Stagliano’s trial ended on July 16 with a resounding victory when all charges against him and his company were dismissed due to the U.S. government’s failure the meet the burden of proof.
He had faced more than 30 years in prison and millions in fines after being indicted in 2008 on obscenity charges based on Evil Angel’s distribution of two DVDs and a movie trailer that the government alleged was obscene.
“John showed tremendous courage and resolve during this ordeal,” said Alec Helmy, founder and president of XBIZ. “His unwillingness to compromise his First Amendment rights was not only commendable, but truly inspirational. It is our distinct pleasure to recognize John for his fearless leadership.”
Christian Mann, the general manager of Evil Angel, presented Stagliano with the award on Feb. 9 at the Hollywood Palladium. Just before he asked Stagliano to come on stage, he asked the audience for a round of applause in memory of John Leslie, who passed away in December.
“There’s a tendency to bestow an honor on someone simply because he or she became a defendant in an obscenity case, as if to balance the indictment with an award,” Mann explained.
“In the case of John Stagliano, there are more compelling arguments to support his selection as Man of the Year. John didn’t merely defend himself, John defended these movies. John defended art as a medium that should be free of definition or interpretation by government. John defended choice. John defended our industry.”
Mann continued, “The important distinction is that John put the defense of these principles over his own defense. John’s entire tenure in the adult industry has been characterized by his steadfast adherence to integrity, fairness and quality. John isn’t the Man of the Year because he was indicted by the government.
“He’s the Man of the Year because of his response. He rose to the challenge, paid the price, put himself at risk, represented us all with dignity and pride, and prevailed at a time when our industry needed it most.”
The soft-spoken Stagliano was gracious in his remarks upon accepting the honor, thanking his attorneys, director Joey Silvera for his support and Mann for assembling his legal team. And Stagliano noted that his legal triumph represented not only a big win for the adult industry, but also a colossal failure on the part of the government for its misplaced prosecution.
Diane Duke, the executive director of the Free Speech Coalition, said that Stagliano’s willingness to stand and fight could not be understated.
“John is the real thing — a solid business man with a passion for protecting civil liberties,” Duke said. “John not only works in the adult entertainment industry but takes great pride in doing so. We would all do well to learn from his example.”