Wake Up Call: John Stagliano’s Obscenity Trial Will Affect Us All

UPDATE Friday July 16: All charges against John Stagliano have been dropped on a technicality. “‘I hope the government will learn a lesson from its experience,’ [U.S. District Court Judge Richard J.] Leon said in a rebuke. He cited a string of “difficult, challenging and novel questions” raised in the case concerning decades-old federal obscenity statutes, the Internet, free speech and criminal defendants’ rights.'” Read U.S. District judge drops porn charges against video producer John A. Stagliano (washingtonpost.com)


The Stagliano (Evil Angel) obscenity trial is happening right now. The prosecution rests tomorrow (friday) morning and it’s looking like the jury will have the case by monday. Everyone, everyone in law, sex, media freedom and free speech is glued to their respective news feeds to see what will happen. It is the first adult (pornographic) obscenity trial to hit Washington D.C.’s District Court in over 20 years. The jury must decide if his work is obscene by “community standards” and has been instructed to apply US definitions of “community standards” — definitions that are about 40 years old. I wanted to title this post something along the lines of ‘Stagliano porn obscenity trial most important thing mainstream/corporate media has ignored in decades’. This needs to be covered far and wide, and with intelligence and insight by non-porn outlets: Salon and especially Reason Magazine are leading the pack. Reason wrote, If You Care About Free Expression, Be Outraged: The Obscenity Trial of John Stagliano, Happening Now in DC. Outlets like Washington Examiner simply fail to point out important things, like that while they tell us that Justice Potter Stewart famously said “I know it when I see it” that he later retracted the statement specifically in regard to obscenity because he felt it was untenable.

The trial got hotter now that Professor Constance Penley was slated to testify but was disallowed — and now it appears that Lorelei Lee is going to testify for the defense (Stagliano). Lee starred in one of the films in the trial. The prosecution (aka the US government) is attempting to force Lee to reveal her real name in order for her to testify.

The Twitter #Stagliano hashtag is a good place to look for updates, but always verify any Twitter rumors. Reason Magazine is a great source for unbiased coverage (just ignore all the annoying BoingBoing ass-kissing). Richard Abowitz is covering John Stagliano’s obscenity trial in Washington, D.C. for Reason. Follow Abowitz on Twitter for breaking news, and follow Reason’s immediate Stagliano coverage at this link.

What’s the background? In 2008 pornographer John Stagiano was indicted on eight obscenity counts. Today two counts were thrown out (including the trailer for “Fetish Fanatics” on a recording technicality). Salon takes it from here:

(…) The story starts in 2005, when the Bush administration created the Obscenity Prosecution Task Force dedicated “exclusively to the protection of America’s children and families through the enforcement of our Nation’s obscenity laws.” And enforce they have, successfully prosecuting fetish filmmakers like Max Hardcore and Ira Isaacs. But Stagliano is big game. So in December 2007, an FBI agent paid $57.48 for “Jay Sin’s Milk Nymphos” and “Storm Squirters 2: Target Practice,” and watched the trailer for “Fetish Fanatic 5” — none of which, by the way, Stagliano directed. On April 8, 2008, he and his production company Evil Angel were indicted on federal obscenity charges.

In her opening statement Tuesday morning, prosecutor Bonnie Hannan told the jury, “This case is about crossing the line,” saying the material in question “exceeds the bounds of decency.” Court papers describe the films as containing “numerous scenes of urination, use of enemas and violent bondage. In a number of scenes, participants ingested urine and excretion from the enemas.”

But while enema excretion may not be your two girls, one cup of tea, the notion of sending a guy away for something anybody with Internet access can find in under two seconds seems ludicrous — something clearly defined as explicit content, from a man who says, “I don’t want porno to be in the faces of people who don’t want to see it.” Yet as the Obscenity Prosecution Task Force helpfully explains, “The welfare of America’s children and families demands the vigorous enforcement of obscenity statutes.” Because what goes on between consenting adults over the age of 18 and is distributed to consenting adults over the age of 18 is threatening the welfare of the family and therefore a crime. (…read more, salon.com)

Share This Post


Post Comment