Industry Attorneys Troubled With Trump's AG Pick

Industry Attorneys Troubled With Trump's AG Pick
Rhett Pardon

WASHINGTON — Conservative Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions, who was offered the job of attorney general by President-elect Donald Trump, is considered a big concern for the adult entertainment industry if he is confirmed to the position because of his hard-line, far-right positions on everything from immigration to fiscal spending to pornography.

Sessions, who has extensive legal experience as a federal prosecutor in his home state of Alabama, served as senator for almost two decades. He became an advisor on almost every major decision and policy proposal Trump made during the campaign. And today he was tapped as Trump’s top law man and awaits a Senate confirmation hearing before taking the job.

Industry attorney Marc Randazza characterized Sessions as an attorney general in the mold of John Ashcroft.  

“I have cautioned calm when it comes to most of Trump’s moves,” Randazza told XBIZ. “But, this one? This should create concern for the adult industry.  

“On the optimistic side, when I look at how Eric Leue and the Free Speech Coalition turned things around with Proposition 60, I think we are much more well-equipped to organize and fight the forces of censorship than ever before,” he said. Leue is the FSC's executive director.

Trump, Randazza said, might be forgetting something with an appointee like this — “A lot of the ‘Make America Great Again’ crowd is very pro-First Amendment.”

“A lot of the initial attraction to Trump was a reaction to the alignment of censorship minded leftists with political correctness,” he said. “If Trump’s ‘Make America Great Again’ minions see that his cabinet is going after freedom of expression, he could have a support base revolt very quickly.”

Karen Tynan, the industry attorney who for the past few months worked tirelessly to help defeat the passage of Prop 60, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s initiative that would have changed the ballgame for the porn business, also was concerned by Trump’s pick.

“Jeff Sessions is a redneck in the traditional sense, and I can use that term as I am a Southerner,” Tynan told XBIZ. “He’s got some extreme far right views on everything from fiscal spending to obscenity.

“We need to watch him carefully these next few months, and I’m concerned for my clients,” she said. “For now, we need to make sure we are 2257 compliant, covering every detail. [And, we need to] make sure our relationships with our banks and financial institutions are solid."

Industry attorney Corey Silverstein, too, said that Sessions could be bad news for the adult entertainment industry. 

“Many may not remember that in 2013, Jeff Sessions publicly suggested that the availability of porn on military bases was at least partially to blame for military sexual assaults,” Silverstein told XBIZ. “Jeff Sessions has been criticized by many for his perceived tough stance on immigration and civil rights.

“It’s impossible to accurately predict how this will affect the adult entertainment industry but there is certainly reason to be concerned.”

Lawrence Walters, another industry attorney, said that Sessions previous comments placing blame on pornography for sexual assaults on military bases is cause for concern, noting that Session’s stance “should be explored during the confirmation hearings.”

But Walters said that Ashcroft-like finger-pointing at porn might not be the case with Sessions, if he is formally given the slot.

“While there is widespread fear that his appointment will trigger a renewed focus on obscenity prosecutions against the adult industry, I remain skeptical,” Walters told XBIZ. “The public may not have the appetite for criminalizing adult media, given the increased social acceptance of porn since the Bush/Reagan years.” 

And, Walters said, the Justice Department is probably still reeling from its humiliating loss in the Evil Angel/John Stagliano case, which represented the last federal obscenity prosecution of record. 

“However, some in the adult industry could feel the impact of a ramped up ‘War on Sex Trafficking,’ with Sessions at the helm,” Walters said. “Since porn has been partially blamed for sex trafficking, it is possible that Sessions would more vigorously enforce existing regulations and statutes against the industry.

“If he chooses to wade back into the troubled waters of federal obscenity prosecution, a bevy of First Amendment lawyers are ready to stand guard against such an attack on expressive freedom."

Industry attorney Clyde DeWitt said that after running as a Washington outsider, Trump is in the process of installing an entire slate of establishment Republicans for his cabinet. 

“I do not expect the Trump administration to be noticeably different from George W. Bush’s except that Trump can pronounce ‘nuclear’ correctly,” DeWitt told XBIZ.

And with that statement, DeWitt said: “This is not good news for adult, but nobody expected otherwise.”

“Like [Vice President-elect Mike] Pence, Sessions is a reach out to the Evangelicals,” he said. “Trump is already starting his campaign for 2020.

“Sessions will mirror Ashcroft, except without 9/11 to distract him.”

Industry attorney Gill Sperlein, like the others, said that the Sessions pick could signal a round of trouble for pornographers.

“The industry has enjoyed a number of years without being pestered, but Sessions has been very vocally anti-porn,” Sperlein told XBIZ. “Unless Mr. Trump holds him on a leash, I expect we will see a new round of prosecutions.”

But industry attorney Joe Obenberger, a former federal prosecutor, had a different take.

Sessions’ nomination “will certainly precipitate a cackle of attorneys to raise the alarm that the sky is about to fall in on the adult entertainment industry, asserting that obscenity prosecutions are about to begin apace to placate Morality in Media, and insisting that the only smart move is an immediate deposit of large sums into their respective client trust accounts and emergency steps to take it all offshore.”

“But I just don't see it that way,” he told XBIZ. “In fact, for my adult clients, I'm kinda relieved that Trump won — and that the radical feminists and social do-gooders who supported Hillary are left to roll over cars and block the 101 instead of sifting through job applications.

“Will there be any obscenity prosecutions at all? Maybe. But if so, isolated and aimed at the very extreme, against content that is judged to be so deviant from the mainstream of American tastes that its suppression would not be noticeable to the vast majority,” Obenberger said. “Yeah. Like we all saw how the industry stood with arm linked in arm to show solidarity for the defense of Ira Isaacs?

“I expect that the Justice Department will recognize that it has no duty to impose morality, and that any and all obscenity charging decisions, in order to have and confidence of success, should be importantly based to avoid what Americans actually like to watch and do watch in substantial numbers. That covers a lot of turf.” 

Pictured: Sen. Jeff Sessions

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