LOS ANGELES — A jury today found fetish filmmaker Ira Isaacs guilty on five counts of violating federal obscenity laws.
He'll be sentenced on Aug. 6. It was the third obscenity trial for the distributor and producer, who all along has contended that the works he had been charged with have artistic value and can't be deemed obscene. The first two ended with mistrials.
Isaac was indicted for his distribution of "Mako’s First Time Scat," "Hollywood Scat Amateurs #7," "Hollywood Scat Amateurs #1" and "Japanese Doggie 3 Way."
A verdict was read about 1:15 p.m. on Friday. The jury took less than two hours to make its decision.
Both sides wrapped up testimony on Thursday, setting up for closing arguments made this morning.
Federal prosecutor Damon King said in the government's closing statement that Isaacs' goal in selling obscene material was solely to make money, but Isaacs' attorney, Roger Jon Diamond, said in his closing statement that the case is about testing the First Amendment.
“I’m disappointed in the verdict,” a visibly shaken Isaacs said as he left the courtroom.
The morning began with U.S. District Court Judge George King giving instructions to the jury. He told them that it’s their duty to weigh and evaluate all the evidence and decide the facts based solely on the law, reason and common sense and not their opinion or speculation.
The judge said that the jury can consider both direct and circumstantial evidence and decide what testimony is believable or not believable.
He said that the jury must decide on all five counts separately and that the government must prove these counts beyond a reasonable doubt. The five counts are:
- Isaacs, dba StolenCarFilms, engaged in the business of producing, distributing, and selling obscene material that includes “Hollywood Scat Amateurs #7.” Whoever is engaged in selling obscene material, which has been shipped, shall be guilty, the judge said. The judge said that the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant engaged in selling obscene material, that the defendant knew the material was of a sexual nature, that the material was shipped using interstate or international commerce, and that it was obscene.
- Isaacs knowingly used a facility and means of interstate commerce for the purpose of selling and distributing the sexually obscene material “Makos First Time Scat.”
- Isaacs knowingly used an express company for carriage and delivery outside of California to send packages containing “Hollywood Scat Amateurs #7” and that the defendant knew the material was of a sexually explicit nature.
- Isaacs knowingly caused to be delivered by mail non-mailable obscene material that includes “Japanese Doggy Threeway.”
- Isaacs knowingly caused to be delivered by U.S. mail non-mailable obscene material that includes “Hollywood Scat Amateurs #10,” that he knew the material was of a sexual nature and that he knew the material was obscene.
The judge further explained that the government didn’t have to prove that the materials in question were obscene because it was up to the jury to decide whether the material was obscene or not. He reminded the jury that constitutional rights do not extend to obscenity.
The judge continued saying the material must be judged using three criteria: whether the material appeals to the prurient interest to the community as a whole, whether the material depicts and describes material that is sexually offensive and whether the material lacks serious artistic, political, or scientific value. To make their decision, the jurors must apply contemporary community standards as applied to an average person in the central district of California.
Prosecutor Damon King than made his closing statements. He said that this case is about choice; a choice that the defendant made when he saw an opportunity to make money beyond what the law permits. He said that the government had proven that the defendant had engaged in a business to sell obscene material and that he used the U.S. mail and UPS to send that obscene material. King added that the defendant knowingly sent the material through the U.S. mail.
King said that Isaacs tried to conceal his identity by using the name “Mike” and also by having several different return addresses on his packages.
King then went through all the five counts and argued that the government had proved all of them. He then explained in further detail the meaning of prurient interest, saying that prurient means a morbid, degrading and unhealthy interest in sex when viewed by the average person in the community. He also said the material lacked any serious artistic, political or scientific value and was clearly offensive and not accepted by the community.
Diamond then began his closing argument. He said this case is about the 1st Amendment, testing the limits and establishing what’s allowed in this country. Diamond said that Isaacs never tried to hide his identity from the authorities. In fact, he was straightforward with them from day one after FBI agents raided his office.
Diamond said the law is not clear when it comes to obscenity; that the law does not specify what is or is not prohibited and it does not say what can or can’t be sold. He explained that the community standard varies from district to district. He said the jury must take into account how the people would think in California, which is a progressive and liberal state. He argued that community standards have changed and evolved over time, with communities becoming more progressive and tolerant. He asked the questions, “Who is the average person?” “By whose standards are you to judge?” and “What is the attitude of the community as a whole?”
He said that the government failed to prove that the movies are obscene and lack value. Diamond said that there is no distinction between Isaacs’ movies and other hardcore sex acts.
“They’ve carved the adult industry into sub-parts,” he said, adding that if you’re not part of the general community, then the government will condemn you.
“It’s about controlling what people can watch,” he said. “If they control this, then they can control everything. That’s why we have to stop this.”
Diamond said that there must be a group of people who think of sex in this way and that to these people, they get “some” value from these movies because otherwise, they wouldn’t be paying for them. For those people, Diamond said, there is some scientific value.
He added that we have not attained the complete freedom we claim to have with the U.S. Constitution.
“If you go too far, you’ll get nailed,” he said.
He encouraged the jury to read the court’s instructions carefully and to judge the movies based on appearance and the impact it has on the viewers.
King re-directed and said that there is a distinction between “serious” value and “some” value.
The jury then left the courtroom to begin deliberations. About an hour later, the jury wanted a clarification on the meaning of morbid and whether all three criteria of the prurient interest guidelines, which include morbid, degrading and unhealthy, must be met.
After consulting with both the prosecution and the defense, King brought the jury back into the courtroom and answered the jury’s questions. He said that morbid means something that is shameful and unwholesome and that only one, not all three, of the prurient interest criteria must be met.
The jury reached the guilty verdict about an hour later. Isaacs’ sentencing date was set for Aug. 6 at 11 a.m.
An XBIZ TV interview that was conducted with Isaacs in March after his second trial can be viewed here.