Is John Stagliano's Victory a First Amendment Victory?


Friday's dismissal of obscenity charges against John Stagliano is great news, since no one should be threatened with prison for distributing pornography produced by and for consenting adults. But the outcome should not be read as a victory for the First Amendment. As the account by Mark Kernes of Adult Video News makes clear, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon's decision to stop the trial after the prosecutors presented their case hinged on their incredibly sloppy work in linking Stagliano to the sale and interstate shipping of the two films at issue in the case. Leon ruled that the government had not presented enough evidence for the jurors to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that Stagliano himself had anything to do with approving the content of the films or distributing them. It seems that if the prosecutors had been a little more careful in laying that foundation, the trial could have proceeded, in which cases the jurors still would have been asked to pass judgment on whether Milk Nymphos and Storm Squirters 2 appeal to "the prurient interest," are "patently offensive" according to "contemporary community standards," and lack any "serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value." As I argued last week, such utterly subjective judgments have no place in a court of law.

Go here for Reason's coverage of the Stagliano case.