ICv2 is reporting that an Iowa collector is facing up to 20 years in prison for possession of manga that he ordered from Japan. Christopher Handley, a 38-year-old Iowa manga collector who faces up to 20 years in prision for possession of manga that the government claims to be obscene. Of his collection of more than 1,200 volumes of manga seized by the government, Handley is being prosecuted for images that occur in just a handful of volumes. No photographic content is at issue in Handley's case.
The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has signed on as consultant to the defense. CBLDF Executive Director Charles Brownstein commented, "Handley's case is deeply troubling, because the government is prosecuting a private collector for possession of art. In the past, CBLDF has had to defend the First Amendment rights of retailers and artists, but never before have we experienced the Federal Government attempting to strip a citizen of his freedom because he owned comic books."
Putting the case into further context, CBLDF Legal Counsel Burton Joseph said, "In the lengthy time in which I have represented CBLDF and its clients, I have never encountered a situation where criminal prosecution was brought against a private consumer for possession of material for personal use in his own home. This prosecution has profound implications in limiting the First Amendment for art and artists, and comics in particular, that are on the cutting edge of creativity. It misunderstands the nature of avant-garde art in its historical perspective and is a perversion of anti-obscenity laws."
Full article is available here and here.
CBLDF's info page is here
Icurs Publishing has more on it here here
In a follow-up article by icv2 they are reporting a partial victory in part of the defence. The parts of the PROTECT Act that forbade a trial by jury and instead substituted standards set by Congress as to what is per se or patently obscene were struck down.
Still it is only a partial victory because the other defence motions were not upheld by the court.
The Constitutional challenges based on the vagueness of the terms “appears to be” and “minor” were rejected.
The court did not agree with the defense’s contention that the possession of the material by Handley in his own home was protected by the Fourth Amendment’s right to privacy.
The three criteria that must be met in order to judge material obscene that are set forth in the Miller case are:
- (1) would the average person find that the material appeals to the prurient interest;
- (2) whether the material depicts, in patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by applicable state law;
- (3) whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.
With the fate of the case now resting squarely on the Miller criteria, the role of the CBLDF in providing expert witnesses who can testify to the literary and artistic merits of the manga in question is crucial.