John Stagliano Trial

Holder and Obscenity Prosecutions

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Some civil libertarians worry that Eric Holder will be inclined to continue the Bush administration's crusade against pornography. They cite a June 1998 memo in which he told U.S. attorneys that obscenity prosecutions should focus on "cases involving large-scale distributors who realize substantial income from multistate operations and cases in which there is evidence of organized crime involvement" but added that "cases involving relatively small distributors can have a deterrent effect." The Clinton administration's actual track record in this area, however, consisted almost entirely of cases involving child pornography. "We continue to make these [child porn] cases a priority," Holder says in the memo. Social conservatives often complained that the Clinton administration was not interested in taking on pornography made by and for consenting adults. We probably can look forward to hearing such complaints again under the Obama administration.

Here is a 2000 account from J. Robert Flores, vice president and senior counsel at the National Law Center for Children and Families, of the May 1998 meeting that apparently generated Holder's memo: 

Mr. Holder seemed genuinely concerned with our requests. But he had little understanding of the obscenity industry. Afterwards, he contacted all 93 U.S. attorneys in the states to remind them that the prosecution of obscenity producers and distributors was still a priority, and they were responsible to act.

Still, nothing happened. The porn industry's trade publications reported the Justice Department had sent this letter, but pornographers obviously didn't fear prosecution and continued "business as usual."

In the May 2004 issue of reason, Greg Beato reported on U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan's prosecution of Extreme Associates, an obscenity case that's scheduled for trial in March. This year Nick Gillespie interviewed John Stagliano, another target of the Bush administration anti-porn campaign.

NEXT: Holder on Executive Power

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  1. Eat shit and die Obamatarians!
    Don’t blame me, I didn’t vote consent to be governed this election.You can all blame me for voting for Saxby Chambliss in the Senate runoff in GA(turns out you didn’t have to vote in the general). I’m holding my nose and making believe I’m saving my Second Amendment rights.

  2. In the future if a doctor asks me, why do you need antidepressing meds?

    I’ll say

    The great reporting from Reason Magazine…lol

    It sucks to be right about obama not bringing change, but man this is ridiculous.

  3. SIV
    Did you even read the post? It argues that Clinton/Holder was and hence Obama/Holder will probably be, BETTER on porn.

    I know that is tough to wrap your head around, but that’s that mattress man.

  4. Squirm SIV, squirm!

    From the article linked above:

    “The federal government generally has not pursued pornography and obscenity for at least a decade. The Clinton administration declined to prosecute cases, and no book stores, video stores or Internet sites — except those involving children engaging in sex — were closed.

    Former Attorney General John Ashcroft, a Christian conservative who stepped down last December, also disappointed social conservatives by not prosecuting porn during his tenure. In the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Ashcroft placed his focus on anti-terrorism efforts.

    But the social conservatives have gained traction with new Attorney General Gonzales, a close associate of President Bush who is considered a strong contender for a U.S. Supreme Court nomination. In May, Gonzales established an Obscenity Prosecution Task Force under the office’s criminal division.”

    Thank God we have a Democratic administration again, huh?

  5. We in the adult entertainment industry are nervously hopeful that an Obama presidency will return this country’s Department of Justice focus to its rightful place: prosecuting injustice, such as the sexualization of children.

    Putting people who like to film consenting adults engaging in athletic acts of sexual behavior in prison hardly qualifies.

    While Max Hardcore prepares for prison, the AIG wonders what it will do with all that government gift of tax payer money if it can just get its hands on it.

    Which is guilty of obscenity?

  6. Crow Eating Dumbass,

    Like he is going to be better on teh weed too.

  7. C’mon, SIV, you can do it, though your hands shake when you do, just type it:

    The Democrats have been better on pornography in the past 16 years. Clinton’s justice department was better than Bush’s.

    C’mon, man up!

  8. Max Hardcore is going to prison?

    WTF. That guy’s a legend in porn!

