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FROM http://pittsburghlive.com/x/ People have a right to view obscene materials in their homes, but how those materials get there is at issue in a closely watched federal case that launched a renewed government crackdown, attorneys told a federal appeals panel Wednesday in Pittsburgh.

The government is asking the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reinstate federal obscenity charges against a Los Angeles company, Extreme Associates, and its husband and wife owners, Robert Zicari and Janet Romano. U.S. District Judge Gary Lancaster in January dismissed the 10-count indictment against the defendants.

"Morality is at the basis of all our laws," U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan told the three-judge panel. The government will continue to pursue regulating obscenity and its proliferation in order to protect children, unwitting adults, morality, public safety and societal order, she argued.

Attorneys for both sides agree the videos and movie clips purchased by an undercover postal inspector that led to the charges are obscene. The U.S. Supreme Court has previously ruled that people have the right to keep such material in their homes.

H. Louis Sirkin, a Cincinnati attorney representing Extreme Associates and its owners, argued the previous rulings must mean people have the right to receive the material.

"In order for me to exercise my right to have it, I have to get it," he said outside the courthouse. "One man’s garbage is another man’s beauty."

Extreme Associate’s members-only Web site allowed people to download video clips into their home computers and place orders online, he said.

Buchanan countered that the Supreme Court repeatedly has upheld federal obscenity statutes that prohibit interstate commerce of obscenity, including on the Internet.

Buchanan argued the judges should decide the case on the First Amendment’s privacy — not free speech — rights. Sirkin said the issue is substantive due process rights guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment.

Sirkin told the Appeals Court he is not challenging federal obscenity laws in general or trying to get them overturned, but instead is arguing they do not apply in this case and his clients should not be subjected to criminal prosecution.

If convicted, Zicari and Romano — also known as Rob Black and Lizzie Borden — could face up to 50 years in prison and a $2.5 million fine. A judge could fine the company up to $5 million.

Yesterday, as attorneys argued the legalities of the case, Extreme Associates touted online the videos that led to the indictments as the "Federal Five."

The headline read: "These are the movies that the U.S. government is going to try to deem are OBSCENE."

The package, including "Lizzie Borden’s Forced Entry," "Cocktails 2," "Extreme Teens #24" and two titles not fit for a family newspaper, was being sold for $110. Individual titles were $44.95 each.

Buchanan said the case is being tried in Western Pennsylvania because the crimes occurred here. The undercover postal inspector worked here, and a local retailer and other people also bought videos from Extreme Associates, she said.

The company makes "the most vile and disgusting material that they could," Buchanan said after the hearing. The videos include graphic scenes of rape, murder, defecation and forcing women to drink human excrement, she said.

Buchanan spent nine of her 13 years as an assistant U.S. Attorney with the priority crime and violent offender division, primarily prosecuting child pornography cases. Those offenders often had obscenity as part of their child porn collections, she said.

"I started to see that this was a problem in Western Pennsylvania that needed to be addressed," she said.

The Justice Department has intensified its prosecution of obscenity cases in the past four years after ignoring such cases for nearly a decade, she said.

Fourteen organizations have joined both sides of the fight, filing friends of the court briefs to push their own arguments. Among those supporting the government are the National Law Center for Children & Families, Citizens for Community Values and The American Decency Association and Focus on the Family.

Among those siding with Extreme Associates are the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, the Free Speech Coalition and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

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