Porn sellers obscenity case heading back to federal court
PITTSBURGH – An obscenity case over videos that depict simulated rape and murder is headed for trial after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review it.
Defense lawyers for Extreme Associates Inc. had asked the Supreme Court to review a 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision that reinstated the criminal charges.
Robert Zicari and Janet Romano, both of Northridge, Calif., and their company, Extreme Associates, were charged in 2003 with distributing three videos through the mail and six images over the Internet to western Pennsylvania. They were also charged with conspiracy.
A grand jury found the images met the Supreme Court’s test for obscenity. Pornographers must adhere to the community standards of where products are made and anywhere they might be seen, prosecutors said.
In January 2005, U.S. District Judge Gary L. Lancaster ruled that prosecutors overstepped their bounds by trying to block the material from children and adults who did not want to see it.
The Justice Department appealed, with U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan citing precedent that she said showed there was no right to distribute obscenity.
H. Louis Sirkin, an attorney for the couple and their company, had previously said that the Internet has changed notions of privacy and commerce, and that the people who ordered Extreme Associates’ products used a private, members-only section of the company’s Web site. Such electronic features, he said, prevented minors and unwilling viewers from seeing the images.
The charges carry a maximum penalty of 50 years in prison and a $2.5 million fine for Zicari and Romano, and probation and a $5 million fine for the company.
The case will be tried before Lancaster.
The Supreme Court refused to take up the case on May 15.