Federal Obscenity Statutes Found Unconstitutional

Jeff Berg
PITTSBURGH — A federal judge has thrown out the criminal charges filed against Rob Black and Extreme Associates, finding that the obscenity statutes invoked by the U.S. Attorney’s office were unconstitutional.

Felling a blow for adult companies, U.S. District Judge Gary Lancaster dismissed the charges of distribution of obscene materials that had been brought against Black, wife Janet Romano and the company and said that laws that inhibit a person’s rights to possess obscene material in their own home violate constitutional rights to privacy and liberty.

“We find that the federal obscenity statutes burden an individual’s fundamental right to possess, read, observe and think about what he chooses in the privacy of his own home by completely banning the distribution of obscene materials,” Lancaster wrote in his 45-page opinion.

Lancaster’s ruling brings to an end to the year-old case in which Black, Romano and Extreme Associates were indicted for distributing three videos through the mail and six files over the Internet, and could have resulted in up to 50 years in prison and a $2.5 million fine for the defendants. “The government can no longer rely on the advancement of a moral code, preventing consenting adults from entertaining lewd or lascivious thoughts, as a legitimate, let alone compelling, state interest,” he said.

In a written statement, U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan said she was disheartened by the ruling.

“We are very disappointed by the court’s decision to dismiss the indictment,” Buchanan said. “As we set forth in the pleadings we filed in the case, we continue to believe that the federal obscenity statutes are valid and constitutional, including as applied in this case.”

Buchanan said that prosecutors were currently reviewing their options and considering a possible appeal.