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Skeptical court weighs Flynt charges

Cincinnati- Hamilton County is still out to get Larry Flynt, and if pointed questions Wednesday by appeals court judges are any indication, County prosecutors can’t be too confident they will be allowed to reinstate five-year-old criminal charges against Hustler publisher Larry Flynt and his brother, Jimmy.

In a 1999 deal, pandering obscenity charges were dismissed against the Flynts when they agreed to have their corporation, Hustler Gifts and News, plead guilty, pay a $10,000 fine and never again sell those videos in Hamilton County.

Prosecutor Mike Allen announced in June he wanted the 1999 charges against the Flynts reinstated because they had violated the agreement by again selling sexually explicit videos. Allen asked a judge to reinstate the obscenity-related charges, but Larry Flynt challenged Allen’s move, saying prosecutors have no legal right to involve him or his brother in the case because charges against them had been dismissed.

It appeared Wednesday that the three Ohio First District Court of Appeals judges, who will decide if the charges can be reinstated, agree with Flynt.

“Legally, it occurred to the panel that the Flynts would be strangers to the indictment,” Appeals Court Ralph Winkler said at Wednesday’s hearing.

“Absolutely. That’s why we’re here,” Flynt attorney Lou Sirkin responded.

Judge Mark Painter wondered aloud why the case has been resurrected after so long. “Where has this case been for the last six years, super secret probation or something?” he joked.

Assistant prosecutor Ronald Springman Jr. countered that prosecutors have the right to seek reinstatement of the criminal charges because the Flynts agreed to that. Not allowing that, Springman added, would be tantamount to a direct attack on plea bargains overall.

“This was a contract, and we analogize it as a breach of a contract,” Springman told the panel.

Having a third party not involved in the proceeding, though — the Flynt brothers who had charges against them dismissed — isn’t proper, Painter suggested.

“That was the agreement and everyone agreed to it,” Springman noted.

“To make a plea agreement, you need the state on one side and a defendant on the other side,” Winkler said. “But the way you did this, you substituted a corporation for the Flynt brothers. You want to prosecute both (the corporation and the Flynts), the way it sounds.”

Winkler drew laughs as he compared the case with another a decade ago when then-Municipal Court Judge Albert Mestemaker “sentenced” a woman not charged with a crime to marry the man accused of beating her. “That turned out rather badly for the judge in that case,” Winkler noted.

Mestemaker drew international criticism, and outrage at his decision was cited as a major factor in his losing a bid for re-election.

The original 1999 charges against the Flynts carry a maximum prison sentence of 24 years in prison.

The Appeals Court judges will rule at an unspecified future date on the case.

 

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