SALT LAKE CITY — A large coalition of anti-pornography groups wants to turn up the heat on the Obama administration, which hasn't indicted a single person for obscenity arising from adult-content pornography.
Since President Barack Obama took office and appointed Eric Holder as attorney general, the Justice Department has continued to prosecute cases that were in the pipeline, but it hasn't launched any new ones.
That has angered and frustrated senators, religious leaders, family groups and others.
The federal government's decision about whether to prosecute obscenity inevitably touches the lives of Utahns, said Pamela Atkinson, chair of the Utah Coalition Against Pornography.
"What the government does allows the pornographic industry to go even further than they have gone," Atkinson said. "They see the record of the last few years that nothing is happening with those obscenity laws, and so more and more (pornographic) tools can be accessed via Internet. …
"There are so many people in Utah who feel that pornography is just fine, that it's harmless and that it doesn't matter if people access it. If the U.S. Attorney General's office started to come down on these pornographic industries, it would send a clear message to people that, no, it is not harmless, and we're going after it very aggressively."
Holder appears before the U.S. Senate on Tuesday and the House on Wednesday. Patrick Trueman, chairman and CEO of Morality in Media, is calling on a national coalition against pornography to call on Holder. Trueman established a phone number — 877-639-1977 — that will reach the Justice Department's switchboard, where callers can voice their displeasure.
"They haven't started any new (obscenity) prosecutions, and last month they shut down the Obscenity Prosecution Task Force," Trueman said. "They pretend they're doing this to be more effective, but we know that it's because they're just not doing new (obscenity) cases."
Trueman shared the number with approximately 90 organizations belonging to the same anti-pornography coalition as Morality in Media.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, has been pressing Holder for months now over the administration's failure to enforce obscenity laws against the porn industry. Last month he circulated a letter signed by 42 U.S. senators and addressed to Holder that essentially called for the prosecution of "major commercial distributors of hardcore adult pornography."
"Let's be honest: the porn industry considers as legal whatever is not prosecuted," Hatch recently told the Deseret News. "A consistent effort to prosecute mainstream obscenity that is more widely produced and consumed … can have a significant effect if they would do it. Then I think the porn industry would realize that they are under attack, and they would be more careful about what they are doing."
Robert T. Young, a retired FBI special agent who consults for Morality in Media after specializing in pornography and obscenity investigations for 23 of his 26 years with Bureau, is an expert on building a failsafe case for obscenity prosecution. He said pornographers can be successfully prosecuted for distributing hardcore pornography.
That isn't easy, though, Politico court blogger Josh Gerstein said, because mass-market porn producers can argue that their products don't violate community standards just based on the amount of their products being consumed.
Gerstein reported that three cases left over from the Bush administration have continued: Last year, a federal judge acquitted a major California porn producer after his trial on obscenity charges. In February, a small New Jersey producer's guilty plea resulted in six months of home confinement and three years probation. The last case goes to trial next month in Los Angeles.
Atkinson's organization, the Utah Coalition Against Pornography, is holding its annual conference this Saturday at the Little America Hotel in Salt Lake City. For more information, visit www.utahcoalition.org.