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Lawyer: Experience With Web Obscenity Cases

LAKELAND, Fl — Chris Wilson chose a lawyer well-known among adult Web site owners and First Amendment advocates to defend him against obscenity charges.

Lawrence Walters of Orlando has been representing clients with Internet sites since the mid-1990s and has some history representing clients in Polk County as well.

In 1999, he represented a woman named Tammy Robinson in one of the first Polk County adult Web site prosecutions. Robinson ran a Web site where she posted nude pictures of herself. A warrant was served at her home, and she was charged with wholesale promotion of obscenity, a felony in the state of Florida.

In response, Walters filed two federal lawsuits against the Polk Sheriff’s Office and the State Attorney’s office.

The Robinsons eventually agreed to close down the Web site, and they moved out of the county. But the criminal charges against them were dismissed.

Walters has also represented several owners of adult video stores in Polk County.

“Primarily the cases were resolved by settlement agreement,” he said. “Nobody was convicted of anything.”

In all cases, the people involved stopped operating in Polk County.

Walters first took an interest in First Amendment issues in the late 1980s, when he was working for a law firm in Daytona Beach, practicing corporate and commercial law.

A state attorney had begun prosecuting video store owners who had adult videos in the back of their stores.

“He was dragging these people out in handcuffs and parading them in front of the news cameras. He started sending letters to video store owners and telling them what videos to take off their shelves, including one of my personal favorites, “Pink Floyd’s `The Wall.’ ” I thought to myself, I didn’t go to law school to see this kind of stuff happen.”

Walters offered to represent the video store owners for free.

“I ended up winning all those cases,” he said.

After that, adult video distributors began contacting him to represent them, and he became more and more involved in representing First Amendment cases, he said.

In 1994, he met an Internet pornography entrepreneur, he said.

“I saw right away that this was an area that very few lawyers knew anything about. I saw an opportunity to get in on an area that was underlawyered and unique, but with explosive growth potential,” he said.

He began placing banner ads for his services on adult Web sites, and his business took off, he said.

He is now a partner with the firm of Weston, Garrou, DeWitt, and Walters, a 40-year-old firm that specializes in First Amendment issues.

He represents businesses in all areas of the Internet, including Internet dating sites, Internet gaming and adult Web sites, he said.

“However, underneath it all, I’m always a First Amendment attorney at heart,” he said.

Walters, 42, is married with a son, and lives in the suburbs of Orlando.



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