Rare Federal Obscenity Case On Trial In Washington, D.C.


Adult film producer John Stagliano has been a critic of federal prosecution of obscenity cases, championing libertarian causes and sexual expression. Now, says the National Law Journal, he is on trial in Washington, D.C., on seven counts of distributing obscene, sexually graphic videos that prosecutors allege have no artistic or scientific value and cut against the community standard of what is acceptable.It’s the first adult porn obscenity case in the U.S. District Court in the capital in more than 20 years. In the first year of the Obama administration, 20 defendants were charged with obscenity crimes, compared with 54 the previous year.

Stagliano’s attorney argue that he has a right to possess and to distribute sexually explicit material. The lawyers contend federal obscenity standards are too vague to govern Internet speech. The sexual acts in the movies were lawful, the lawyers said, and the participants were consenting adults. “The right of sexual privacy has evolved as society’s attitudes about sexuality have evolved,” says the defense. Said Judge Richard Leon, in allowing the trial to proceed: “Although public morality may be an insufficient justification for regulating private conduct in some cases, it is certainly a sufficient justification for regulating the sort of public conduct at issue here.”

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