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More: Salon Reporter Didn’t Want to Testify Against Isaacs Because It Would Make Others Reluctant to Talk to Her

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from www.politico.com – The Justice Department has dropped its effort to force a a writer for the online magazine Salon to testify at the obscenity trial beginning this week for a California-based pornographer, the writer said Tuesday.

Salon writer Tracy Clark-Flory [pictured] said in a story posted Tuesday that she was subpoenaed by prosecutors pursuing Ira Isaacs, who produced and distributed fetish and bestiality videos that prosecutors contend were legally obscene. Clark-Flory said prosecutors planned to fly her from San Francisco to Los Angeles and put her up at a hotel so she could testify about an interview she did with Isaacs last year.

However, she told POLITICO that on Tuesday afternoon, her lawyers were told by the government that her presence for the trial was no longer needed.

“I just got word the prosecution sent an e-mail to my lawyer around early afternoon that the government decided it will not be calling me after all,” a relieved Clark-Flory said in a telephone interview.

“I wonder if it occured to them that, maybe, compelling a journalist to go on the stand for this trial…would end up being too messy a situation or be a bigger pain than it was worth.”

Justice Department policy requires that, in most cases, subpoenas for journalists be approved in advance by the Attorney General.

It’s unclear whether that occurred in this instance, but Attorney General Eric Holder called attention to the case Tuesday at a Congressional hearing. Asked by Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) about concerns that adult obscenity cases have been flagging since Holder disbanded a small Bush-era Adult Obscenity Task Force and combined its operations with a DOJ unit that handles child exploitation cases, Holder pointed specifically to the Isaacs case, which was filed back in 2007.

“The merger has not impacted our desires to go after appropriate adult obscenity cases,” Holder said. “Our emphasis, I will be very frank with you, is on cases involving children. But I will note that there is a major case that is starting I believe either today or tomorrow in Los Angeles, the Isaacs matter, that involves adult obscenity.”

“That is, I think, an example of what we are doing in that regard,” Holder added. “There has no been a diminution of our focus on that as a result of the merger.”

Clark-Flory said prosecutors had previously “reassured us that the scope of questions would be limited to simply verifying that [Isaacs] said what I said he said and the surrounding circumstances.” Prosecutors seemed most interested in verifying that Isaacs said in the interview that he had to argue that his videos had artistic merit in order “to sound not guilty.”

The Salon writer said her had prepared a legal brief expressing concern that even if prosecutors kept to their agreement, there could be no assurance that the defense would do so. Because it is a federal trial, the strong California shield law for journalists would provide no protection. Lawyers for Salon tried earlier to arrange to have her submit a sworn declaration in lieu of in-person testimony at the trial, but prosecutors rejected that option before they threw in the towel on Tuesday.

Clark-Flory, who covers sex and pornography for Salon, said she was reluctant to testify and was concerned that being called to the stand could hurt her work in the future.

“It is kind of frightening to be compelled by the prosecution to testify against a pornographer,” the Salon writer said.

“It is a position certainly I did not want to be in….As a reporter, no matter what your beat is, you don’t want your interview subjects to be worried what they say to you will be used against them in a court or law at some point….It’s a scary prospect.”

Jury selection in Isaacs’s case began Monday, according to Adult Video News. On the first day, one potential juror began crying uncontrollably when given a summary of the case and another who identified himself as a sex addict asked to be excused because viewing the videos at issue could interfere with his treatment, AVN reported.

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