LOS ANGELES (AP) — The case of an adult film producer charged with violating federal obscenity laws by selling movies depicting bestiality and extreme fetishes ended in a mistrial Tuesday.
Jurors were unable to reach a unanimous verdict against Ira Isaacs, voting 10-2 in favor of a conviction on 10 counts, including production and transportation of obscene material for sale, said defense attorney Roger Diamond.
Laura Sweeney, a spokeswoman with the U.S. Department of Justice whose prosecutors handled the case in Los Angeles, declined comment.
If convicted of all counts, Isaacs could have faced up to 20 years in prison. A retrial was set for April 24.
Isaacs was indicted several years ago as part of an effort by a Bush administration task force to crack down on smut in the United States. The unit has since been disbanded.
Isaacs' 2008 trial was halted after the Los Angeles Times reported Alex Kozinski, chief judge of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals who oversaw the proceedings, had sexually explicit material on a personal website.
Kozinski recused himself and was admonished by a special committee of his colleagues for actions they deemed as poor judgment.
Kozinski was presiding in the criminal case under a program in which appellate judges are assigned federal trials.
At issue was whether the videos sold by Isaacs were obscene. The test still hinges on a 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that held that a work is not legally obscene if it has "literary, artistic, political or scientific value."
Jurors also were asked to decide whether the videos, some of which depicted fetishes involving feces, violated standards of what is acceptable to the community at large.
Isaacs has maintained his work is an extreme but constitutionally protected form of art.
"This is a monumental waste of money," Diamond said of the court proceedings.
Prosecutors will keep seeking a conviction because "they are catering to the right wing that doesn't like gay rights or sexual freedoms," Diamond claimed. "We think this is a victory."
We have become quite accustomed to Paypal arbitrarilydeciding to shutdown the payment services for a website with no warning and little recourse. Usually when it does so, it acts through its own volition. However, Paypal also has to deal with the whims of the credit card companies with which it is partnered. With that business arrangement, when a credit card company says to jump, Paypal must comply. When it does so, it effects all its own customers as well. Ebook publisher Smashwords reports that it has become one of the latest recipients of one such action. Under pressure from credit card providers, Paypal has put in place a policy that it would no longer process payments for ebooks that contained themes of rape, incest, beastiality and underage sexual content. It then decided to give Smashwords less than a week to remove all books that fit those criteria.
On Saturday, February 18, PayPal’s enforcement division contacted Smashwords with an ultimatum. As with the other ebook retailers affected by this enforcement, PayPal gave us only a few days to achieve compliance otherwise they threatened to deactivate our PayPal services. I've had multiple conversations with PayPal over the last several days to better understand their requirements. Their team has been helpful, forthcoming and supportive of the Smashwords mission. I appreciate their willingness to engage in dialogue. Although they have tried their best to delineate their policies, gray areas remain.
Their hot buttons are bestiality, rape-for-titillation, incest and underage erotica.
This has put tremendous pressure on Smashwords to comply as it claims that it would be near impossible to change payment processors as Paypal is a major part in not only how it processes transactions but also how it pays its authors. So it has made several changes to its terms of service to account for the types of books that Paypal and its credit card partners are not happy about. Keep in mind, this is hard for Smashwords as it feels that authors of erotica are being unfairly targeted by this move.
We do not want to see PayPal clamp down further against erotica. We think our authors should be allowed to publish erotica. Erotica, despite the attacks it faces from moralists, is a category worthy of protection. Erotica allows readers to safely explore aspects of sexuality that they might never want to explore in the real world.
The moralists forget that we humans are all sexual creatures, and the biggest sex organ is the brain. If it were not the case, none of us would be here. Erotica authors are facing discrimination, plain and simple. Topics that are perfectly acceptable in mainstream fiction are verboten in erotica. That’s not fair.
This is an unfortunate set back for Smashwords as well as for indie authors. While the government in the US is not able to censor speech in this manner, there is little preventing a private company like Paypal or its credit card partners from taking these actions. Yet, Smashwords is not giving up hope. In its latest update, Smashwords notes that it had managed to get the deadline extended as well as the definitions of prohibited content relaxed. It also wants to clarify that neither it nor Paypal are the real villians in this issue. ...
By now you've heard of the "Fifty Shades of Grey" trilogy. You know, it's the trio of erotic books by E.L. James that has swept into suburbia and cities across the globe, and adored by many (not just suburban moms). I am a fan. In the spirit of full disclosure, I read all three books in less than 48 hours. All of my closest friends and many of my female relatives have, too.
