Vice Squad
Thursday, January 15, 2004
Obscenity Cases Around the World

Obscenity cases from all over have hit the airwaves in the last couple of days. Vice Squad primo research assistant Ryan Monarch brings our attention to a guilty verdict against a Japanese publisher of rather explicit "manga" cartoons. The verdict, to be appealed, is the first Japanese obscenity conviction of a comic book publisher. According to the linked article, 45% of the books and periodicals sold in Japan are manga.

Middle America brings us a couple of obscenity cases. In Indianapolis, a woman was driving her boyfriend's car. (The transmission in her car is broken.) On the side of the boyfriend's car is a painting in questionable taste: it depicts two female dancers and two male customers at a strip club, with one of the strippers nude (except for high heels) and the second wearing lingerie. The woman motorist was stopped by police in front of her house. She was driving on a suspended license, though apparently she was stopped because of the painting. She was taken to jail, and now faces two obscenity-related counts in addition to the driving with a suspended license charge. The boyfriend had been driving the car since May with no trouble from the police. The woman and her boyfriend believe that the stop was undertaken in retaliation for a complaint that she recently lodged against the police.

Hamilton County, Ohio, the jurisdiction that brought you the Larry Flynt prosecution, is at it again. This week they convicted the owner of an adult video store for selling an obscene videotape to an undercover sheriff's detective. The lawyer for the defendant noted that the store was actually in the Cincinnati police district, and that Cincinnati police went by the store every day for years and paid it no mind. Not so the Hamilton County Sheriff, who clearly takes seriously his duty to protect his constituents from vile pornography -- OK, except for that they get delivered right to their homes, via cable or satellite or....

[One bonus middle America story, also thanks to Ryan Monarch. Michigan introduced a new state law on January 1 that would require magazines that are "harmful to minors" to be kept away from kids, either by being covered up or by being placed in restricted areas of bookstores. A federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the law has now been filed by a group of publishers, distributors, and booksellers. Here's one story from the Associated Press, and one with a slightly different take from Family News in Focus. The comic book industry, an opponent of these types of laws in the past (and, as the Japan case shows, a likely target of enforcement,) is again taking part in the legal fracas.]

And in Brazil, an American commercial pilot made an impolite gesture when he had his picture taken, as all Americans entering Brazil must do (that is, have their pictures taken, not make an impolite gesture.) He was arrested and is charged with disobeying authority. No word if our nation's Attorney General, John Comstock Ashcroft, has responded by introducing a new federal crime of disobeying authority into the draft for an updated Patriot Act.

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