Civil Liberties

The Donkey Likes Angry Sex, and the Man Was Playing Hard to Get


In a letter to blogger Patrick Frey, Marcy Tiffany, Judge Alex Kozinski's wife, tries to set the record straight regarding her husband's collection of humorous, sometime raunchy digital pictures. Her most important points:

1. The "website" described by the Los Angeles Times is in fact a set of files on a computer in his home. Kozinski and his family use the computer as the server for their home network and as a way of sharing pictures and other files with relatives, friends, and acquaintances.

2. The files on the computer were never meant to be public but were accessed by Cyrus Sanai, a lawyer with a grudge against Kozinski, who shopped the more risqué images around to various news organizations, including the Times.

3. The images on which the Times focused not only are not the sort of material that would be found to be legally obscene; they do not even qualify as pornography, since their intent is to amuse rather than arouse. Furthermore, although the Times described the "sexually explicit material" as "extensive," it represents just "a tiny pecentage" of the files on the computer, which include many other visual jokes as well as personal files such as family photos.

4. The Times and other news outlets misrepresented the nature of the images. Footage the Times described as "video of a half-dressed man cavorting with a sexually aroused farm animal," for example, was actually a widely circulated YouTube video of "a man trying to relieve himself in a field when he is attacked by a donkey he fights off with one hand while trying to hold up his pants with the other." The San Francisco Chronicle, perhaps taking its cue from the Times, called this an example of "bestiality."

In light of these details, the attacks on Kozinski, whether on his ability to preside over an obscenity trial or on his fitness as a judge, are even more outrageous. Stanford law professor Larry Lessig's take on this, which likens Sanai to a burglar rummaging through Kozinski's home, looking for potentially embarrassing reading material, seems apt. 

Previous posts on this story are here and here.