A federal judge dismissed the first obscenity prosecution brought in Washington, D.C., in 25 years, acquitting John Stagliano and two companies associated with the adult video producer based in Van Nuys, Ca., reports the Washington Post. U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon said evidence presented by the Justice Department’s Obscenity Prosecution Task Force in four days was “woefully insufficient” to link defendants to the production and distribution of two DVD videos at the heart of the case.
“I hope the government will learn a lesson from its experience,” Leon said. He cited a string of “difficult, challenging and novel questions” raised in the case concerning decades-old federal obscenity statutes, the Internet, free speech and criminal defendants’ rights. The decision to toss out the charges came as a relief to the multibillion-dollar pornography industry, which has honored Stagliano, one of its larger producers and distributors, with several awards. Stagliano, a married father nicknamed “Buttman,” is known for pushing the edge of industry standards in his depiction of fetishes, and the video scenes selected by the government for prosecution involved urination, use of enemas, and bondage. Stagliano, 58, distributes a wide range of graphic, sexually explicit material that is hard to distinguish from videos by many others in the industry, said Robert Richards, co-director of the Pennsylvania Center for the First Amendment at Penn State University.