Five years ago this month, the U.S. Attorney’s office in Pittsburgh made national headlines by filing obscenity charges against a California company that makes graphic pornography. Many saw the case against Extreme Associates as a prelude of things to come under then-Attorney General John Ashcroft, says the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The case has languished. There had been no entries in the case docket since Aug. 17, 2007, until a reporter called the judge’s chambers last week to inquire about the case. Yesterday the docket was updated to show that a telephone status conference will be held Sept. 17.
In a district where the median time from the filing of a criminal charge to its disposition is 10.3 months, having a case outstanding for five years is unusual. Some experts now say that’s indicative of obscenity prosecutions generally. “For all the sound and fury, what we saw was a handful of prosecutions,” said Reed Lee, an attorney who specializes in the First Amendment. “There never was a grand onslaught people may have envisioned.” The difference, said Todd Lochner, a political science professor at Lewis & Clark College in Oregon, said,. “The prosecution is trying to set boundaries as to the acceptable realm of adult material.” The Extreme Associates videos show women being tortured, raped, defecated on, and murdered. The case has seen innumerable delays, first in appeals and now in the pretrial motion phase.