California Appellate Court rules convicted pimp must pay former prostitute $340k for withholding her wages

The San Francisco-based First Appellate Division of California ordered a convicted pimp to repay withheld wages of $340,500 to a former prostitute under his control. The decision reversed a Solana County Superior court ruling the trafficking victim was not entitled to the earnings. 

The three-judge unanimous opinion was written by Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge Joni Hiramoto, who is on temporary assignment to the appellate division. The ruling reverses a ruling by Judge William Pendergast.

The case involved Lamar DeShawn Hall, who trafficked the female victim identified as "H.B." While Pendergast ruled that Hall must repay H.B. $31,336 he withheld for Social Security taxes, the wages were generated by criminal activity and not eligible for repayment.

The appellate ruling reversed Pendergast citing the restitution statute, Penal Code §1202.4. The ruling said "Because Hall took all of the money H.B. earned from the acts of prostitution Hall forced her to undertake, she “suffered economic loss as a result of the defendant’s conduct” and "accordingly, the plain meaning of the statute strongly suggests that the trial court had a duty to ‘require that’ Hall pay ‘restitution to’ H.B. for that loss.”

Filing a brief on behalf of H.B. was California Attorney General Rob Bonta.   

The attorney general's brief noted "Based on the language of the statute and the legislative intent behind it, the superior court should have awarded H.B. restitution for the earnings that the defendant took from her forced commercial sex acts. By finding that H.B. could not receive restitution for illicit funds, the superior court created a legal requirement that the Legislature never intended."

Hall was arrested in December 2018 and pleaded to one count of human trafficking and was sentenced to 13 years and four months. 

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