Manga Reader Charged for Obscenity
The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has defended several arists and retailers in the past. But now, for the first time, they have been called to aid an actual comic book collector.
Christopher Handley of Iowa is facing obscenity charges under the PROTECT Act (18 U.S.C. section 14661) for ordering and possessing manga that is allegedly "obscene." Although no photographic material is contained within the manga in question, the charges allege that the material includes drawings depicting minors engaging in acts of a sexual nature. The material was reported by a postal inspector.
The"objectionable" manga in question is only a small part of Handley’s collection, which included over 1200 volumes of various manga. Despite this, authorities have taken possession of Handley’s entire comic book, magazine, manga and DVD collection, as well as his computer, in their search for further evidence.
If found guilty, Handley could face up to 20 years in jail. CBLDF legal counsel Burton Joseph commented, "I have never encountered a situation where criminal prosecution was brought against a private consumer for possession of material for personal use in his own home. This prosecution has profound implications in limiting the First Amendment for art and artists, and comics in particular, that are on the cutting edge of creativity. It misunderstands the nature of avant-garde art in its historical perspective and is a perversion of anti-obscenity laws."
As of now, Handley and the CBLDF-assisted defense team have been able to achieve partial victory. The court has ruled that sections of the PROTECT Act are infirm because they "do no require that the material be deemed obscene" by a court-appointed jury but rather by Congressional standards.
In the latest CBLDF update, it states: "Handley now faces charges under the surviving sections of 1466A, which will require a jury to determine whether the drawings at issue are legally obscene."
The following are the legal standards that would make the material "obscene." All three must be met in order for there to be a conviction.
A. Whether the average person, applying comtemporary community standards, would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest.
B. Whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law.
C. Whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.
For more information and how you can help, check out the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund web-site.