Yesterday I appeared on The Today Show to talk about the BDSM love story. What should have been a segment on women's fantasies and why they are an essential part of our lives (similar to a piece I have written here before) segued into a larger (and more inappropriate) discussion on violence against women. Now I am not suggesting that it is inappropriate to talk about violence against women; I am stating that "Fifty Shades of Grey" and other types of non-vanilla erotica have nothing to do with violence against women. And I'm not the only one who feels that way. If you look at "Fifty Shades" fan pages or online book clubs, people are pissed. And they have the right to be. (Though the book did shoot up to #1 on Amazon afterwards, so "Fifty Shades" has secured its best-selling status.)
When you are on television, you get a short amount of time to answer some pretty big questions. It is absolutely impossible to do justice to a subject (especially a potentially controversial one) in four minutes, so I will use this forum instead. Now I don't find anything about "Fifty Shades of Grey" controversial, but if yesterday's media hype has got you questioning all of this, consider the following:
1. In our culture, it is politically incorrect for women to become aroused by something that makes us appear/seem/act submissive. However, we don't control how and if we turn on to something or someone. We may not desire to have fantasies about losing control, but many of us do. It doesn't make us bad women or bad people. It doesn't even say anything about our psyche or whether or not we want to "lose control" in our own lives. We may not have even known that we could turn on to a particular scene or experience until reading about it. And in the case of "Fifty Shades," if it got you hot and bothered, it got you hot and bothered. That's about it; there's no underlying psychological issue here. This is not about feminism or the demise of the women's movement, which is what I fear may have come up during the Today Show segment.
2. You cannot read three books and attempt to understand the BDSM and kink communities at large. This is one author's perspective, and it's fiction. BDSM is not as simple as "pleasure from pain," which is how it is often described. BDSM is about exploring different power dynamics, sensations, restraint and control. If you are part of that scene, it is highly negotiated and orchestrated; submissives have a great deal of power. And by the way, submissives are not always women. "Fifty Shades" is one story but not representative of an entire community. (I wonder how the television segment would have changed if we talked about the many women dominants or the many men who submit willingly and lovingly.) But quite honestly, I am not the expert on BDSM and kink. However, I certainly know enough to tell you that its portrayal in mass media (think "CSI" and "Law & Order") is inaccurate and dangerous, and in turn, keeps the real community fairly closeted because of all of our incorrect preconceived notions. ...
?A group of Denver kinksters staged a protest at the KinkForAllDenver conference last weekend. The demonstration was planned and executed amid accusations -- prior to the event -- that two KinkForAllDenver organizers censored presentations to discourage too much BDSM content and actively sought to exclude local kinksters.
The event, which took place on February 25 at the Tivoli Student Union, included about seventy people, who attended discussion groups, presentations and teach-ins. It was organized by Rebecca Crane of Boulder and Meitar "Maymay" Moscovitz, formerly of New York the co-founder of KinkForAll.
But several prominent local kinksters were noticeably missing, including Denver's premiere dominatrix and kink community leader Mistress Saskia, who was originally planning to present on biofeedback breathing and scene identities and roles. Saskia and husband, Jeff Jizz, were involved in the planning stage of the event, and donated $50 to help secure conference space.
But after her initial support Saskia backed out of the conference -- and she didn't mince words about her reasons why. "I decided not to present because Rebecca Crane was contacting me privately, saying my suggested presentations weren't appropriate for KFADEN -- too much BDSM content -- and also because Maymay was making it clear on the Google group for the event that he intended to destroy any safe space for people he calls 'traditional and privileged BDSMers,'" Saskia says.
A "safe space" is nominally defined by BDSM and GLBTQ advocates as a space kept free of discriminatory speech, violence and harassment.
Saskia and Jizz say that after Moscovitz and Crane approached them about participating in the conference and -- after their donation was made -- they were participating in an online discussion on the KinkForAll Google group about presentation topics when the conversation became heated over the issue of what topics that Crane and Moscovitz felt were too skewed toward BDSM.
Saskia says, "I posted other proposals, like 'Erotic Humiliation vs. Degradation.' She wasn't receptive to that and kept suggesting I try other things with broader appeal. I think my final suggestion was something on roles and identities, but after all the comments from Maymay about creating a hostile environment, I just removed my proposals and unsubscribed from the Google group."
According to Saskia and Jizz, the divisive quote was this one posted by Maymay on the KinkForAll Google group: "Maybe you don't know this about me yet, so now's a good time for me to be direct: It is my expressly stated intention to make BDSM 'traditionalists' uncomfortable. I *enjoy* it, I'm *good* at it, and I'm not going to pull any punches in Denver or anywhere else. My aim is to destroy every 'safe space' for privileged BDSM bullshit anywhere within my reach. And yes, that includes KinkForAll. So, rubbing people 'The wrong way'? Depending on who you're talking about rubbing the wrong way, hell, that's part of my *success criterion*." ...
