Free Speech X-Press
Delivering Weekly Censorship Updates to the Adult Industry
Vol. VIII, No. 6, Dec 23, 2005 — A Member Service of the Free Speech Coalition
UPDATE ON THE CHRIS WILSON LEGAL TRAVESTY
Free Speech X-press is researched and edited by Kat Sunlove and Layne Winklebleck.
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LAKELAND, FL — The Second District Court of Appeal here has given Attorney General Charlie Crist one week (until 12/28/05) to respond to defense attorney arguments that Chris Wilson should be free on bail while awaiting trial on obscenity charges for posting allegedly obscene photographs on a Web site that is hosted in Europe. In the meantime, The ACLU of Florida, FSC and the First Amendment Lawyers Association (FALA), in a 19-page friend-of-the-court brief, have asked the appeals court to reverse the lower court ruling and release Wilson.
Wilson is presently in jail after Circuit Court Judge J. Dale Durrance revoked his bail in response to arguments by prosecutors, who said that a condition of bail is that Wilson “refrain from criminal activity.” They said that Wilson had continued to run his website, which contained obscene materials in violation of the terms of bail. In revoking bail, Judge Durrance ruled that there was probable cause that the website, nowthatsfuckedup.com, contained obscene materials.
Wilson made national headlines when U.S. military officials discovered that soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan were sending him gruesome images of war in exchange for free access to a site that allows members of the public to post and view amateur pornographic photos and videos. Wilson, who operated the site from his Lakeland home, then posted the violent war photos on the site as a way to help spark debate about U.S. politics.
On Oct. 7, he was arrested by Polk County Sheriff’s Officers on obscenity charges for posting – not the violent war photos – but amateur photos submitted by other people. He was released on $151,000 bond, and then while awaiting trial, moved to Orange County, Florida, where he continued operating the site, which is hosted in the Netherlands.
“This is a classic example of a censorship crusade by local government bureaucrats who are relying on their own subjective definition of obscenity to arrest someone even before any court has found that this Web site is illegal,” said Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida. "What right do Polk County officials have to decide what people who live in Berlin and London and Hong Kong and New York access in the privacy of their own homes?" “This case is typical of how obscenity law can be misused to censor unpopular speech,” said Michelle L. Freridge, Executive Director of the Free Speech Coalition. “We are proud to stand with the ACLU and FALA in support of Chris Wilson, and we look forward to an expeditious and positive decision by the Second District Court of Appeal in this matter.”
Besides outraging free speech organizations, the prosecutorial antics in this case are embarrassing to many Floridians. From an Orlando Weekly column by Jeffrey Billman and James Carlson in the Orlando Weekly: “Dear Polk County residents: Do you realize how your law enforcement officials are making you look to the rest of the world? No? The words ‘ignorant,’ ‘backward’ and ‘hay-munching rubes’ come to mind.”
From the Lakewood Ledger, 12/22/05
And from The Orlando Weekly, 12/22/05
And from an FSC press release, 12/22/05
SENATE VERSION OF PENCE BILL INTRODUCED
WASHINGTON, DC — A Senate version of Representative Mike Pence’s (R-IN) bill (H.R. 3726) has been introduced by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), with Senator Sam Brownback (R-KN) as a co-sponsor. The House version, introduced in September, would greatly expand the reach of both obscenity law and of U.S.C. 18 §2257, the federal record-keeping law currently being challenged by Free Speech Coalition. (See X-Press report: “Bill Would Expand Government Powers,” http://www.freespeechcoalition.com/newsletter9-16-05.htm)
TEMPORARY EXTENSION OF PATRIOT ACT
WASHINGTON, DC — After it appeared that the U.S. Senate had reached an agreement with the Bush administration for a six-month extension of the U.S. Patriot Act — along with assurances that the concerns of civil libertarians would be considered — the powerful House Judiciary Committee Chair F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-WI) refused to go along, forcing the Senate to accept a temporary extension of the act until February 3. The Patriot act was set to expire if it were not reauthorized by December 31.
