Attorney for Extreme Associates Asks for Obscenity Case Dismissal

Jeff Berg
PITTSBURGH — Defense counsel for indicted adult film producer Rob Black argued in U.S. District Court Monday that federal obscenity laws are unconstitutional and infringe on a person’s right to privacy.

Asking for the case to be dismissed, attorney H. Louis Sirkin, who represents Black, partner Janet Romano and their company Extreme Associates, stated that an individual’s right to possess pornography implicitly allows a person the right to distribute pornography.

“The right to privacy really goes nowhere if I have no way to get it,” Sirkin said. “If I can’t buy them, there really is no right. In order to be able to possess it, I need to be able to buy it.”

Black, Romano and Extreme Associates were indicted in August 2003 for distributing three videos through the mail and six files over their website which federal prosecutors believe to be obscene.

If convicted, Black and Romano could be sentenced to up to 50 years in prison and ordered to pay a $2.5 million fine.

“This is not a case about limiting personal sexual conduct,” said U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan during a news conference at the time of the indictment. “It is not a case about banning sexually explicit material. This is a case about a pornography producer who has violated federal law. Extreme Associates has engaged in criminal conduct by producing and distributing material that violate our contemporary community standards.”

According to Sirkin, though, the “community standards” obscenity test has grown outdated in the Internet age, and federal obscenity laws are behind the times.

“We’re no longer pieces separated from others,” he said.

At the conference with Buchanan, Capt. Vance Proctor of the LAPD said that the adult entertainment industry was degenerating and had to be halted.

“In the last 10 or 12 years, we’ve seen the films slowly degrade so far below what the Supreme Court has established,” Proctor said. “If we don’t prosecute this, it’s just going to get worse.”

The films targeted by the indictment include sex acts along side mock throat-slitting and rape.

“One man’s obscenity is another man’s art,” argued Sirkin. “We didn’t ban the Jodie Foster movie where she’s gang-raped in a pool hall. We didn’t ban ‘Pulp Fiction.’ It shows mass murder.”

“These are movies,” Sirkin said. “They’re illusions.”

During Monday’s hearing, the prosecution was questioned extensively by U.S. District Court Judge Gary Lancaster about its motivation for bringing a case against Black and Romano.

Using an analogy, Lancaster asked if the government could outlaw tools used by journalists if it didn’t like what would be written about it.

“Could you pass a law preventing the sale of ink?” asked Lancaster.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Kaufman responded, saying that the government has an interest in preventing the distribution of obscene materials.

People are free to have any kind of sex they want in private, Kaufman said, but filming and distribution of that sex should be a crime.

Lancaster did not specify when he would rule on the Sirkin’s motion to have the case dismissed.

The movies being questioned in the case are still available for sale on the Extreme Associates website. All proceeds from sales of the videos go toward the defense fund.