In a legal debate being watched nationwide, U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan of Pittsburgh is facing off today against a company that sells videos with brutal and graphic depictions of sexual violence, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. Buchanan and H. Louis Sirkin, a Cincinnati lawyer who represents California-based Extreme Associates, will argue before the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The case is the first major test of federal obscenity laws in 15 years. Buchanan lost the first round in January when U.S. District Judge Gary Lancaster threw out an indictment of Extreme and its owners, Robert Zicari, who calls himself “Rob Black,” and his wife, Janet Romano, who uses the name “Lizzie Borden.”
The judge ruled that federal obscenity statutes as applied by the prosecution violate protections of liberty and privacy. The law says that possession of obscene materials is legal, but distribution of them is not. In essence, the judge said, the federal ban on distribution of obscenity illegally infringes on people’s constitutional right to possess it. The case was part of a renewed crackdown by the government on hard-core, violent pornography. The videos sold by the company show men gang-raping women, defecating and urinating on them, forcing them to drink bodily fluids, and slitting their throats. Sirkin argues that people have the right to view porn videos in the privacy of their homes, and that right is infringed if they can’t get the films.