Patterico's Pontifications

6/9/2008

L.A. to Commence Obscenity Prosecution

Filed under: General,Kozinski — Patterico @ 12:10 am



There are a lot of fascinating details in this L.A. Times story about an upcoming obscenity trial in Los Angeles federal court.

When you start reading the story, it sounds titillating: “an otherwise stately federal courtroom in downtown Los Angeles will be converted into a makeshift movie theater this week, screening a series of graphic — many would say vulgar — sexual fetish videos.” One is tempted to reach for the easy jokes about how this is the one trial where jurors wouldn’t try to get out of jury duty.

But as you read on, you realize that this stuff is not your normal porn:

For jurors to determine whether Isaacs’ work is obscene, they will have to view hours of hard-core pornography so degrading that in one film, an actress cries throughout, prosecutors said in court papers.

. . . .

[The filmmaker/defendant] predicted that many jurors would not be able to stomach viewing the movies, some of which feature acts of bestiality and defecation.

“It’s going to be a circus,” he said of the upcoming trial. “I think I’d freak out if I had to watch six hours of the stuff.”

Yeah, I think I’d be trying to avoid that trial after all.

The defendant is a filmmaker named Ira Isaacs. But he’s not just the filmmaker:

The portly defendant, who sports a pony tail and goatee, produced and starred in one of the videos.

Funny, I never would have pictured a producer of hard-core porn as a portly guy with a pony tail.

Anyway, it appears he may have caught a lucky break:

Jury selection is expected to begin Monday. Presiding over the trial will be Alex Kozinski, chief judge of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Kozinski was assigned the case as part of a rotation in which he and other appeals court judges occasionally oversee criminal trials in addition to deciding appeals.

As the article notes, Kozinski is a well-known libertarian and staunch advocate of free speech. He is unlikely to be particularly sympathetic to the Government’s case.

Isaacs’s work sounds depraved. But I continue to believe that prosecutions like this are a waste of time. In a world where we have terrorism and floods of illegal immigrants, it hardly seems a priority to prosecute smut peddlers, as long as they’re not harming anyone — no matter how sick their material might otherwise be.

32 Responses to “L.A. to Commence Obscenity Prosecution”

  1. Well, I’d be interested to know how coerced the actors were, given that one was “crying throughout.” I agree you generally leave this alone, but perhaps this guy is the exception to the rule.

    Kevin Murphy (0b2493)

  2. I wonder if the animals were able to give consent for the bestiality scenes? I’m guessing not. Prosecute this scum.

    PDizzle (cb6b9b)

  3. I’ve got to agree with Kevin Murphy….

    Kind of like getting a snuff film– you rather need to know if anyone was snuffed.

    Foxfier (15ac79)

  4. I believe Patterico is expressing a disapproval of the obscenity prosecution, not prosecution other crimes that the films might evidence. Assault/battery and sex crimes are separate prosecutions that have an entirely different purpose.

    In a related note, one of the major networks is now airing women participating in ultimate fighting. Of course, in America, that’s not obscene at all, because the women are wearing clothing. We appreciate a good beat-down — we just don’t want anyone getting turned on by it.

    Phil (0ef625)

  5. Quite right, Phil. If Isaacs can be shown to have committed an act of violence against his performers without their consent you’ve got yourself a case. If merely making disgusting films were a crime the prisons would be overflowing

    David Ehrenstein (f6984e)

  6. He is unlikely to be particularly sympathetic to the Government’s case.

    I dunno… One viewing of Two Girls, One Cup (People, whatever you do, DO NOT GO LOOKING FOR THIS!!!) and he might be willing to change his mind on the whole “freedom of speech” thing…

    Scott Jacobs (fa5e57)

  7. You are an evil person, Scott.

    JD (75f5c3)

  8. I said “do not”… What do you want from me?

    It is one of the ten worst things on the internet.

    I’m not kidding people… Looking at it will ruin you for god damn LIFE.

