Porn News

Obscene material on Patrick O’Malley’s computer still a mystery

In an era when hard-core pornography is a mouse click away and anyone with cable television can order adult movies by punching a few buttons on their remote, what is obscene enough to be deemed illegal?

The question lingers more than a week after former Cuyahoga County Recorder Patrick O’Malley resigned his office and pleaded guilty to one count of obscenity for images found on his personal computers.

He is the first person in at least four years to be charged with obscenity in U.S. District Court in Northern Ohio. O’Malley, his lawyer and federal prosecutors refuse to discuss or describe the images that led to the guilty plea.

FBI investigators found the material on computers taken from O’Malley’s Chagrin Falls home in 2004. According to a search warrant, the FBI agents were looking for child pornography, as well as records of a Cleveland billboard deal brokered by O’Malley.

Ian Friedman, O’Malley’s lawyer, said repeatedly that the images do not involve children.

“This plea agreement did not contemplate a child pornography offense,” Friedman said last week.

About 25 cases for child exploitation or child pornography are filed each year in Cleveland’s federal courthouse, acting U.S. Attorney Bill Edwards said.

But O’Malley’s case is the first obscenity charge filed since 2004.

Adult obscenity statutes focus on the dissemination of obscene materials, either by mail or through computers, said Richard Lillie, a Cleveland defense lawyer and former Cuyahoga County Common Pleas judge and federal prosecutor with expertise in obscenity laws.

Nationally, federal prosecutors have taken more of an interest in obscenity cases in recent years, including a case originating in Utah against two Cleveland brothers. Sami and Michael Harb face obscenity charges for selling pornographic DVDs via the Internet. Their case remains open in federal court in Utah.

Lillie – who at one point was on the Harb defense team – said federal prosecutors are targeting those who profit from questionably obscene material, either by producing it, importing it, broadcasting it or mailing it. They are not looking for Regular Joes with dirty pictures on their computer, he said.

“Somebody with a small collection of [pornography] would obviously not be a target of a federal prosecution,” Lillie said. “The mere receipt or viewing of obscenity is not going to be illegal.”

Even if someone does possess something obscene, the possibility that investigators will know about it is slim, said Jonathan Entin, a law professor at Case Western University. Obscenity cases are difficult to build because investigators must be tipped off to the material in order to even legally search someone’s computer. The vastness of the Internet and the anonymity it provides also make it tough for authorities to seek out suspects, Entin said.

In O’Malley’s case, his ex-wife, Vicki, told the FBI about possible child pornography while the couple were undergoing a nasty divorce.

O’Malley’s scenario – being accused by his future ex-wife – should not strike fear into people undergoing bitter divorce proceedings, Lillie said.

“They are not a bad divorce away from getting their computers seized,” Lillie said. “They’re only at risk of that prospect if they’re engaged in the sale, importation, transportation, distribution or production of obscenity.”

But, Lillie notes, forwarding e-mails of graphic sex acts could technically be considered distributing obscenity.

O’Malley had three computers and used America Online to download “numerous obscene matters to the computers and to other external digital media,” in the legal parlance of the plea agreement.

There was no mention of what investigators found during the hearing in which O’Malley pleaded guilty. Whatever it was, Friedman, O’Malley’s lawyer, conceded that some of the material “crosses the line” and could be found offensive by jurors.

The Supreme Court came up with an obscenity standard in 1973. For material to be considered illegal, average people must find that it appeals solely to lustful desires (or in legal terms, the “prurient interest”), is patently offensive and lacks literary, artistic, political or scientific value. The material is measured by a “community standard” that evolves throughout the decades and could be different in Manhattan from in Utah, Lillie said.

“You see more on ‘Desperate Housewives’ than you find in most older materials that were prosecuted under the obscenity laws,” Lillie said.

The vagueness of the Supreme Court’s standard provides a range that on one hand protects free speech, Entin said. “On the other hand, if you’re talking about an especially prudish community, it would be easier to establish that something is obscene,” Entin said.

Entin said O’Malley may not have fought the charge aggressively because, as a public official, his case would have garnered lots of attention. O’Malley could very well be avoiding more embarrassment by taking the deal, Entin said.

“It’s one thing to acknowledge that I downloaded it from the Web,” Entin said. “It’s another thing for people to see what it is.”

The public still might find out in August, when O’Malley is scheduled to be sentenced. His likely sentence ranges between six months in jail and probation. Edwards, the acting U.S. attorney, said prosecutors plan to go into detail about what was found on O’Malley’s computer at that time.


Related Posts

LonBrook to Distribute BSwish in Australia

VICTORIA, Australia — Pleasure products brand BSwish has tapped LonBrook to distribute its line of pleasure products in Australia. BSwish, a rep explained, has also undergone “a vibrant rebrand,” including the launch of its Infinite range and LE Beauty Editions.…

Girlfriends Films Debuts ‘Lesbian Psychodramas 40’

Girlfriends Films has announced the release of the 40th installment of its "Lesbian Psychodramas" girl/girl series.

Google Cracks Down on Adult Site Ad Placement Through Partner Network

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — Google disabled on Tuesday its Programmable Search Engine (ProSE) marketing product from several adult sites, after an attention-grabbing report for an analytics company was sensationalized by two advertising industry trade publications. According to Google’s VP of Global…

TeamSkeet Announces New Series ‘GlowUpz’

TeamSkeet has announced the debut of its latest series, "GlowUpz."

Researchers, ECP Release 1st ‘Pornhub Creator Consultations Report’

MONTREAL — Internet and sex work researchers Maggie MacDonald and Val Webber released their first “Pornhub Creator Consultations Report” last week, probing issues such as banking access for sex workers, different types of platform discrimination, and advocacy. This report draws…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.