Must read: Handley’s attorney comments

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The Comics Journal has run a statement from Eric A Chase, attorney for Christopher Handley, the Iowa man who pled guilty to “possessing drawings of children being sexually abused.” The statement lays out the reasons why defending Handley in court would have been difficult, but also the absurdity of the crime:

Chris, like most everyone else who had only heard about Ashcroft from news accounts that shoddily reported that the Supreme Court had “legalized virtual child porn,” believed the magazines were legal when he bought them.  As importantly, Chris was not a collector exclusively of lolicon.  He was a collector of all things manga.  Of the thousands of books and magazines found by the Feds at Chris’ home, only about twenty had questionable content and ultimately only seven were charged as clearly depicting the violent sexual abuse of obviously very young children.

UPDATE: Jeff Trexler has some comments on the Handley case that give it a bit more context, including the fact that between the prosecution and sentencing a new prosecutor took over the case.

Comments

  1. Mr. Chase’s assessment of the current legal situation is – there is no better word for it – chilling.

  2. Synsidar says:

    Not when one considers that there are practically no prosecutions for obscene text. The Fletcher case demonstrated how rare such prosecutions are. The Max Hardcore prosecution demonstrated the difference between reading fetish fiction and acting out a water sports fantasy.

    A Reason magazine article that set out to knock down the case for obscenity laws actually made the case for them:

    Had Zicari and Romano stuck to just rape and murder, with some R-rated nudity to complement artful scenes of mutilation and dismemberment, as Hollywood does in movies like Hostel and House of 1000 Corpses, they could’ve avoided a lot of trouble. Likewise, had they focused on hardcore sex and kept the violence and puke out of it.

    By mixing these various elements, however, they earned a 10-count indictment on obscenity charges in 2003. In the eyes of many in the adult industry, they’d brought this trouble on themselves. A year earlier, a PBS Frontline documentary on porn included shots of Romano filming simulated rapes and murders that the members of the Frontline crew found so disturbing they fled the set.

  3. Let me put it to you this way: I’m from Iowa. Not that southwest quadrant Handley’s from, but from Iowa. His lawyer is correct, you have a limited number of towns in Iowa where you might get a jury willing to listen to what would be considered nuances surrounding child pornography.

    The SW corner of the state has exactly zero of those areas.

    If he were in Iowa City, there could well be a jury receptive to differences between photography, illustration and maybe even foreign cultures. Down in SW Iowa, not a chance.

    And I’m going to put this another way. You do _not_ want to be in prison for looking at dirty drawings of children.

  4. Army of Dorkness says:

    “A Reason magazine article that set out to knock down the case for obscenity laws actually made the case for them:”

    The quoted text following the above quote does nothing of the sort. The lines are arbitrary and the definitions allow for the lines to move on a case by case basis. That makes the case for a law being unworthy of being a law. So a few camerapeople and newsmagazine producers didn’t like what they saw…why are they the gauge for the entire country, and why is it okay to legislate according to the tastes of a sampling of the population? because that’s the way the law is written? That does not make it okay. That just makes it legal. I have no interest in that rape-porn movie, but I’m not going to support anyone who says it shouldn’t be out there for others to view because it’s not for us to jugde what others are allowed to view and subsequently think. That’s all it is. Overreaching of the law to legislate thought because people can’t handle the idea that some other people out there are enjoying something they deem “obscene.”

    This whole idea of “community standards” is nonsense. Why is San Francisco the mecca of the homosexual population? Because for a long time it was the only community with the standars to allow their way of life. Don’t legislate the bedroom, and don’t legislate the mind. “Obscenity” laws are legislating the mind, and it’s still up in the air according to some people about the legislation of bedrooms. There’s no reason homosexuals should have had to move to San Francisco to be accepted and avoid prosecution, and there’s no reason Handley should have had to find some place somewhere with “community standards” that would allow for what interests him because it’s not the community’s business.

    I read these laws, and I can’t believe so many of them were ever passed. There’s a reason a website exists called dumblaws.com. The complexity of law in this country is such that most people have no idea what is or isn’t legal. We all have a general idea–don’t steal, don’t kill, don’t suck at driving, etc., but a true understanding of the law is virtually impossible. Most lawyers don’t understand law enough to go into a case without weeks of preparation and research. Lawyers have to specialize now because of this. It’s stupid. The justice system fails on every level, but people still cling to it because there’s no other alternative.

    There’s no logic to “obscenity” law. It’s a law based on fear alone. Fear of others, fear of things we don’t understand, and fear of our own potential interest in things we don’t understand and what others enjoy. Incorporating images that do not exhibit actual children into child pornography laws proves that the law is no longer about being offended by someone’s actions or the welfare of children. It’s about the fear that another person could think children are sexually appealing. There’s nothing to suggest this person would ever act on their thoughts and feelings, but those thoughts and feelings are now subject to prosecution. That is just wrong.

    Put any costume on it you want. It’s still thought-crime legislation.

  5. Very well put A of D.

  6. Alexandra says:

    “If he were in Iowa City, there could well be a jury receptive to differences between photography, illustration and maybe even foreign cultures. ”

    Funny how so many people who expect SW Iowans to accept “getting turned on by cartoons of little girls getting raped is part of Japanese culture” won’t themselves accept “getting pleased by collectors of porn getting jailed is part of SW Iowan culture.”

    If it’s OK for Japan to have cultural standards that upset non-Japanese, then it’s equally OK for SW Iowa to have cultural standards that upset non-SW Iowans. ;)

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