    That’s not a challenge. It’s a statement of fact, and you should accept it and never attempt to view it in any way…

    Scott Jacobs (fa5e57)

  9. Kevin Murphy,

    I did say in the post “as long as they’re not harming anyone.” If they are, that’s different, and they can be prosecuted for that.

    PDizzle,

    You want to prosecute him for cruelty to animals, sounds good to me.

    Patterico (cb443b)

  10. Was that Levi ?

    JD (75f5c3)

  11. This might be a big case. The Miller test requires the application of contemporary community standards. Not national standards. To me that means local prosecutions, not federal prosecutions. We’ll see if Kosinski strikes down the whole federal statute.

    nk (0e7da1)

  12. i’m a jurors’ rights guy. nobody can force me to watch six hours of bestiality and defecation.

    assistant devil's advocate (d5fe3a)

  13. I’d still rather be forced to sit through this than be forced to read the collected works of Levi.

    Jack Klompus (cf3660)

  14. I find it one of the great ironies in our country, that pornography has greater “rights” than political speech. Somehow all the “free speech enthusiasts” have decided that the right to “porn” is crucial and yet the limitation of political speech is necessary for a democracy. It’s amazingly contorted…

    PS: Porn is not a “victimless” crime

    jkstewart2 (25614b)

  15. jkstewart2: I agree.

    Pornographic obscenity like this goes hand in glove with other crimes like assault, drug abuse, homicide, child abuse, rape, etc. etc. Society’s (and apparently Patterico’s) indifference to the crime of obscenity is not without cost to civilization. When we ignore this type of behavior we are giving our tacit approval: not just for the artistic representation but for the actual behavior and depraved lifestyle presented. These are things that affect us all, as seen in the increasing vulgarity and obscenity of everyday life and unfortunately, in horrible cases of child rape and murder, among other crimes.

    pwilson (d63e2b)

  16. A prosecution last week in Tampa led to a conviction for what sounds like similar types of porn, involving coprophagia for example. This is an earlier article describing some of the porn:
    http://www.tampabay.com/news/courts/criminal/article537208.ece

    Peter (c36902)

  17. I’m not sure what you’re talking about in regard to “political speech,” jkstewart2. Could you provide a specific example?

    David Ehrenstein (f6984e)

  18. nobody can force me to watch six hours of bestiality and defecation.

    Heh! The jurors most likely to convict are also the most likely to be asked to be removed from the jury?

    nk (0e7da1)

  19. *to ask* not *to be asked*.

    If I had ever gotten the grasp of grammar, I might have made law review, myself, and even become a community organizer.

    nk (0e7da1)

  20. Patterico wrote: As the article notes, [Judge] Kozinski is a well-known libertarian and staunch advocate of free speech. He is unlikely to be particularly sympathetic to the Government’s case.

    Pat, you make it sound as if Kozinski’s mind is made up already, and that despite his duty to uphold the law, he will undoubtedly recognize nothing as being so revolting that it meets the threshold of “obscenity.” Rather than the famous judicial standard of “I know it when I see it,” you paint Kozinski’s intent in such trials as “I know I’ll never see it.”

    I am a layman, but I do watch the courts more than your average non-lawyer. The reason why I don’t like judges like Harry Blackmun, Stephen Breyer, the 9th Circus’ Stephen Reinhardt, CA’s Ronald “I am the Great Romancipator” George, and the like is because they don’t let the law get in the way of ruling the way they want — if necessary, they’ll pretend the laws are something they’re not, or that they are so inconsequential that extra-constitutional shortcuts should be taken, negating them by fiat.

    If Kozinski doesn’t share that modis operandi, a clarification is needed, methinks. I know your personal convictions call you to hope for Issacs’ acquittal, but your comments read as if you’re wishing for a corrupted verdict.

    L.N. Smithee (b048eb)

  21. HIJACK ALERT

    Seems to me if a 12 year old girl can engage in sex, never be compelled to name the male, and later have an abortion on her say so and no other, an adult can choose to be beaten/tortured. It matters not if the “actor’s” motivation is art or commerce.

