SALT LAKE CITY—Add two more individuals to the list of people who will be serving time in federal prison on obscenity charges. Sami Harb and Michael Harb, owners of now-closed Cleveland-based Movies by Mail, were sentenced Thursday to a year and day in federal prison after each pleaded guilty to one count of selling obscene material.
What makes this case particularly vexing, however, is not only the felonious extent to which the FBI went about setting up the cousins, but the fact that Michael Harb's 5-year-old daughter has cancer, and Sami Harb's wife suffers from a heart condition, and yet the judge still declined to consider home confinement.
The case stems from 2006, when the FBI’s obscenity task force ordered movies from the Movies by Mail website and then had them sent to a post office box in Utah. Three movies—Cocktails 5 from Extreme Associates, and Pure Max 18 and Max Hardcore Extreme 12 from Max World Entertainment—were eventually charged in the Utah indictment. The men faced a possible 5 year sentence, with sentencing guidelines that called for 15 to 21 months.
The Salt Lake Tribune quoted an FBI agent as saying, “None of the three films has a plot line. The films consist entirely of scenes of hard-core sexual acts being performed by multiple men and women."
According to court documents, defense attorneys Jerry Mooney and Paul Cambria asked the court to consider home confinement, characterizing the Harbs as hard-working men with families who depend upon them.
Those entreaties were rejected by U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart of the great and sexually conflicted state of Utah. According to the original complaint, postal records indicate that Movies by Mail sent 683 packages in 2006 to Utah, 149 of them to Salt Lake City and the rest around the state.
The Justice Department should hang its head in shame.