A black record store owner convicted of obscenity for selling a sexually explicit album by the black rap group 2 Live Crew says the all-white jury "doesn't represent my community."
"It's unfair. The jury was all white. They don't know where E-C Records is. They don't know a damned thing about the ghetto," Charles Freeman yelled to reporters after he was convicted Wednesday.Critics of the rap group hailed the verdict as a milestone in the battle against material they consider obscene. The music industry and civil libertarians decried it as censorship.
2 Live Crew and its album "As Nasty as They Wanna Be" have been at the center of a First Amendment dispute since June 6, when a federal judge deemed obscene lyrics that include references to sodomy and sexual intercourse. Some also have objected to the lyrics as violent and degrading to women.
The jury of five women and one man took only 2 1/2 hours to return the verdict against Freeman, 31, on a misdemeanor charge. Jurors later declined to discuss their decision.
"It's the first time in musical history that a piece of work has been found to be obscene," said Trish Heimers, spokeswoman for the Recording Industry Association of America, a Washington-based trade association for U.S. record companies.
"I would most certainly characterize this as censorship," she said.
Donald Wildmon, founder of the conservative American Family Association based in Tupelo, Miss., said the conviction is a sign of a national trend against obscenity and pornography.
"There's definitely a shift in attitudes in America about this kind of trash," he said.
Luther Campbell, leader of 2 Live Crew, said he wasn't surprised by the verdict.
"I had figured that the guy would be found guilty based on the jury that was chosen," Campbell said in a statement. "The community standards in the black area and white area are completely different."
Campbell and two other members of the rap group face trial Tuesday on charges of performing obscene material at a nightclub show in nearby Hollywood. Freeman's sentencing has been set for Nov. 2. The conviction carries a possible one-year jail sentence and $1,000 fine.