Filmmaker Gets 4 Years for Grossing Out Jurors


Today Ira Isaacs, a self-described "shock artist," was sentenced to four years in federal prison for shocking people a little too much. The FBI describes his crimes:

Evidence presented at trial established that beginning in or about 1999 and continuing until at least 2011, Isaacs, doing business under the name LA. Media, operated numerous websites, through which he advertised and sold obscene videos that he acquired from other people. The obscene videos included a video approximately two hours in length of a female engaging in sex acts involving human bodily waste and a video one hour and 37 minutes in length of a female engaged in sex acts with animals. The evidence presented at trial also established that in approximately 2004, Isaacs began operating under the name Stolen Car Films and made obscene videos in which he instructed women to engage in sexual activity involving human bodily waste.

Federal prosecutors had to try Isaacs three times before winning a conviction. According to Morality in Media, Isaacs' sentence "sends a strong message to the porn industry and to the U.S. Department of Justice that the sexual exploitation of women by pornographers is wrong." Yet no one was forced to participate in making these movies, and no one was forced to watch them. Except for the jurors, who took their revenge last April by finding him guilty on five counts of producing and distributing obscenity—which, lest you forget, is still a crime under federal and state laws, although one that has never been clearly defined. In practice, you find out whether you committed it only after you have been arrested and prosecuted.

Isaacs argued that he was an artist, but the jury did not buy it. (A Canadian horror movie maker had better luck with that defense last month, when he was acquitted of illegally combining sex and violence—one of the ways Canada defines obscenity.) It is rather startling that in the year 2013, an American's liberty can still hinge on the utterly subjective aesthetic judgments of 12 randomly selected art critics.

Previous coverage of the Isaacs case here.