Porn-Fighter Ashcroft Resigns

Rhett Pardon
WASHINGTON — Attorney General John Ashcroft, known for his aggressive stance on obscenity and pornography in particular, resigned Tuesday evening.

Ashcroft, in a five-page, handwritten letter to President Bush, said that “the Department of Justice would be well served by new leadership and fresh inspiration."

The Justice Department czar, however, had been suffering from health problems earlier this year that resulted in removal of his gall bladder.

During Ashcroft’s years, the online adult community has been under threat of prosecutions, as well as planned changes to rules under the so-called 2257 regulations.

In the most prominent indictment in the Justice Department's effort to resurrect the aggressive obscenity prosecutions of the 1970s and '80s, regulators under Ashcroft’s tenure indicted the owners of Extreme Associates, which broadcast over the Internet explicit sex scenes coupled with simulated rapes. That case is still being adjudicated in Pennsylvania.

Ashcroft, 62, also was responsible for retaining the services of anti-porn veteran Bruce Taylor, who has helped prosecute more than 700 obscenity courses in his career. He also influenced Bush and Congress to earmark at least $4 million more of the Justice Department’s budget to fight pornography.

Speculation about a successor to Ashcroft has focused on his former deputy, Larry Thompson, who recently took a job as general counsel at PepsiCo.

Thompson would be the nation's first black attorney general. Others prominently mentioned include former Montana Gov. Marc Racicot and White House general counsel Alberto Gonzales.