A Washington woman convicted of soliciting for prostitution was sentenced yesterday to 75 days in jail -- an unusually stiff penalty -- after three Logan Circle area residents argued in court that prostitution brought more serious crime to their neighborhood and should be dealt with severely.
The woman, Isabelle Martin, 32, of 1305 12th St. NW, also was ordered to pay a fine of $100.
It was the first case in a campaign by U.S. prosecutors to rid some Washington residential areas of prostitutes by having affected residents plead with judges for stiff sentences. Nearly 20 residents attended the sentencing hearing yesterday before D.C. Superior Court Judge Harriet R. Taylor.
Judges can impose a maximum fine of $250 and a jail term of us to 90 days for persons with prior records, but the maximum sentence is rarely imposed, law enforcement sources said.
In most cases, D.C. judges have imposed light sentences, often merely a $50 fine, on the more than 1,000 prostitutes arrested each year in the city. "That is nothing more than a business tax," one law enforcement official said, which the prostitutes can easily make up as soon as they are released. There also have been complaints that the judges have been reluctant to clutter the city's often overcrowded jails with prostitutes.
Elmer Brooks, a typewriter salesman who is an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner is the Logan Circle area, told Taylor that prostitution is not a victimless crime and that prostitutes directly and indirectly increase the amount of drug trafficking, robbery and burglary in the area, in addition to harassing residents.
"We feel prostitution has no place in residential areas," Brooks said, "and we plead with you to help deter" prostitution.
B. James Carter, chairman of the ANC, asked Taylor to impose the maximum sentence in this case and all others. A third resident, John T. Pattrick, complained of "half-naked women sitting on our cars," and told Taylor that the police were doing their jobs, and judges needed to help.
"This will not cure anything" but only "take you off the street and off drugs for that period of time," Taylor told Martin, who was arrested March 31 at 14th Street and Vermont Avenue NW and convicted three months later. Martin, a mother of three, stook shaking and sobbing as the judge spoke.
Residents interviewed after a U.S. marshal let Martin away to jail said they felt sorry for her, but believed something had to be done. "She was very contrite up there, but she'll kick you on the street," said lawyer Ed Black, one of the residents of the Logan Circle area. "She's a poor victim, but so are we."
Most residents said they felt no elation, but insisted that they would attend more sentencing hearings to try to convince judges of the need for stiff sentences.
That persistence, some law enforcement officials said, was the only thing that would keep the unusual plan going and would determine its success or failure.
"If the citizens keep coming, the judges will have to respond, and if the judges respond, the prostitutes will leave," one official said. "The city has gotten a reputation of being lenient on prostitutes, so many have left other cities after those cities cracked down and began working in this area."