John Stagliano Off the Hook On Federal Obscenity Charges

Porn distributor John “Buttman” Stagliano is in the clear after U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon threw out the charges against him last Friday. Stagliano was facing serious fines and jail time over the obscenity charges and for the distribution of porn across state lines.
AVN’s Mark Kernes explains the verdict:

As to Counts One and Two, he said, although the government had certainly proved that John Stagliano, Inc. was a corporation under California law, it had failed to prove that the company had had anything to do with shipping the DVDs Milk Nymphos and Storm Squirters 2: Target Practice to the FBI’s undercover mailbox in the District of Columbia, nor “us[ing] an express company or other common carrier” to do so, as charged in Counts Four and Five, nor “knowingly possess[ing] with intent to distribute obscene motion picture films”–the aforementioned pair–as charged in Count Six. (Counts Three, Seven and one part of Six had previously been dismissed, since all related to the trailer for Fetish Fanatic Chapter 5, which the court had previously ruled was inadmissible, since the government’s exhibit of it–both the CD onto which it had allegedly been copied by FBI Special Agent Daniel Bradley, and the back-up copy that had been made–had proved to have too many glitches to be relied upon by the jury.)

The next defendant considered, Evil Angel Productions, Inc., was, Judge Leon said, a “tougher call,” but he nonetheless stated that there had not been sufficient evidence presented, circumstantial or otherwise, by the prosecution that this corporation, which had been suspended from doing business in California in 2005, had also had anything to do with shipping the two DVDs, nor with using a common carrier to do so.

But while Stagliano’s victory would appear to be a great boon for First Amendment advocates, not so says Reason’s Jacob Sullum:

U.S. District Judge Richard Leon’s decision to stop the trial after the prosecutors presented their case hinged on their incredibly sloppy work in linking Stagliano to the sale and interstate shipping of the two films at issue in the case. Leon ruled that the government had not presented enough evidence for the jurors to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that Stagliano himself had anything to do with approving the content of the films or distributing them. It seems that if the prosecutors had been a little more careful in laying that foundation, the trial could have proceeded, in which cases the jurors still would have been asked to pass judgment on whether Milk Nymphos and Storm Squirters 2 appeal to “the prurient interest,” are “patently offensive” according to “contemporary community standards,” and lack any “serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.”

Previously on FBLA: John Stagliano Obscenity Trial Set to Get Underway