Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Radley Balko Points out the start of the anti-porn crackdown

To me, the issue is not so much where you stand on "Pornography," I don't care if you're for it or against it.

What concerns me is that this is another ridiculous abuse of the government's prosecutorial power. As the Balko excerpt states:

Edward Joseph Wedelstedt, the owner of Goalie Entertainment, was indicted on 23 counts of obscenity, racketeering and tax charges. Wedelstedt ran his porn business out of Colorado, but operated stores in 18 states including Texas.
Pornography is big business in North Texas, though it's not illegal unless it's ruled obscene. Authorities said as part of the indictment, a grand jury viewed six videotapes and DVDs that jurors found to be obscene. They described it as hard-core pornography.

Here is why I think this is ridiculous and abusive. First, as Balko points out, the material is bought, sold and produced by consenting adults. Second, and this is my real problem with this prosecution, is that the Government apparently allowed this guy to establish his business across 18 states with nary a single warning that his material was "obscene." Then they show his material to (approximately) twenty-six people who think it's obscene (an who cares about the thousands of people who bought it and, almost by definition, did not find it to be obscene) and instead of say ordering him to cease and desist - they prosecute him criminally. So if he wants to dispute whether the material is obscene, he has to do it at the risk of going to jail. He can't battle it out with the government in a civil court, where if he loses, he can simply stop distributing the material - nope, our regulatory government gets the added leverage of threatening him with serious jail time.

Let me tell you how this will work in the end. Wedelstedt will buckle under to the government. He will plead guilty, pay a fine of several million dollars - directly to the prosecuting authority - and serve either a suspended sentence or a house arrest. This will happen regardless of the fact that he did not intend to do anything illegal (presumably). In fact, whatever it is that he's doing was not made "illegal" until well after he established his business "across 18 states." Moreover, the wholly subjective determination of that illegality was made by twenty-six (26) people based on six videotapes.

See, I don't care if they ban it because it's obscene - that's fine with me. What bothers me is that the government gets to effectively blackmail this guy for millions of dollars, by using the threat of jail time, when a cease and desist order would be just as effective and far more just.

We really need to constrain the authority of government regulatory agencies. Once again, I think that if the Government could not make millions in fines when they prosecute a person like this, they would not be so arbitrary and heavy handed.

It's time to pass my constitutional amendment - actually, it's way past time.

Kid Handsome.


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