PVV – obscenity, or “let’s make an example out of John Stagliano!” (part 2)

So as you may (should!) already know, John Stagliano and his businesses Evil Angel Productions, Inc. and John Stagliano, Inc. were indicted on April 8, 2008 by a federal grand jury with seven different counts of obscenity. The indictments targeted the films “Milk Nymphos” and “Storm Squirters 2: ‘Target Practice’” and a trailer for “Fetish Fanatic Chapter 5.”

FBI agent Daniel Bradley, who was serving on the Justice Department’s Obscenity Prosecution Task Force, ordered copies of the films online and downloaded the trailer in January of 2008. Since the content was mailed to Bradley across state lines, the federal government got jurisdiction to prosecute Stagliano (who lives in and works from California) for the inter-state transportation and intended distribution of the potentially obscene films.

Regarding the trailer for “Fetish Fanatic,” the prosecution claimed that potentially obscene content was available to anyone though the tour/free section of Evil Angel’s website (implying that there were no safeguards in place to prevent underage viewers from accessing the trailer, but there were and are).

After almost a week’s worth of delays and debates over jury selection and who and what constitute permissible testimony, the trial finally got underway on Tuesday, July 13.

…and oh the circus-like nonsense that has since ensued! Here are some of the highlights:

The prosecution attempted to use screen shots (so, stills captured in the middle of live action) as evidence. Some of these images were from films/content other than “Milk Nymphos” and “Storm Squirters 2,” and some were from films/content not even available on Evil Angel’s website! The prosecution also attempted to have jurors watch scenes with the sound muted. Apparently a text in its entirety and audio are negligible contributions to understanding a “work, taken as a whole.”

But whatevs… In the end, the jury watched a selection of full scenes on monitors directed just at them and were given headphones – this way no one else in the courtroom was “exposed” to adult content.

One piece of the prosecution’s “evidence” against Stagliano/Evil Angel was a burnt copy of a downloaded “Fetish Fanatic” trailer. Sounds reasonable, but there was a glitch at one point in the recording wherein the audio portion played while the video portion froze. Jurors were confused. Then later, when FBI agent Daniel Bradley was questioned by defense attorney Paul Cambria, Bradley admitted that he was unsure if the “evidence” trailer was the same as the one he had originally downloaded.

Together, those two strikes made using the burnt trailer as evidence a little unreasonable, prompting Judge Richard J. Leon to rule it inadmissible. This resulted in dismissal of two of the seven counts against Stagliano and partial reduction of a third.

The defense requested that talent Lorelei Lee, who appears in “Milk Nymphos,” be permitted to testify as “Lorelei Lee” (rather than using her given name). There is precedent for this practice – if a court feels that a witness may be put in some sort of jeopardy by revealing their legal name, they may be permitted to use a pseudonym. The prosecution objected saying it gave “some air of legitimacy to a porn star.” Really?

In the end, Judge Leon dismissed the five and a half remaining counts against Stagliano and his businesses (just this afternoon). At one point, Judge Leon stated “Good enough for government work is not good enough [for a criminal trial]” – that made me laugh out loud…

…and then sigh.

This trial and the year and a half long “investigation” behind it were funded by our federal government. (Supposedly) smart people with experience in crime investigating and lawyer stuff were supporting the prosecution. Stagliano and Evil Angel are heavy hitters in the world of adult, producing content that is most certainly not for the skinamax consumer …and this is what the prosecution comes with? Amateur hour?

But honestly, I can’t say I’m all that surprised.

From its most nascent point, this series of indictments was not really even about obscenity… Had it been, the prosecution would not have had to rely on convoluted methods of accessing content by mail just to get an indictment in the first place (but granted, they wanted it to be federal), nor would they have attempted to stir up the whole “unfettered underage access” hornets’ nest with the “Fetish Fanatic” trailer.

These indictments were about making a point… well, a series of points that include attempting to make an example out of a “mogul” (who they must have assumed would just roll over) and the further delegitimization of the industry, the persons who work therein, and the content of adult films themselves.

Fortunately though, logic, rational thinking, and commonsense prevailed.

Hopefully John Stagliano, who is not a “mogul” so much as he is a small business owner, and his wife Karen (who is six months pregnant with their second child) get to head home sometime soon. Hopefully defending themselves against this legally unfounded, clearly misguided joke of an indictment didn’t destroy them financially. Hopefully, neither John’s nor Karen’s emotional and physical health suffered too much through this experience.

Hopefully, as a society, we will eventually realize that if you don’t like something all you have to do is turn it off… or log out… or don’t go there in the first place.

And hopefully we all take a moment to give a little psychic shout out to the Staglianos and to Evil Angel for taking this one for the team. Because even if you don’t like milk nymphos storm squirting all over your fetish fanatics, they are perfectly legal activities, depictions, and texts …and clearly someone does.

If you want even more details on any of these happenings, check out any one of these play-by-plays from the incredible Mark Kernes.

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