ForbiddenVideos.com Operators Convicted on Obscenity Charges

Rhett Pardon
DALLAS — The operators of ForbiddenVideos.com on Monday were convicted by a federal jury on obscenity and conspiracy charges.

The Justice Department accused Clarence Thomas "Tom" Gartman and Brent Alan McDowell of running a website that advertised and distributed videos and streaming media that included scenes of rape, sexual torture, and urination and defacation in conjunction with sex acts.

Gartman was convicted in U.S. District Court in Dallas on one count of conspiracy to distribute obscene materials and one count of mailing obscene materials and aiding and abetting. McDowell, a former Houston cop, was convicted of one count of mailing obscene matter and aiding and abetting.

Both defendants, who began their Internet operation in 1998, were charged in an indictment returned by a Dallas grand jury in May 2004.

A third defendant, Lou Anthony Santilena, was acquitted of all charges.

The probe into the ForbiddenVideos.com case was a multiagency investigation. The FBI, U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Dallas Police Department worked together to provide evidence for the indictments and prosecution, which was handled by the Justice Department’s Obscenity Prosecution Task Force.

The task force was established last year by the Justice Department’s Criminal Division to focus on the prosecution of adult obscenity nationwide.

Gartman, 35, could face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $500,000 fine. McDowell, 37, faces a possible maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The pair currently live in Las Vegas and remain on bond until sentencing, which is scheduled on June 15.

ForbiddenVideos.com was identified during a probe into another case involving Garry Layne Ragsdale and wife Tamara Michelle Ragsdale, who were convicted three years ago by a federal jury.

That case was appealed to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where the convictions were upheld. Later, the couple appealed its case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Justices declined to hear the Ragsdales’ case in February.

“With these convictions, six defendants in three different cases have been convicted … in recent months of distributing obscene material,” U.S. Attorney Richard B. Roper said in a statement.