The POP hasn’t posted in a while. In part because of family health issues (all good, thank God) and in part because I’ve been working on a new project – a podcast – more on that to come. But I’d meant to post another congratulatory note to the new U.S. Attorney in Nevada, Nicholas Trutanich, back in January, for his public commitment to combat human trafficking, that is, child prostitution (i.e. the rape of those unable to legally consent to sexual acts) in Las Vegas.
The Pimp Program Is Born
Like Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) this was another initiative started on my watch, way back in 1999, at the request of LVMPD.
Metro Vice was becoming increasingly frustrated with the lack of state action against pimps who routinely trafficked juvenile girls along the “track”, cities where there was money to be made in this sordid business, including Las Vegas. Based upon the prior successes, they had confidence that my office could step things up.
Having never done such a case, I nevertheless committed to personally handle the first one, rather than assign it to someone in my section.
I thought this gesture meaningful, inasmsuch as I was the Chief of the Narcotics and Violent Crime Section, and I was willing to tackle the job myself.
So I asked Metro’s point man, Sgt. Vic Vigna, to bring me the offender they thought most worthy of federal attention.
They selected a notorious, child-abusing, low-life who called himself “Gorgeous Dre” or alternatively “The Big Pimp”. Metro identified him as a major interstate panderer of juveniles, and added that he was so obnoxiously ego-maniacal that he regularly chided the police, guaranteeing them that he would never be successfully prosecuted, because none of his girls would ever turn on him.
We took a decidedly different approach to these cases. The kids were victims, not criminals. We would address ways to gain their trust, and lock them in with Grand Jury testimony while their minds were right, and before they were reunited with their pimps, who pursued them relentlessly. This was done with the critical assistance of Dr. Lois Lee, a champion of such victims, and founder of Children of the Night.
We learned that vice officers from major cities along the track were in close contact, but not organized. The FBI would join the fight; with nationwide subpoena power, we would prove up additional instances of Taylor’s despicable crimes in those other cities We called upon the IRS to buttress our cases with money laundering charges. These mutts lived like kings, but had no legitimate sources of income; hence their fortunes had to have been made by peddling the flesh of children. And, of course, they didn’t pay taxes. Jurors were always offended by that tidbit.
Interestingly, along the way we learned that the defendant was being featured in the movie-producing Hughes Brothers’ (Menace to Society, Dead Presidents, etc.) documentary film “American Pimp”, which was then in production. Consequently, I tangled with a Hollywood lawyer and subpoenaed the raw footage in which Taylor bragged about his prowess as a pimp. Upon being indicted however, the problem that those admissions presented became obvious to him, and he would claim that he was actually retired at the time – a fairy tale which we would thoroughly disprove.
And so we used the Hollywood footage against Taylor at trial. We also called a somewhat hostile Allen Hughes as a Government witness, impeaching him with his prior Grand Jury testimony, when he tried to give testimony helpful to Taylor.
Taylor also fancied himself a rapper, and engaged in the Hughes Brothers’ documentary, in large part because he thought they would produce an album for him as they had done in their movies, with stunning success.
But Hughes laughingly told me that would never happen. We proved that Taylor had paid for his recording sessions – which resulted in 2,000 CDs of his “debut” album, seized in his garage out of his own pocket – and never made a dime from his “music”. He had even recorded a song about Sgt. Vigna, his animosity was so deep!
The Program Gets Off The Ground
After a few bumps in the road we convicted Taylor, and more pimps, and we got progressively better at it with each case.
Taylor’s post-conviction appeal resulted in a published Ninth Circuit opinion which created highly favorable new precedent regarding the elements of the so called “Mann Act” regarding the Government’s burden of proof that the defendant knew his victims were minors as well as the use of government experts on subject of the pimp / prostitute relationship. In our case that expert was Dr. Lois Lee, referenced above. See U.S. v. Taylor, 239 F3d 994 (9th Cir, 2000) (published opinion).
The upshot was that that Government does NOT have to prove that the defendant knew his victims were minors
Thanks, Gorgeous Dre!
Which is one reason every lawyer in the 9th Circuit should have been aware of this case. Not to mention the press coverage it got in Las Vegas. Here are but a few:
This will all become relevant in Part II.
A footnote: incredibly, after his release from prison, Taylor later surfaced as a guest lecturer for a UNLV Criminal Justice course – taught by his Probation Officer! (with whom I had an animated and lengthy discussion regarding ethics, conflicts of interest, etc.) Only in Vegas!
But wait…there’s even more, if you can stand it, coming up……