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Prostitute's HIV-Related Charge Dropped in Plea Bargain

September 13, 2002|JOHN L. MITCHELL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In a last-minute plea bargain, prosecutors have dropped charges against a 46-year-old woman who is HIV-positive and accused of engaging in prostitution.

Panchita Hall was facing a second trial under a 1988 law that requires prostitutes who are HIV-positive and who have been informed of their blood test results to be charged with a felony upon their second arrest. She has been convicted of prostitution six times since she learned in 1995 that she is HIV-positive.

Hall was arrested by an undercover officer in April. The jury in her first trial deadlocked, and an impasse was declared.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Lori-Ann Jones, who tried the initial case, said the decision not to seek a second trial was made because "there was no assurance that another jury was going to reach a guilty verdict."

Conviction under the 1988 statute carries a three-year sentence, but Jones had planned to ask for an enhanced sentence of as much as nine years for Hall.

Hall was sentenced instead Thursday in Compton Superior Court to four years in prison for violating probation on a previous prostitution conviction. Jones said that with time served, Hall probably would be free in a year.

The law was first invoked in Los Angeles County in 1990 against a male prostitute who was sentenced to two years in state prison. Tens of thousands of prostitutes have been tested for HIV in the county as a result of the law. But slightly more than 200 have been convicted on a felony charge since 1995, officials said.

Hall was arrested by officers targeting the Figueroa Street corridor. She allegedly waved at an officer as he drove into a motel parking lot. After agreeing on a $10 fee, she was arrested on suspicion of prostitution, police say.

In late August 2001, after her most recent conviction, Hall had been put on probation for four years.

Two days before her April arrest, a judge issued an arrest warrant after she failed to show up for a progress report and left a drug rehabilitation program without permission.

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