July 1, 2007

A View from Riverside Drive, Commentary by Ed Hynes, July 2007

Porn shop operators have already been indicted on state obscenity charges in Wichita and Topeka because citizens in those towns took advantage of a powerful legal weapon available to Kansans. The weapon is a state law that requires local prosecutors to convene a grand jury to investigate charges of criminality if petitioned to do so by citizens in their jurisdictions.

Phillip Cosby of the National Coalition For Protection of Children and Families helped organize those petition drives, and he has now organized a similar effort in the two counties of Kansas City, Kansas, and the four counties of Kansas City, Missouri. More than 20,000 people signed the petitions in the Kansas City efforts through their churches in the six counties. These petitions were delivered to the prosecutors on May 17

The petitions call for the investigation of 32 businesses – “adult” bookstores, “adult” video stores, and strip clubs – in Wyandotte and Johnson Counties in Kansas, and Platte, Clay, Cass, and Jackson Counties in Missouri.

The petition law mandates that grand juries be convened within 60 days in the Kansas counties, but there is no such law in Missouri, so prosecutors on the Missouri side are free to weigh their options, which include ignoring the petitions and then running for reelection knowing the petitions were signed by thousands of voters.

With petitions and the vote, power to the people is more than a slogan in both Kansas Cities. But with petitions, it’s quicker.

 


In Columbus, Ohio, “adult” business owners and nude dancers have begun a petition drive of their own, seeking to overturn a new Ohio law that bans nude dancing after midnight and makes it a crime for patrons to touch dancers. They need more than 241,000 signatures by September 3 to put the issue on the general election ballot in November.

In addition to strip clubs, the law applies to “adult” bookstores, “adult” video stores, “adult” movie theaters, “adult” cabarets, sexual device shops, and businesses the Ohio Legislative Service Commission calls “sexual encounter centers.”

Despite that, the owners and dancers have organized for this effort under the name Citizens for Community Standards (CCS). Some standards. The name is curiously close to Citizens for Community Values, the pro-decency anti-porn organization in Cincinnati that successfully pushed for enactment of the law.

It should come as no surprise that the dancers have named themselves “Dancers for Democracy.” Owners and dancers say all they’re doing is protecting their right to free speech and expression. Besides, business is down even in advance of the law’s September 4 effective date.

 


In Atlanta, Mayor Shirley Franklin is leading an anti-prostitution campaign aimed as much at the johns (the sex- and porn-addicted men who solicit prostitutes) as at the prostitutes themselves and their pimps. She’s especially incensed by men who solicit child prostitutes, and has issued a public warning to them in a flyer and poster that carry this message:

 

DEAR JOHN

You have been abusing our kids, prostituting them and throwing them onto the street when you’re done. As Mayor of Atlanta, I have promised to listen to people. Kids are no exception. When you buy sex from our kids, you hurt them, you hurt our families and you hurt our city.
It’s over John. No more –

NOT IN MY CITY

– MAYOR SHIRLEY FRANKLIN

 

The Atlanta Police Department, like police in Chicago and other cities, publicize photos and other information about men who have been convicted of soliciting prostitutes

 


The National Feminist Antipornography Movement (NFAM) has developed a Power Point presentation on the content and effects of pornography. It’s designed for use in school, club and church groups, or wherever people might be gathered to discuss and try to solve the immense problems created by the pornification of our culture.

The package includes a slide show of 120 Power Point images and a 50-minute script. The presentation covers background on the nature and effects of pornography; the harms of pornography to the individual, to relationships and to the culture; the relationship between adult pornography and child pornography, and ways to integrate anti-porn education into a range of programs.

In a flyer describing the package, Professor Gail Dines of Wheelock College, wrote, “The slideshow is our first line of offense in the battle we must wage to reclaim this culture from the misogyny, racism and brute power of the pornographers.” She co-authored the presentation with Professor Rebecca Whisnant of Dayton University, and Professor Robert Jensen of the University of Texas at Austin.

NFAM Power Point presentations at church groups and elsewhere can help rouse public pressure for a return to obscenity law enforcement by state and federal police law enforcement agencies and prosecutors. The more of this kind of activity at the grass roots level the better.

To get the package, send an e-mail to: feministantipornographymovement@yahoo.com. Professor Dines writes, “We are asking for $5 to cover costs and a donation to the movement if anyone is feeling generous.”

 


There was a time when the country could rely on vigorous enforcement of federal and state obscenity laws. That changed in 1993, when the Clinton/Reno Justice Department dropped the adult obscenity ball and opened the gates for the flood tide of filth that has engulfed the country to this day. Before 1993, prosecutions under the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations left the pornographers reeling. The porn makers and distributors had the temerity to call that time a “holocaust,” ignoring the unique place that word holds in the history of World War Two. Talk about chutzpah! These people have no shame, of course. How could they have shame and do what they do?

