A bill to crack down on predators who force or manipulate children into prostitution is headed for passage this year, lawmakers said Thursday.
The revised law would punish anyone who intentionally promotes or profits from prostitution of people under the age of 18 with a felony sex trafficking charge — without having to prove the child was compelled.
“It’s going to pass by the end of session,” Assemblywoman Amy Paulin told the Post.
The Westchester Democrat introduced legislation in the past few years seeking to nix a requirement that prosecutors prove — often by putting severely traumatized and victimized children on the stand — that the youths were forced or coerced into prostitution.
But that version of the bill got held every year in the Assembly Codes Committee, until the amendments were made this week.
The changes ensure that the law won’t target victims who aid and abet the trafficker, which typically also occurs under coercion.
“It’s an agreed to version with the senate and the prosecutors and the advocates,” Paulin said. “It has been a long, thoughtful, and careful conversation to arrive at this latest version, but it will have been worth it if this bill becomes law.”
The Senate has already passed a similar version of the original bill, which was sponsored by Andrew Lanza (R-Staten Island).
The changes came after The Post highlighted in a 3-day series the prevalence of sex trafficking in the 5 boroughs and drew attention to the loophole that was allowing predators to face lesser charges that — even with a conviction — at times resulted in probation.
For years in New York, child victims have had to testify against their pimps in order for prosecutors to prove guilt of a more serious, violent B felony, charge of sex trafficking.
“By eliminating the need to prove force, fraud, or coercion for children under 18-years-old, we will be able to bring stronger cases, and spare young survivors from the trauma of having to testify mere feet from their traffickers,” said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr.
Advocates and survivors argue that young people can be manipulated into thinking they are engaging in the acts willingly when they are below the age of consent.
“New York State law already deems that children of this age do not have the legal, psychological, or emotional capacity to consent to sexual activity,” Paulin said. “With this bill, we’ll take the final step to help these young girls and boys escape their lives of abuse and exploitation at the hands of their predatory traffickers.”
After the series, Gov. Cuomo stepped in to offer his own bill and vowed to sign legislation cracking down on predators who target children.
Paulin credited Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie for hashing out a compromise, after he had expressed concerns in recent years.
The bill set for passage makes it a separate class B felony for anyone 21 or over to promote or benefit from the prostitution of anyone under 18.
It also says that arguing that a perpetrator didn’t know a victim’s age is no longer a valid defense.
Senator Lanza said the bill “will hold criminals accountable for the disgusting and heinous crime of enslaving children for commercial sex.
Advocate and Reverend Dr. Que English thanked lawmakers for their “relentless pursuit of justice for our children who have been subjected to serial rapists and silenced because of our current law.”