PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — A federal judge overseeing a case exploring the extreme fringe of pornography suspended the obscenity trial on Wednesday after a newspaper reported he had posted sexually explicit photos and videos on his own Web site.
Judge Alex Kozinski, chief judge of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, granted a joint prosecution and defense motion to suspend the trial after prosecutors said they needed time to look into the issue. The jury was ordered to return on Monday.
“I’m not going to say anything. The trial is ongoing,” Kozinski told a reporter as he left.
The suspension came after jurors spent hours at the Pasadena offices of the 9th Circuit watching videos of bestiality and extreme fetishes that are evidence in the trial of Ira Isaacs, a Los Angeles businessman who sold them.
Kozinski indicated to the attorneys he would be willing to recuse himself but noted that the trial had already begun and jurors had already seen two of the graphic movies.
Earlier, as the jury was hearing opening statements in a Los Angeles courtroom, the Los Angeles Times reported on its Web site that Kozinski had posted sexual material on his Web site and then blocked access after being interviewed about it Tuesday evening.
The images included a video of a “half-dressed man cavorting with a sexually aroused farm animal” and a picture of nude women on all fours painted to look like cows, the newspaper reported.
Kozinski told the Times he thought the material on his Web site couldn’t be seen by the public. He said he didn’t believe the images were obscene.
“Is it prurient? I don’t know what to tell you,” he told the newspaper. “I think it’s odd and interesting. It’s part of life.”
The Times also described a wide range of other types of sexual imagery.
“If this is true, this is unacceptable behavior for a federal court judge,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said through a spokesman.
Kozinski, 57, was assigned to oversee the trial in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles under a program in which appellate judges occasionally handle criminal trials at the district court level.
Kozinski became the youngest federal appeals court judge in the nation when he was appointed at age 35 to the bench by former President Ronald Reagan in 1985. He is known as a strong defender of free speech and First Amendment rights.
Before the site was blocked, visitors to http://alex.kozinski.com saw a message: “Ain’t nothin’ here. Y’all best be movin’ on, compadre.” Visitors who knew about a subdirectory could see the sexually explicit materials, as well as some of Kozinski’s legal writings and personal photos, the Times said.
Attorney Roger Jon Diamond, Isaacs’ attorney, told the court that a Beverly Hills attorney, Cyrus Sanai, had recently called him and indicated he had a dispute with the 9th Circuit and knew about the material on the judge’s Web site.
Sanai told The Associated Press by telephone that he had told the Times about the pornographic images on Kozinski’s Web site.
Sanai said he discovered the graphic material in December on Kozinski’s Web site, which he was monitoring as part of a long-running dispute he has with the 9th Circuit tied to his parents’ divorce case. After downloading the files, Sanai said he began contacting reporters at various publications in January in an effort to publicly expose them.
He said he hoped disclosure of the material in the media would bring attention to what he called widespread ethical problems on the 9th Circuit.
The court “refuses to acknowledge the existence of judicial ethics,” Sanai said. “I expected people to be shocked and revolted.”
Jurors in the obscenity case were being asked to decide whether the films Isaacs distributed are obscene under federal law.
They must decide if the films appeal to a loathsome or degrading type of sexual intercourse and whether the sexual conduct is “patently offensive,” judging by the community’s standards.
Isaacs, 57, is charged with four counts, including importation or transportation of obscene material for sale. He faces a maximum of 20 years in prison. Prosecutors also are seeking forfeiture of assets obtained through his video sales. Two of the original six counts in his indictment were dropped.