PHOENIX, AZ—An article published late yesterday on azcentral.com attempts to paint an accurate picture of the extent to which a "shadowy porn industry" in the Phoenix environs has brought illegal activity and unwanted attention to the area and the state. The question is, how accurate is the picture? The opening paragraph by writer JJ Hensley sets the scene.
"The pornography scheme alleged by police was simple," he writes. "Lure a girl into a house, videotape her engaging in sex acts, then post the video online for viewing by those willing to pay. A Maricopa County grand jury last month indicted Jacob David Deakins, 26, in connection with the scheme. Police allege Deakins tried to entice what he thought was a 17-year-old girl to his Mesa home in November 2010. In reality, the 'girl' was an undercover Phoenix police officer."
If the facts as stated are true, Deakins belongs where he will likely end up, but the real gist of the story is the alleged perp's alleged connection to online porn sites and by inference, the rise of underground porn production in the area.
Deakins may have been "snared in an annual nationwide investigation conducted by the FBI and local authorities," but according to the article, "Valley law-enforcement agencies are shifting focus to online sites that showcase underage victims and others engaged in illegal sex acts. Two factors weigh into growing local concern:
"Several local cases have already been brought alleging sexual abuse and misconduct relating to the production of amateur pornography in the Valley.
"Los Angeles County voters earlier this month approved a measure requiring the use of condoms in the making of adult films, which some fear will drive more porn producers out of Los Angeles and into Arizona."
However, there are a few issues related to the "local cases" referred to in the article, and the comment that "online sites... showcase underage content" is problematic in that it leaves the impression that this is something the legitimate adult online industry would ever condone. By contrast, the group Associated Sites Advocating Child Protection (ASACP) has a several-year history reporting child porn sites to the Justice Department.
One sentence sticks out in particular. "Deakins’ alleged intent," writes Hensley, "was to post video of a minor engaged in sex acts to a website called Amateur Allure, according to court documents."
Everything about that assertion rings wrong. AVN has received comments from industry members based in Arizona who contend that Amateur Allure does not shoot in Arizona and does not accept user uploads to its site. In addition to those comments, a spokesperson for the company also posted a comment to an industry board this afternoon clarifying their production process.
"We do not shoot any content in Arizona, our studio is in California,' wrote the spokesperson. "All our models must submit two forms of identification and sign model releases to be shot for our site. We have been in business for over 13 years and we are a responsible, professional company that is free of any illegal activity."
Indeed, the company, which has indeed been in business for that long, would put its entire operation in immediate jeopardy if it were to knowingly allow video of a minor to be posted to its site. That such an accusation somehow made it into court documents, as the article alleges, should raise a big red flag for prosecutors and the court that someone might be trying to shift blame away from themselves. It is also interesting that there is no mention in the article of either the federally-required 2257 documentation or equally mandatory model releases, which, as the spokesperson said, are always accompanied by at least one form of government-issued identification.
One comment we received from an Arizona-based member of the industry—who understandably prefers to remain anonymous—speaks volumes as far as the extent to which this industry takes the issue of minors on set or on sites as seriously as a heart attack.
"My hunch," said the industry member, "is that the real story here has little in common with the 'facts' reported in the article. My understanding is that Amateur Allure neither shoots content in Arizona, nor accepts user uploads to its site, so it's hard to say where the author of the article got the idea that Deakins intended to post video to the Amateur Allure site. Amateur Allure has to comply with 2257, just like every other legitimate adult company has to; there's no rational reason why they would take the risk of knowingly publishing such content, and there's no way they would accept the content for publication without the required identification documents.
"As to the broader impact of this situation on adult companies that operate in Arizona," s/he continued, "I doubt there will be much impact flowing from this incident at all, to be honest. Most AZ-based companies do not shoot content in the state; they just have corporate infrastructure and personnel who do things like maintain websites, while the content is shot elsewhere. They also aren't going to touch underage content with a 100 foot pole, and not only because it's illegal to do so, but because it is morally reprehensible to do so.
"That said," s/he added, "there is no question that, with the barrier to entry into production of adult content being basically non-existent, there's bound to be the occasional exception to the rule of adult companies abiding by the law, including 2257. Neither of the incidents referenced in the article involved a major studio, or major player in the adult industry, and I think that's telling in terms of where the industry's 'bad apples' are most likely to come from: the fringes and underbelly.
"This might come as a surprise to critics of the porn industry," s/he concluded, "but we revile child pornographers every bit as much as the rest of the world does. Many of us are parents, and all of us are human beings. Hard to believe, but true."
AVN also heard from another veteran member of the industry who resides in Arizona, where they have operated an online business for years. This individual, who does not shoot in-state, also preferred to go nameless.
"I think they are just trying to scare the industry away from moving here since the election," said the veteran. "It's a shame for the ones that run ethical businesses and bring tax money to the state. We have been based in Arizona for over seven years now and have an office in an area located near an adult store. We do production, though in Vegas, which is much more welcoming and adult-friendly.
"Another point that I want to make," s/he added, "is that there are many strip clubs and adult stores here in Arizona, so clearly the state has already been making money off of sex for many years."
The article also contains some quotes from AVN's own Mark Kernes, who accurately states that it is probably premature for Arizona or Phoenix proper to get bent out of shape about the industry moving there. But in light of the admittedly disturbing cases over the past few years of miscreants being caught luring teens to shoots, one can at least understand the concern of local law enforcement, and whatever measures they put into place to keep that activity from occurring.
But the suggestions that those few cases represent the tip of a "shadowy" iceberg, and the inference made in the article that something must be amiss if Arizona-based companies are engaged in litigation to protect their copyrighted content, is more than a little troubling, as is the inclusion in the story of supposedly relevant information about "a website associated with CP Productions," one of the companies involved in copyright infringement litigation.
"To star in one of its videos," the article states, "users are told they 'just have to be in the Phoenix area' and message the site’s administrator for more information.
"The site offers this written reassurance to those skeptical about who is involved in the recorded sex acts: 'These are ... adult stores in Phoenix, AZ. The guys you see in the videos are random guys who show up to get ... (explicit sex acts) and then go home. There’s no shortage of hotties here in Phoenix that are willing to (expletive) random dudes.'
“'I can’t give out the exact location because it’s against the law,' the site states."
Adding boastful website copy to an article that includes very serious allegations pertaining to the alleged abuse of minors seems a tad reckless. Just because someone creates promotional copy saying something is illegal does not mean it is illegal, and nowhere in that text is there even the hint of anything involving underage people. Of course, none of that matters with a story as juicy as this one is. The whole situation seems to demonstrate the old saw that wherever there is even a little smoke, someone will always see an inferno.