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Opening Arguments

Sick stuff

So who's guilty of pushing obscene material here?

LOS ANGELES - What violates community obscenity standards in the nation's reputed pornography capital? Federal prosecutors think they have a case.

Ira Isaacs readily admits he produced and sold movies depicting bestiality and sexual activity involving feces and urine. The judge warned potential jurors that the hours of fetish videos included violence against women, and many of them said they don't want to serve because watching would make them sick to their stomachs.

"It's the most extreme material that's ever been put on trial. I don't know of anything more disgusting," said Roger Jon Diamond — Isaacs' own defense attorney.

The guy who made it just offers it, right? People are free to sample it or not. It's the prosecutors who are forcing people to watch it. I think setting local standards for obscenity is not a bad approach. But if I remember the Supreme Court case correctly, the idea was that communities would actually set those standards. Not federal prosecutors. (I know, I know. It's actually the jury, in how it votes, that will set the local standards. But the potential line is draw by whoever brings the case.)


Alex Kozinski is more accustomed to appearing on lists to fill U.S. Supreme Court vacancies than headlines involving pornographic scandals.

But on Wednesday, the chief judge of the country's largest federal appeals court was forced to suspend an obscenity trial he was presiding over after sexually explicit images posted to his personal Web site became public.

The Los Angeles Times reported on its Web site that Kozinski had posted sexual material on his personal Web site and then blocked access after being interviewed about it Tuesday evening.

Kozinski, 57, told the Times he thought the material on his site, which included a video of a man cavorting with a sexually aroused farm animal, couldn't be seen by the public. The judge said he didn't believe any of the images were obscene.

Oops. If the judge of the obscenity trial doesn't such things are obscene, doesn't that say something about what the community's standards might be?


Thu, 06/12/2008 - 9:28am

More interesting to me is what the relevant community is? Should it be the geographic community?

Bob G.
Thu, 06/12/2008 - 10:07am

What CAN one expect from the 9th District Circuit Court out by the "left" coast?
(community "standards" notwithstanding)

That court's been screwed up for YEARS...about time we found out HOW bad it is.


Harl Delos
Thu, 06/12/2008 - 11:05am

"Is it prurient? I don't know what to tell you," he told the newspaper. "I think it's odd and interesting. It's part of life."

So the judge does has a point. It's rude, offensive, and disgusting, according to the LA Times, but prurient? No. It doesn't sound like it would cause one to itch with desire.

He also described some of the stuff as "funny". One of the images was a picture of nude women on all fours, painted to look like cows. I suspect men might find that one more funny than women.

Online porn is controlled by the Communications Decency Act, which is a terrible law. First of all, it defines porn as various types of images. Text porn isn't porn at all, according to the CDA

Second, it says if you have a commercial porn site, you have to keep kiddies out, somehow. It doesn't say how, so the rule of thumb is that you have to provide a valid credit card. Kids get in anyway, and this leads to identity theft. And why are pictures on a commercial porn site bad, yet perfectly fine if some idiot uploads them to his personal website?

There are rules against pix of bestial porn or kiddie porn, but the judge's pix seem to have only hinted at the first, and completely avoided the second.

Still, if I were running for President, I wouldn't want it known that my second cousin's barber's auto mechanic once sold the judge a set of snow tires.

Thu, 06/12/2008 - 1:56pm

Why are prosecutors wasting time and money on this in the first place?

tim zank
Thu, 06/12/2008 - 5:24pm

Harl..."So the judge does has a point." Except for a spelling quibble, I agree...

We're even...

Harl Delos
Thu, 06/12/2008 - 5:29pm

Why are prosecutors wasting time and money on this in the first place?

There's a law against beastial porn. Someone in Congress got a butt up his burro about it, and introduced a bill; few in Congress wanted to explain a "no" vote to voters, so it passed.

The prosecutors can enforce the law or ignore it, but they aren't elected. They serve at the pleasure of the President. He appointed them, and he can (pun warning!) disappoint them.

So *every* federal prosecution, not just porn, occurs either because either the prosecutor thinks it's a good idea, or because they've been told the White House thinks it's a good idea.

There's actually a third possibility. If a prosecutor were bribed by the criminal to do a bad job, it would mean that the criminal would have immunity from prosecution in the future.

I don't recall ever seeing a scandal about this. I don't think it's because no prosecutor is corrupt. Maybe it's that it's too hard to catch a prosecutor doing this. Or maybe it's just not worth the risk for piddling matters, and for major crimes, it'd take a lot of guts for a criminal to trust the prosecutor to throw the trial. Would YOU trust someone who is, by definition, corrupt?

Harl Delos
Thu, 06/12/2008 - 5:49pm

Except for a spelling quibble, I agree