Clinton McCowen, AKA Ray Guhn, faces charges on counts of conducting a criminal enterprise by engaging in prostitution and the manufacture and sale of obscene material. McCowen also faces racketeering and money laundering charges predicated on the underlying obscenity charge.
McCowen’s trial is set to begin on May 5. Lawrence Walters, who along with attorney Jerome Mooney is representing McCowen in the case, told XBIZ that he anticipates the trial will run approximately three weeks.
In a ruling issued Tuesday, Judge Ron Swanson held that jurors in the case should base their application of “community standards” under the Miller obscenity test based on the standards of the four panhandle counties, rather than just Santa Rosa county, where prosecutors refiled their charges against McCowen in July, after having originally indicted him in Escambia County.
Walters told XBIZ that the judge’s order was a partial victory for the defense, which had opposed the change of venue to Santa Rosa County.
“This case was filed in Escambia County, and we spent about a year preparing our defense based on the idea that Escambia’s community standards would be the relevant standards, and we thought it was totally inappropriate to move the case over to Santa Rosa,” Walters said.
Walters said that while bringing in the community standards of the entire four-county district was not ideal for defense purposes, it was preferable to having the case limited to the standards of Santa Rosa County alone, as Santa Rosa is considered a more socially conservative area than its neighboring counties.
“We believe that the prosecutorial maneuver of changing the venue to Santa Rosa has been eliminated,” Walters said. “As the court has ruled that the jury must consider the standards of all four counties, we can now go back and show them the materials we collected related to the standards of Escambia after all.”
While the court rejected all of the defense motions to dismiss the case, Walters said that he believes the court erred significantly in one area, and may have set the stage for an eventual appeal, should an appeal become necessary.
Earlier this month, Walters filed a motion to strike the obscenity charges from the indictment, arguing that that Florida’s obscenity laws do not apply to Internet-based materials. Swanson rejected that argument, but Walters said that he believes a higher court likely would disagree with Swanson’s ruling.
“I do not see how the Florida statute applies to the Internet at all,” Walters said, adding that the statute has been amended several times, and the Florida legislature had ample opportunity to include Internet-based obscenity under the statute and has never done so.
Walters called Swanson’s rejection of his statutory argument “a built-in appellate point” and said that the defense team now has moved on to considering what sort of evidence they can present at trial.
“This is a terribly complex case,” Walters said. “There will be some 50 or 60 witnesses, so we are already actively taking depositions.”
In addition to McCowen, Andrew Craft, Kevin Stevens, William Beach, Jane Dreka and Thomas Dwyer all face charges connected to the case.