    These conservatives…Theocrats…Argh…

  9. The problem with porn is trying to define it as speech, which it isn’t. The second problem with porn is that the government has decreed that some porn is obscenity and obscenity isn’t speech, only socially redeeming blowjobs are speech. Which is one of the reasons they tapped Stagliano and said Come here, John, milk enemas aren’t protected speech.

    Now, us real libertarians (drink now) would say that while milk enemas may not constitute actual speech, that it ain’t nobody’s business.

    Other more cynical libertarians might think that there is more to being free than picking up a copy of Hustler at the local Seven Eleven when you stop by to get smokes.

    So, Holder may back off a little bit, but in the main, there hasn’t been much in the way of porn persecution (these two cases notwithstanding). For comparison, let’s jump in the Way Back and go back to 1960.

  10. Meant to also say that there are many fronts to the war on The Man, and I don’t expect Eric Holder to be on our side of the barricades on many of them. Like weed (thanks SIV) for instance.

  11. To be clear, I mean the legal definitions of porn, and obscenity, speech etc.

  12. “there hasn’t been much in the way of porn persecution (these two cases notwithstanding)”

    Where’s your backing for that claim?

    “The second problem with porn is that the government has decreed that some porn is obscenity and obscenity isn’t speech”

    The problem is this “community standards” test, where each community can decide what’s illegal. The rule should be: are there underage kids involved? No, then go nuts.

  13. We will still be able to goatse, lemonparty, and 2girls1cup each other during the Obama administration. All is well.

  14. Social conservatives often complained that the Clinton administration was not interested in taking on pornography made by and for consenting adults. We probably can look forward to hearing such complaints again under the Obama administration.

    I sure hope so. Feel good story of the day.

    feel real good

  15. That 1998 memo isn’t very reassuring. Janet Reno and Bill Clinton might have restrained Holder’s porn prosecuting proclivities.

    Incidentally I was shocked to find that 2girls1cup filth was produced by the same company that makes the wholesome lesbian asphyxiation porn.

  16. Communications Decency Act?

  17. The Bush administration has shut down quite a few “Mom and Pop” porn adult video stores around the nation.

    And their Rule interpreting the record keeping provisions of 18 U.S.C. 2257…

    And yes the “Mom and Pop” phrase is used so that it may be the source of something funny around here. Get to work people!

  18. Who the fuck goes to a store to see porn anymore? Is it 1985?

  19. “Janet Reno and Bill Clinton might have restrained Holder’s porn prosecuting proclivities.”

    lol, that’s the closest we may get to SIV admitting the Dems were better on porn than his cons!

  20. BDB
    The Bush administration loans out US prosecutors to assist local prosecutors in bringing obscenity charges against adult video stores. In some cases the DOJ directly charges distributors.

    And the DOJ changed the record keeping requirements via administrative rule in a way which significantly hampers porn online.

    The theocrat (conservative) porn war is pretty “hard core”

  21. I’m just saying, who gets porn at video stores anymore? It seems kind of uh, old fashioned, that they’re targeting brick-and-mortar video stores if they’re going after porn.

  22. Oh BDB, they’re getting online providers too!

    If SIV were other than a shill he’d shit a brick over this. It has everything the “Single Issue Voter” could want, totally consensual behavior, commercial behavior, and the feds doing it all.

    Instead his first thought is: can’t let the conservatives look bad on this…

  23. It’d be like “cracking down” on music piracy by targeting people who copy cassette tapes.

  24. “The Bush administration has stepped up obscenity prosecutions, indicting dozens of people since 2001, far more than the Clinton administration pursued.” Associated Press, 10-20-05

    And this was 2005. Gonzales created the Obscenity Prosecution Task Force that year so it’s work is not even counted…

  25. “But the federal anti-porn crusade proved short-lived. When Bill Clinton took office in 1993, he and his attorney general, Janet Reno, had little interest in devoting attention and resources to new obscenity prosecutions (which declined dramatically during the first few years of the Clinton administration). ”

