Responding to public outrage over a deluge of sexually oriented mail reaching American homes, U.S. Attorney for Utah Brent Ward announced a series of indictments Friday in the first nationwide effort to identify and prosecute those who distribute unsolicited obscene materials.
The charges against six corporations and 20 individuals in eight states were described as the first of a large number of indictments to be unsealed in coming months as part of Project PostPorn, a cooperative effort of the Justice Department and the Postal Inspection Service.The large-scale pornography prosecution was initiated two years ago by Ward in Salt Lake City because of "Utahns' lack of tolerance toward receiving unwelcomed pornographic material in the mail." Ward describes pornographic mailings as the No. 1 complaint his Utah office receives.
The investigation involves all states, he said.
Each count of mailing obscene matter and advertising obscene matter carries a maximum $250,000 fine and a five-year prison term for individuals charged. Corporations may be fined up to $500,000.
Ward told the Deseret News Friday he is committed to the aggressive prosecution of mail pornography because its effects reach unsuspecting persons -particularly children - who discover offensive, often-violent materials inside innocuous-looking envelopes.
The envelopes are often addressed to children, the prosecutor said.
"It's an insidious situation. Children and teenagers often receive the pornographic material, and their parents can do nothing to divert the mailings. Parents stop me in the street and demand, `What are you going to do about this?' "
Typically, the mail-order companies conduct mass mailings to 500,000 to 750,000 homes at a time. The brochures generally contain full color advisements containing "hard core" photographs, including explicit depictions of homosexual, transsexual and heterosexual group activities. Violent themes, such as rape, torture and bondage, are often shown in detail, said Ward.
"If you subscribe to a legitimate news magazine, your name can end up on the mailing list of one of these companies. Anyone's name can turn up on a pornographer's mailing list because name lists are a lucrative sideline for publishers of all types of materials. These lists are bought and sold among many companies," he said.
An average 125 Utahns monthly apply to the Postal Service for prohibitory orders against mail-order pornographers.
In addition to the graphic visual depictions advertising obscene matter, many of these advertisements include solicitations for sexual devices and bondage items. Among the items advertised by one company is an inflatable, life-like child doll for persons with a sexual orientation toward children.
While many of the advertisements are obscene, the brochures need not be obscene to violate federal law. The material only needs to provide information concerning where or from whom obscene material may be obtained.
The companies indicted by a federal grand jury in Salt Lake City include: Consumers Marketing Group, based in Stamford, Conn. (doing business under the names Bijou Video Sales and Slave and Master Video); Entertainment and Amusement Inc. of Chicago (doing business as Dirty Dick's Dynamite Discount Den, Expose Theater and Private Showcase Video).
Individuals indicted are Steven Toushin, Sean O'Connor, Randy Larsen and David L. Rosen of Chicago and Avram C. Freedberg of Stamford, Conn.
The corporations and individuals were indicted in Salt Lake City because mailings were allegedly received by Utahns from these accused parties, said Ward.
"About 100 companies are mailing sexually oriented advertisements on a national basis. These companies are among the largest.
"Our goal is to stop this offensive problem within a year with continued investigation and rigorous prosecution. Today marks a significant beginning in stopping a problem that plagues unsuspecting Utahns."