appealed Munoz's decision.
In effect, Munoz ruled that the penalty provided for by the pandering law amounts to cruel and unusual punishment, as specifically applied to Almodovar. Teeter supported that position, but also asked the appellate court to take the decision a step further and hold the pandering law to be generally unconstitutional.
In the November election, Almodovar finished fourth in a field of five, receiving 87,943 votes.