The Justice Department has dropped its effort to force a a writer for the online magazine Salon to testify at the obscenity trial beginning this week for a California-based pornographer, the writer said Tuesday.
Salon writer Tracy Clark-Flory said in a story posted Tuesday that she was subpoenaed by prosecutors pursuing Ira Isaacs, who produced and distributed fetish and bestiality videos that prosecutors contend were legally obscene. Clark-Flory said prosecutors planned to fly her from San Francisco to Los Angeles and put her up at a hotel so she could testify about an interview she did with Isaacs last year.
However, she told POLITICO that on Tuesday afternoon, her lawyers were told by the government that her presence for the trial was no longer needed.
"I just got word the prosecution sent an e-mail to my lawyer around early afternoon that the government decided it will not be calling me after all," a relieved Clark-Flory said in a telephone interview. "I wonder if it occured to them that, maybe, compelling a journalist to go on the stand for this trial...would end up being too messy a situation or be a bigger pain than it was worth."
Justice Department policy requires that, in most cases, subpoenas for journalists be approved in advance by the Attorney General.
It's unclear whether that occurred in this instance, but Attorney General Eric Holder called attention to the case Tuesday at a Congressional hearing. Asked by Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) about concerns that adult obscenity cases have been flagging since Holder disbanded a small Bush-era Adult Obscenity Task Force and combined its operations with a DOJ unit that handles child exploitation cases, Holder pointed specifically to the Isaacs case, which was filed back in 2007.
"The merger has not impacted our desires to go after appropriate adult obscenity cases," Holder said. "Our emphasis, I will be very frank with you, is on cases involving children. But I will note that there is a major case that is starting I believe either today or tomorrow in Los Angeles, the Isaacs matter, that involves adult obscenity."
"That is, I think, an example of what we are doing in that regard," Holder added. "There has not been a diminution of our focus on that as a result of the merger." ...
Stephen Hawking certainly has discovered some new heavenly bodies — at a California jiggle joint.
The apparently sex-crazed 70-year-old genius astrophysicist, who is confined to a wheelchair by Lou Gehrig’s disease and uses a computer to speak, has been spotted several times getting lap dances at California sex club Devore, RadarOnline reported today.
Hawking, whose work on black holes earned him international acclaim, arrives at the club with an entourage of nurses and assistants and has "naked women grind on him," RadarOnline reported.
"I have seen Steven Hawking at the club more than a handful of times," the source told the online celebrity gossip site. "Last time I saw him he was in the back 'play area' laying on a bed fully clothed with two naked women gyrating all over him."
Although debilitated by the disease, which is also known as motor neurone disease, Hawking has been a member of the Freedom Acres swingers club for more than a decade, according to the report.
Hawking and his second wife, Elaine, divorced in 2006. His first marriage, to Jane Hawking, split in 1990.
Diagnosed at the age of 21, Hawking was given only a few years to live but has defied medical opinion by reaching his eighth decade.
"I'm sure my disability has a bearing on why I'm well known," he once said. "People are fascinated by the contrast between my very limited physical powers, and the vast nature of the universe I deal with."
Much of his work has centered on bringing together relativity (the nature of space and time) and quantum theory (how the smallest particles in the universe behave) to explain the creation of the universe and how it is governed.
Hawking is a good sport, according to RadarOnline, and will even pose for photos with fans as long as the pics are taken in "a neutral area."
"Real Housewives of Orange County" star Vicki Gunvalson's ex-husband Donn has also been spotted in the Southern California swingers club, RadarOnline said.
"But Stephen is by far the last person I ever expected to see in this club," the source told the site.
Therapist No. 1 wrote in: "The husband has developed an interest in BDSM practices and is insisting his wife participate with him. The wife is seriously turned off by the new games and doesn't want to play. Suggestions?"
Therapist No. 2 responded: "Well, no one should be expected to do things against their wishes, but what is BDSM?"
Therapist No. 3 responded: "BDSM = Bondage and Discipline, Sadomasochism."
Therapist No. 4 chimes in and suggests that kinky clients deserve "kink-aware" therapists who understand their needs and lifestyle. He offers a directory of kink-aware therapists. Vanilla therapists need to stick to vanilla clients, "vanilla" meaning tending to practice the more familiar expressions of sexual love and avoiding the "walk on the wild side."
Where we camp out on the continuum of kink is a matter of individual choice. It gets more challenging when partners have to blend their respective desires into one sex life. Negotiations become extremely difficult when one lover is "vanilla" to the point of being resistant to trying any new sexual activities.
The flip side is the challenge of a partner who has a persistent desire for a particular sex act that is unappealing, frightening or repugnant. Rigid insistence on having it your way can lead to major resentments. ...