Utah U.S. Attorney Brent D. Ward continued his campaign for President Reagan's tough new anti-pornography bill Thursday.
Last week he testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on behalf of the Child Protection and Obscenity Enforcement Act. Thursday, he went before the committee's House counterpart.Ward said that federal obscenity law is unusual in that what is obscene is defined by the community. "The community standard is what juries say it is as they consider materials brought before them in criminal cases," he said.
"It is impossible for a community to articulate a standard of obscenity unless prosecuting attorneys bring cases and present materials to juries for decisions. In this sense the prosecutor is the means whereby a community decides for itself what is or is not obscene."
According to Ward, although it may seem at times that prosecutors are imposing their views of morality on the rest of the community, "in reality they are only presenting the community with an opportunity to decide for itself what its standard of obscenity is."
He called for enacting these provisions:
-Record-keeping. Producers of any material showing explicit sexual conduct would be forced to keep rec-ords of the age and identity of each performer. If they don't or sell such material without an indication of where the records are kept, that would be a separate crime.
"This record-keeping requirement would be an added burden, but only for producers of material which, by its very nature, poses a risk of serious harm to children," Ward said.
-"Syndicate buster" laws. Amendments to the law would simplify prosecutions, by throwing out a requirement that shows how pornographic material traveled across state lines. Under present laws, it's necessary to trace the route, in order to bring federal obscenity statutes into the picture.
Under the amendments, if an obscene video cassette were produced in Las Angeles and purchased in Salt Lake City, he said, "that would give rise to a . . . presumption that the video cassette in fact traveled in interstate commerce."
"That is just good common sense," Ward said.
-Asset forfeiture. Under the proposed law, prosecutors could seize the assets used in the production or distribution of obscenity, or the cars and other goods purchased with the proceeds of the crimes.
This "may prove to be the best available means of actually breaking up criminal enterprises engaged in the production and distribution of obscenity."
Criminal enterprises are so large that simply removing current management often has no effect on the business, Ward said.
"As soon as the principals in the enterprise are prosecuted, other persons take their place and it is back to business as usual. We are simply not likely to have any lasting influence on the rapidly expanding pornography industry without the ability to seize and forfeit assets."
-New technology. The proposed law for the first time would prohibit broadcast of obscenity by cable and subscription television, he said.
-Dial-a-porn. Speaking as the only U.S. attorney to attempt to prosecute a dial-a-porn company, Ward said the law has been proven inadequate.
A new bill, called Helms-Bliley, is seriously deficient in that dial-a-porn messages will be punishable only as misdemeanors.
"When Helms-Bliley was under consideration by Congress, the Department of Justice strongly urged that obscene dial-a-porn be punishable as a felony," he said. "This would bring the penalty for this obscenity offense into line with the penalties for other obscenity offenses."
He called for modifying the administration's proposed House bill to make obscene dial-a-porn a felony offense.