The porn business trade paper Adult Video News endorsed Clinton for reelection in 1996, citing his “hands-nearly-off porn policy.” Clinton won and, in March 1998, AVN crowed, “IT’S A GREAT TIME TO BE AN ADULT RETAILER. . . . The adult industry’s numbers have increased nearly 100% in five years. With a more relaxed Justice Department, some retailers felt free not only to carry but also to market adult product.” Imagine that. Marketing “adult product,” as opposed to merely stocking it, was news for AVN readers just nine years ago.

The porn producers have found the going easier each year 1993 because of a circular dynamic that feeds upon itself. The failure to prosecute leads to more hardcore pornography and the proliferation of hardcore pornography makes it difficult or causes many prosecutors to think it will be difficult if not possible to convince juries that hardcore pornography is offensive to community standards.

Things got so bad that Los Angeles City Attorney Rockard (“Rocky”) Delgadillo backed off on two obscenity cases ready to go to trial in 2002. Inexplicably, he let both defendants plead to “public nuisance” charges, for which they were required to “donate” $1,000 to the state’s “victim restitution fund,” and walk away, free to go on peddling their hardcore porn instead of facing a trial that could have put them in jail and taken their movies out of circulation.

Adult Video News reported that the defendant and his attorney in the second case were asked if either “had yet been contacted by or had been able to identify any ‘victims’ of the videotapes charged in this case” and that both “responded simply, ‘Nope.'” As we commented at the time, if this were football, AVN would have been flagged for taunting.

There are reasons to hope, as we have in the past, that this may be changing.

We can hope that the NFAM Power Point presentations will educate the public on the horrible and brutal reality of hardcore pornography, demonstrating that this material is very offensive, indeed. In addition, hardcore porn dealers are on the defensive in current cases, and prosecutors are talking tough.

 


The well-named Max Hardcore and his company, MaxWorld Entertainment, Inc., were charged in a 10-count federal indictment May 17 with distributing obscene matter via computer and by mail. The business is located in California, but the case is being prosecuted in Florida. The government is seeking forfeiture of the obscene films charged in the indictment, all gross profits from the distribution of the films, and all property used to facilitate the charged obscenity crimes, including “Hardcore’s” residence in Altadena, California.

Hardcore, whose real name is Paul F. Little, faced state obscenity charges twice several years ago and was brought to trial by the City of Los Angeles. In both cases, the jury failed to reach a verdict.

Charges in the current case are based on an investigation by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The case is being prosecuted by trial attorneys with the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section of the Criminal Division, with the assistance of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida.

 


Max Hardcore DVDs figure in another federal obscenity case. Two men have been charged with selling three obscene DVDs, including two produced by Hardcore and one by Extreme Associates. Sami R. Harb and Michael Harb, who operate Movies by Mail, an Internet sales business located in Cleveland, were due to appear in the U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City June 29 to answer the charge. They face a potential maximum penalty of five years in federal prison if convicted.

The three DVDs have a combined running time of five and a half hours, filled with scenes of brutish anal, vaginal and oral intercourse, and severe violence towards the women in the videos.

U.S. Attorney Brett L. Tolman in Salt Lake City said in a statement, “The U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices nationwide have stepped up the prosecution of obscenity cases, as evidence increases of the harm of obscenity to American children and families. As obscene materials continue to proliferate, they are becoming more accessible. . . At the same time they are becoming more extreme and degrading in content and present a growing threat to the well being of American families and our society as a whole.”

 


 

In Phoenix June 25, a federal district court jury convicted two men on obscenity and other charges arising out of their operation of an international pornography spamming business. Included for the first time were charges under the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 (Controlling the Assault of Non-solicited Pornography and Marketing Act).

The jury convicted, Jeffrey A. Kilbride, 41, of Venice, Calif., and James R. Schaffer, 41, of Paradise Valley, Ariz., on eight counts arising out of the international pornographic spamming business they organized and ran in 2004. The trial began on June 5.

Witnesses traveled from Massachusetts, Texas, Iowa, California and Arizona to describe the context in which their families, including some children, received the pornographic spam messages.

Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher said, “Through their international spamming operation, these defendants made millions of dollars by sending unwanted sexually explicit emails to hundreds of thousands of innocent people, including families and children, while simultaneously using sophisticated Internet technology to try to conceal their identity.” She added that the prosecution “demonstrates the Department of Justice’s commitment to protect American families from receiving unsolicited spam email.”

 


In Detroit, Aleksandr Maksimenko, age 27, was sentenced to serve 14 years in prison and to pay $1.5 million in restitution for his role in operating a human trafficking ring which forced Eastern European women to work in area strip clubs. According to court papers, Maksimenko and his business partners smuggled women into the country and then forced the women to keep working in strip clubs by confiscating their passports, imposing debts, isolating dancers, threatening physical violence, and threatening to turn the dancers into authorities because of their illegal immigrant status.

According to a press release issued by the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, human trafficking prosecutions “are a top priority of the Justice Department. In the last six fiscal years, the Civil Rights Division, in conjunction with U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, has increased by six-fold the number of human trafficking cases filed in court.” Author: Ed Hynes   07/01/2007

Further Reading