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Senate Bill , which has passed the Senate and House and awaits action by Gov. Margie MacDonald, D-Billings, introduced SB — which expands the definitions of and penalties for trafficking in addition to expanding the definition of prostitution — after being approached by Yellowstone County Area Human Trafficking Task Force cofounders Penny Ronning, a Billings city councilperson, and Stephanie Baucus, a Billings attorney, with concerns that the businesses could be fronts for trafficking.
HB has passed the House and is scheduled for a third Senate reading on Wednesday. Baker has worked both state and federal trafficking cases in partnership with various task forces.
The lack of a law against assisted masturbation did not stop a federal investigation from resulting in the indictment of a Billings-area spa owner, Scot Donald Petrie, on prostitution-related charges, as reported on Tuesday by the Billings Gazette. He has also said, along with MacDonald, Zolnikov, and the members of the Yellowstone County task force, that the goal is to prosecute traffickers, not further criminalize people selling sex.
The resulting changes, which make buying assisted masturbation, but not selling it, a crime, are an attempt to criminalize only one side of an illegal transaction. How that might work in practice will be seen after the law goes into effect. Under SB , a person offering the sale of a non-penetrative sex act would be committing the crime of prostitution, but could not be convicted of prostitution unless they offered sexual intercourse. Whether such a person could be arrested is not clear. A client for such a service, however, could be arrested, Baker said.
Baker referred the question of how prosecutions might work under the new law to Stephanie Baucus, who served on a trafficking task force in the Washington, D. Department of Justice from to She is married to Assistant U. Attorney Zeno Baucus, who has prosecuted federal trafficking cases out of Billings. For example, if an undercover officer investigating a massage parlor were offered an illegal service while posing as a client, that would give law enforcement grounds to proceed with an investigation.