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Mukasey Says He’ll ‘Review’ DOJ Obscenity Enforcement

Bush’s candidate to replace Alberto Gonzales said that even 'mainstream' content can have an 'effect of cheapening a society.'
Mukasey Says He’ll ‘Review’ DOJ Obscenity Enforcement
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Nov 5, 2007 9:00 AM PST    Text size: 
WASHINGTON — During recent Senate confirmation hearings for Michael Mukasey, President George W. Bush’s nominee to fill the vacant U.S. Attorney General position, Mukasey said that if he is confirmed, he will reevaluate the Justice Department’s obscenity law enforcement strategy.

Senator Orrin Hatch, R-UT, raised the topic of adult entertainment, asserting that the Justice Department has in recent years compiled a “terrible record enforcing adult obscenity law.” Saying that “pornography and obscenity consumption harms individuals, families [and] communities,” Hatch asserted that the Justice Department in recent years had prosecuted “too narrow a range of obscenity.”

In his response, Mukasey appeared to agree with Hatch’s assessment, saying “I recognize that mainstream materials can have an effect of cheapening a society, objectifying women, and endangering children in a way that we can’t tolerate,” and promised to review the Justice Department’s current policy of prosecuting only “extreme” materials.

Asked for his reaction to Mukasey’s statement, Jeffrey Douglas, chairman of the Free Speech Coalition, told XBIZ that he was not worried that a major shift in obscenity prosecution strategy would take place at the Justice Department if Mukasey is confirmed.

“Frankly, that concerns me not one little bit,” Douglas said. “For any candidate looking to fill that position [Attorney General], this would be a typical response. Janet Reno might have said something very similar — it doesn’t mean that they have any intention of actually changing their prosecutorial strategy.”

Douglas noted that in the recent Five Star/JM Productions obscenity case, the jury ultimately convicted on only a single DVD out of the four in the indictment, even though much of the evidence showing that similar materials frequently were consumed in the relevant community was disallowed.

“When juries already are refusing to convict on material that can be described as ‘extreme,’ it seems naïve to believe that a future jury would turn around and convict on standard, run-of-the-mill hardcore,” Douglas said.

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