    “This is where the politics of porn get more complicated. The 1987-1992 prosecutions were in truth the only period of sustained federal obscenity prosecution in history — that is, those years were the exception, not the rule. Why? In essence, the Reagan-era and Bush-era prosecutions — and the relatively broad interpretation of the obscenity statutes that Trueman, Taylor, and others brought to them — were a consequence of conservative activists flexing their political muscle within an administration sympathetic to their ideological concerns. Indeed, Citizens for Decency through Law had so many alumni at the CEOS that, as a Washington Post article put it in 1993, CDL’s “causes and targets became virtually indistinguishable from those of the Justice Department.” But the anti-porn movement had no such muscle within a Democratic administration. “[Clinton] appointed Janet Reno as his attorney general,” says Mark Kernes, an editor at the trade publication Adult Video News. “And she did not think that persecuting people who want to watch adult material in the privacy of their own homes should be a law enforcement priority.”

    Squirm SIV, Squirm, wiggle and dance, but most of all, spin, spin, spin!

  26. Child porn is and ought to be a very high priority with any administration. And you adult entertainment illuminati who think that garbage does no harm are living on a cloud. I help pick up the pieces from the failed marriages and pathetically addicted men and women. Think again. All porn is a stinking cesspool.

  27. Ms. James: I’m guessing your definition of addiction is “something other people enjoy that I don’t like”.

    Unless you can point to cases where people actually got sick from watching porn, that is, as would be required by the actual medical definition of addiction.

  28. Child religious indoctrination is and ought to be a very high priority with any administration. And you ignorant theism illuminati who think that garbage does no harm are living on a cloud. I help pick up the pieces from the failed marriages and pathetically addicted men and women. Think again. All religion is a stinking cesspool.

  29. Also, Donna, even if your claims of the harmfulness of porn were true, the damage done to porn consumers would ultimately be self-inflicted. If you’re arguing that the govt and the law must protect people from themselves, you’re really preaching to the wrong crowd.

  30. It’s a good thing that no one at Justice has seen Catholic High School Girls In Trouble.

  31. Garbage does, in fact, harm- pretty much exactly why Donna James should keep her mouth shut.

  32. McCain would have been worse.

  33. I would like to know how and why Donna James found this site.

  34. The Bush administration has shut down quite a few “Mom and Pop” porn adult video stores around the nation.

    Speaking of Mom and Pop Porn Shops

  35. A guy I know took some legal settlement money and had a porno made in Cali. It was innovative, I suppose. A sex competition. Anyway, the other day he told me that, on the advice of industry folks, they sent it back to editing to remove all the “squirting” (we’re talking female here).

    Can you believe that? I can’t even begin to imagine the thinking of whichever government official decided this practice was more obscene than all the others, and merited the Federal Govt.’s attention. Boggles the mind.

    One more thing: Before 9/11 there was talk of a huge Bush/Ashcroft assault on porn, which never materialized as the administration focused on terrorism. So at least there’s one positive outcome of all that. Right?

  36. BDB | November 19, 2008, 8:34pm | #
    Who the fuck goes to a store to see porn anymore? Is it 1985?

    it could be. that’s why I bought a beeper from Dennis. just in case i get a call from back then…

  37. I don’t recall the whackjob feminists being any better on porn than the Ashcrofts of the world. It is pick your puritan poison really. I would love to have an AG from either party say protecting the country from crooks, mobsters and is more important than cracking down on Youporn, but I don’t see that happening.

  38. I can see that no one remembers the Clinton years very well. The CDA was promoted with great zeal by the president and by the solicitor general (and DOJ). Only the Supreme Court saved us from that.

    Of course, Congress (both parties) loved the act, too.

    I’m amazed that people think that there’s this giant difference between the parties in operation. Look at law enforcement–DHS aside, it’s arguable that the Clinton administration (lookin’ tough) was worse than the Bush administration! Six of one, half a dozen of another.

  39. whackjob feminists

    Feminists don’t give whackjobs because they’re oppressive.

    Sexist.

  40. You can take my porn…from my cold, dead, sticky hands!

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