Women sue to stop legal prostitution in Nevada
Their lawsuit claims Nevada’s laws harm victims of sex trafficking across the country
Las Vegas resident and hip-hop producer Jamal Rashid, known as “Mally Mall,” worked with musicians including Drake, Usher, Snoop Dogg, and Chris Brown. In May, a federal judge sentenced the 45-year-old to 33 months in prison for running a nationwide prostitution ring disguised as multiple escort businesses between 2002 to 2014.
Women told the FBI that Rashid lured them into working for him with promises he would marry them or help their show business careers. They said he abused them verbally, physically, and financially.
Now, one of Rashid’s victims, Angela Williams, is a plaintiff in a sweeping federal lawsuit against state and local authorities, a legal brothel, Rashid, and other businesses associated with him. A national advocacy group and a Nevada lawyer filed the lawsuit last week in an attempt to abolish the nation’s only legalized brothels, which they claim enable sex traffickers such as Rashid to operate with impunity in the state.
One of Rashid’s licensed escort companies in Las Vegas allegedly sex trafficked Williams, a Houston native, in Nevada. While prostitution is technically illegal in Las Vegas, the lawsuit claims city and state officials know legal escort services are involved in the sex trade but look the other way. Nevada only allows legal prostitution in seven rural counties, but the lawsuit says Las Vegas and the entire state benefits from the sex tourism those counties generate.
The case, brought by the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) and Reno-based attorney Jason Guinasso, argues the state’s legal prostitution system is unconstitutional and violates federal anti-trafficking laws. The legal battle is part of an intensifying nationwide clash over prostitution, which some state lawmakers seek to decriminalize.
California lawmakers last week approved a measure that would legalize loitering for the purposes of prostitution. In a surprise move, the bill’s author, state Sen. Scott Wiener, a Democrat and openly homosexual man representing San Francisco, postponed the measure from the governor’s consideration until next year. Several Democratic state senators voted against it, expressing concern that the bill would endanger trafficking victims.
“When prostitution is legally protected, there is always an increase in the demand, and thus the supply must increase somehow,” said NCOSE senior legal counsel Christen Price. “The way the difference is made up is by sex trafficking victims.”
The lawsuit names Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, state Attorney General Aaron Ford, city and county officials, a brothel in Nye County, Rashid, and his businesses. It argues state officials cooperated with Rashid, his companies, and the brothel to profit from the legalized prostitution system.
Williams and an unidentified California woman listed as Jane Doe allege they were forced into prostitution and defrauded for years under Nevada statutes in what amounted to indentured servitude, a violation of the 13th Amendment ban on slavery. Attorneys are also pursuing third-party standing for all women who are “similarly situated.”
Williams and alleged sex trafficking survivor Rebekah Charleston were plaintiffs in a 2019 lawsuit against the state for its legalized brothel industry. A federal judge dismissed the case last year, ruling they could not sufficiently prove the harm they endured resulted from the state’s laws. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that ruling in December.
Price said the new lawsuit more narrowly focuses on specific entities and individuals. She believes recent exposés on the sex trafficking industry will help their case.
“Culturally, the tide is turning and things are coming into the light that have been going on for a long time,” she said. “Most people are having the same reaction … that this is unacceptable.”
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