    To me, my all-too real “12 year old” example is far worse abuse than alleged in this complaint. YMMV.

    Ed (532eeb)

  22. If beastiality is involved then it’s illegal. If one of the women was coerced into doing the movie — which may be the case if she cried the whole time she was on film — then it’s illegal.

    One thing I’ve never understood, and maybe Patterico can explain it to me, is why pornography is legal while prostitution is not. In both cases you have someone engaging in sex acts for money. If an action is illegal, then how does filming it make it legal? If it’s a matter of free speech or free press, that would then apply to any illegal act that was filmed. Obviously it doesn’t.

    I thought that maybe it’s because in porn the person paying is not the person engaging in the sex acts, while in prostitution, the person paying is paying for sex. But that would only work if the solicitation of prostitution were illegal but prostitution itself were not, and that’s not the case. So what’s the deal? Why is it illegal to perform sex acts for money, but legal to perform sex acts for money on film?

    Tragic Clown Dog (0a583c)

  23. TCG, there’s quite simply no logic or rationality to prostitution laws. Our society has so far agreed to be irrational about them because, well, we’re just not rational about that sort of thing.

    Phil (6d9f2f)

  24. My recollection is that years ago the LA DA’s office tried a prosecution of a porn outfit in the San Fernando valley on a prostitution charge but I don’t recall the outcome.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  25. #20
    Back when I lived in the Philly suburbs, the cops would at times round up Johns and embarrass them with publicity.
    At times here in Boca Raton, Fla. the cops arrest madames and call girls at massage parlors. They appear to leave out-call escort services pretty much alone and the girls advertise heavily in the mainstream newspapers and free alternative papers. One of my married neighbors frequently paid for escort services wherein he received lewinskys. I wonder if perhaps said services are paying protection money.

    madmax333 (a01a43)

  26. Q: What’s the difference between erotic and kinky?
    A: Erotic is when you use a feather. Kinky is when you use the whole chicken.

    nk (0e7da1)

  27. “Isaacs’s work sounds depraved…. it hardly seems a priority to prosecute smut peddlers, as long as they’re not harming anyone — no matter how sick their material might otherwise be.”

    While the law may end up supporting Isaac’s view of art and freedom to express it, that would not and could not negate the damage done to society and individuals creating and viewing said material. And thats the point, harm is being done. Nothing about pornographic obscenity is innocuous and as #15 said, it does affect us all. But its easy to miss.

    Dana (616272)

  28. the well-hung argentine lake duck boasts an 18-inch corkscrew penis.

    assistant devil's advocate (3e76c8)

  29. As I recall California has tried using anti-prostitution laws to shut down pornography production in years past, but the courts did not go along with the prosecution theory. A quick google found this link…

    http://www.sexwork.com/legal/pornorprostitution.html

    Brad (9a2a98)

  30. “I’d still rather be forced to sit through this than be forced to read the collected works of Levi.”

    Jack, you know you would never have to read L’s collected works; we all know what they say without reading them, and can write award-winning reviews of same with our minds unsullied by their vacuousness.

    Another Drew (8018ee)

  31. Ruh-roh.

    One of the highest-ranking federal judges in the United States, who is currently presiding over an obscenity trial in Los Angeles, has maintained his own publicly accessible website featuring sexually explicit photos and videos.

    Alex Kozinski, chief judge of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, acknowledged in an interview with The Times that he had posted the materials, which included a photo of naked women on all fours painted to look like cows and a video of a half-dressed man cavorting with a sexually aroused farm animal. Some of the material was inappropriate, he conceded, although he defended other sexually explicit content as “funny.”

    [With Christopher-Guest-as-Mister-Rogers voice:] Can you say “recusal?”

    L.N. Smithee (d1de1b)

  32. Wow, Smithee, just wow. Guys read the whole thing at Smithee’s link above. That pervert, Kozinski, has power over the life, liberty and property of millions of Americans, and Californians too.

    nk (4bb2be)


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