Earlier in the year the Senate had approved a reauthorization bill that included important privacy reforms compared to a House version. However, the bill came out of the Senate/House conference committee without the reforms, and it appeared likely that the Patriot Act would be renewed essentially in its original form. Then came the much publicized media reports that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, amended by the Patriot Act, had been bypassed by the administration despite the clear requirements of the law, a stunning misuse of power which helped convince certain libertarian Republicans to join in blocking the reauthorization.
The ACLU, which has had a key role spearheading the fight for reform of the Patriot Act, welcomed the extension.
"Regardless of the length of the extension into next year, the most important issue is the need to reform the secret powers expanded by the Patriot Act to protect the privacy and liberty of ordinary Americans,” said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “A bipartisan majority of the Senate already agrees that the conference report that the House and the White House are pushing does not protect our most fundamental constitutional rights.”
Many other organizations are also helping in the reform effort, including FSC, which has set up Action Center booths at trade shows in which adult industry workers and fans have been encouraged to make their opinions known regarding the need for reform of the Patriot Act to their political representatives, and have done so in substantial numbers.
From an ACLU press release, 12/21/05
ADULT COMPANY HONORED BY CHAMBER
HILLSBOROUGH, NC — The Hillsborough/ Orange County Chamber of Commerce has named PHE Inc., parent company of adult entertainment company Adam & Eve, as “Business of the Year.” Margaret Cannell, the chamber’s executive director, said PHE is one of the county’s top employers, a major taxpayer and a "great corporate citizen." In the past year, the business has aided nearly 50 local organizations. Robbin Taylor-Hall, the chamber’s president, said the board focused on PHE’s civic contributions, not its product line.
When PHE first came to town, some 12 years ago, local ministers warned that the town could become the "pornography capital of the South," and as many as 400 people attended a rally protesting the planned move. After contentious public hearings at which the company was compared to a moral cancer and a toxic chemical plant, a court overruled the town’s efforts to stop the company, which opened its doors in November 1994.
From Lisa Hoppenjans, The News Observer, 12/21/05
PSYCHOLOGIST SAYS JUDGE NOT MENTALLY ILL
CLEARWATER, FL — Circuit Judge Brandt Downey has been forced to undergo an evaluation and psychological counseling for a possible “addiction” to adult entertainment. Downing, it seems, has been charged with using his courthouse computer to access (gasp!) adult websites. Caught in the public spotlight, the embattled judge reported to the Judicial Qualifications Commission, and followed their direction for the counseling. Fort Myers psychologist Robert B. Silver cleared Downey of having a mental disorder. But the question remains: How to explain how the honorable judge fell into the clutches of adult entertainment?
“Family and marital issues were likely at play in creating a degree of vulnerability," suggested Silver.
In the meantime, State Attorney Bernie McCabe has reviewed the issues and found that Downey’s “actions did not constitute a crime." Nonetheless, a trial over Downey’s fitness for the bench is pending before the Judicial Qualifications Commission.
Downey, 60, says he will not seek re-election after 21 years on the bench but wants to serve the remainder of his term, which ends in January 2007.
From David Sommer, 12/22/05
JAN 5, – FSC Membership Seminar/General Meeting, 5:30 p.m, Venetian Hotel, Rm 403, Las Vegas, NV http://www.freespeechcoalition.com
JAN 5-7, – Internext, The Venetian, Las Vegas, NV http://www.internext-expo.com/index.shtml
JAN 5-8, – AVN Adult Entertainment Expo, Sands Expo Center, Las Vegas, NV, http://show.adultentertainmentexpo.com/adult-expo/v42/index.cvn
JAN 7, – 23rd Annual AVN Awards Celebration, Sands Expo Center, Las Vegas, NV, http://show.adultentertainmentexpo.com/adult-expo/v42/index.cvn
MAR 9, – GAYVN Awards 2006, Rage Nightclub, Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood CA , http://www.gayvnawards.com/geninfo.php
APR 24-25, – Celebrate Free Speech Lobbying Days, Sacramento, CA, firstname.lastname@example.org
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