2 Men Found Guilty of Obscenity Charges

Michael Hayes
DALLAS — A federal court sentenced two men to prison after a jury found them guilty of mailing obscene material.

Following a five-day jury trial, Clarence Thomas Gartman and his brother-in-law, former Houston police officer Brent Alan McDowell were each sentenced to 34 months and 30 months in prison, respectively.

Gartman and McDowell were each found guilty of one count of mailing obscene material and one count of aiding and abetting. Gartman also was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to mail obscene material.

U.S. District Court Judge Barefoot Sanders ordered the men to report to the Bureau of Prisons Aug. 24 for incarceration.

“As shown in the sentences imposed today by Judge Sanders, law enforcement will bring to justice those who engage in the commercial distribution of obscene materials," U.S. Attorney Richard Roper said.

Gartman and McDowell first came to the attention of authorities when a tip from a German citizen lead the Dallas police department to investigate a website dealing in rape material. Dallas police officer Garry Ragsdale and his wife, Tamara, owned the site. The couple had been partners with Gartman and McDowell until a 1998 business dispute.

The Dallas police requested assistance in the case against the Ragsdales from the FBI and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. That investigation lead to a 2003 obscenity conviction for the couple. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the convictions in 2005.

After securing a conviction against the Ragsdales, federal prosecutors turned their attention to Gartman and McDowell, who operated ForbiddenVideos.com. According to prosecutors, the site was used to advertise and sell obscene content distributed via VHS cassettes, CDs and streaming video. The video in question depicted rape scenes, sexual torture and other explicit sex acts, prosecutors said.