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Texas Convicts Porn Couple

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Oct 23, 2003 12:00 AM PDT    Text size: 
FORT WORTH, Texas – In the first federal obscenity case in Texas in more than ten years involving adult pornography, a jury convicted a couple today for selling graphic rape and torture videos from their website.

The defendants in the case, former police officer Garry Ragsdale and his wife Tamara Ragsdale, were charged on all counts, which included one count of conspiracy to mail obscene material and two counts of mailing obscene material, the Star-Telegram reported.

Officer Ragsdale had been with the Dallas police force for nearly eight years and was fired from his job in 1998 for "conduct unbecoming to an officer" when the website was first discovered by investigators.

The couple could face up to 20 years in prison and will be sentenced on Jan. 23 by U.S. District Judge Sidney Fitzwater. The Ragsdales operated their online video company through a contact in Canada, although authorities have not yet apprehended the third suspect.

The defense attorney in the case argued that the Ragsdale video tapes were not nearly as hardcore as a lot of adult material currently found online, and that the couple should be shielded by the First Amendment because they were merely providing material to consenting adults.

The attorney also brought in a sex expert to testify that adult movies are not nearly as damaging as some of the violent content being distributed by Hollywood movie studios.

The main crux of the defense's case rested on the 1973 case Miller v. California, in which the U.S. Supreme Court outlined definitions pertaining to adult "obscenity."

Those definitions, which deem certain material obscene and unlawful, rest on whether the average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest; whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by applicable state law; and whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.

But the attorney failed to convince the jury of his clients innocence.

"We are disappointed in the verdict," the attorney told the Star-Telegram. "There is other material out there that is far worse, and two of the tapes shown to the jury are currently sold on other websites."

The investigation into the Ragsdales' Internet business began five years ago, authorities reported, and the couple was indicted in June of this year.

The first lead in the case came when a German computer user sent a complaint to the Dallas Police Department, the Star-Telegram reported.

Texas authorities followed the tip to the Ragsdales' website where they allegedly sold porn tapes for $28 each and brought in significant yearly revenue.

"This case clearly demonstrates that a jury drawn from our community can make a determination that materials containing offensive adult material violate our community standards," said U.S. Attorney Jane Boyle in a prepared statement. "The citizens on the jury clearly rejected the Ragsdales' contention that the materials they sold did not violate community standards."

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