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The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced the arrest of Gary Farris and EMI Enterprises on November 6 for distributing obscenity via a website and the U.S. mail. "Farris offered approximately 180 separate video titles in four separate categories," according to the announcement. One videotape reportedly "depicts the physical and sexual abuse and mutilation of several women."
The arrest is the result of an undercover investigation conducted by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Kentucky. The Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS) of the DOJ and the FBI initiated the investigation as part of their "online obscenity initiative."
Farris's website has a link to a larger site offering equally depraved pornography. Access of the linked site revealed more involvement by mainstream corporations in financing the purchase of prosecutable pornography. The corporate logos of VISA, MasterCard, UCB, and Discover Card appear on the linked site. These corporations are not exempt from prosecution for violating federal law.
CWA released "The Porn Ring Around Corporate White Collars: Getting Filthy Rich," documenting such mainstream corporate involvement in porn trafficking on October 30. We encourage concerned citizens to call, write, and email these corporations and urge them to stop trafficking and financing hard-core pornography.
We applaud this long-awaited announcement by the Ashcroft Department of Justice. Hopefully, it is the beginning of the end for pornographers who are saturating the World Wide Web with hard-core smut. And that will depend on whether the DOJ is unrelenting in its investigations and prosecutions of other hard-core sites, including those that aren't as extreme as Farris's website.
The arrest of Farris sets the prosecution bar very high. The porn industry will start pulling similar extreme material, but they will not pull other prosecutable material from distribution until they see indictments that indicate the bar is being lowered.
Just days ago, Brad Greenberg, a state prosecutor in Cincinnati, won an obscenity conviction against the operator of a website where the material was hard-core sex without "sexual abuse and mutilation." Greenberg in his first obscenity case beat one of the veteran porn defense attorneys, Louis Sirkin. Contemporary community standards, the reference point by which a jury decides whether material is obscene, does not mean anything goes.
If you're sick of online smut, you now have a great vehicle to do something meaningful about it. A website operated by Morality in Media, www.obscenitycrimes.org, provides a form for reporting a website with material that is believed to be obscene. Reports are reviewed and those identifying prosecutable websites and porn spam are forwarded to the CEOS and the appropriate U.S. Attorney's office. In just a few months of operation, more than 2,500 complaints have been filed. Let's all make use of this dynamic tool.
We also encourage you to send an email to the chief of CEOS, Andrew.firstname.lastname@example.org to express your appreciation for the work of his department in the Farris case. Encourage his department to continue vigorous enforcement of the law against all distributors of obscenity, including those with "white collars."
Jan LaRue is Chief Counsel for Concerned Women for America, in Washington, D.C.