A Pound of Flesh

Lawrence Walters
2007 will bring some prosecution efforts against the adult industry but fewer than expected when George W. Bush was re-elected in 2004.

Several years ago, word began to leak out of a concerted effort to re-ignite obscenity prosecutions against the adult industry by the Justice Department.

The Religious Right began demanding its "pound of flesh," after the Ashcroft-led Department of Justice proved to be a disappointment to their censorship agenda.

The re-election of George W. Bush was accompanied by the appointment of a new U.S. attorney general, Alberto Gonzalez, who promptly pledged to make prosecution of adult websites a high priority.

Riding high on his re-election, with plenty of political capital to spend, Bush's agenda seemed unstoppable in 2005. However, life has a way of laying waste to the best-laid plans.

Extreme Associates
The first high-profile prosecution — against Extreme Associates – was stopped dead in its tracks by a courageous decision from U.S. District Court Judge Lancaster in the Western District of Pennsylvania. Although the decision was reversed on appeal, and the prosecution resumed, much of the wind has been taken out of the sails of the Justice Department in this particular case.

Instead of showing the Religious Right that the Bush administration is serious about obscenity prosecution against the adult industry, the Extreme Associates case has now merely provided a pulpit for Rob Black to criticize and humiliate the Justice Department's censorship efforts.

Then there's this little problem in the Middle East, which Bush can't seem to solve, no matter how many guns he sends over to that part of the world. The difficulties encountered in Iraq and Afghanistan have been distracting to a Justice Department that had hoped to move on to more "red meat" issues for the fundamentalist movement, by this point.

Although Congress was successful in passing amendments to Section 2257, and some inspections have occurred, the FBI seems to be treating this issue more as a regulatory effort, as opposed to a law enforcement matter.

Certainly, some adult companies will be prosecuted for 2257 violations in the coming months, however the combination of the Free Speech Coalition's continued injunction protecting secondary producers from certain records keeping obligations, along with the seemingly lackluster vigor with which the investigating agents are enforcing the law, might result in less intimidation than hoped for by the administration.

The Justice Department's most recent effort against, in New York City, proved to be another loss at least on the obscenity issues. Try as they might, they just cannot seem to get this thing off the ground.

Although existing prosecutions in Florida and Pennsylvania may set important precedent for years to come, new cases may be fewer than expected. The shift to Democratic control in Congress hasn't helped things much either.

Since the Democrats now control the agenda, it is unlikely that we will see the introduction of additional legislation focused on doing harm to the adult industry, in particular.

Child protection measures are always popular regardless of which party is in control, however the Democrats do not need to pander to the right-wing fundamentalists when setting the agenda, which can only be helpful for the adult industry.

In sum, I believe the industry will enjoy a temporary reprieve from its anticipated death sentence, presumed to be in store only a few years ago.

This hiatus hopefully will provide the opportunity for the adult industry to become politically motivated and engaged in the 2008 presidential election, in an effort to secure its own destiny for the years to come. The time is now.

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