WINTER HAVEN, Fla.—Apparently the federal government isn't moving fast enough for Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd in arresting people for thoughtcrimes, so he's taken it upon himself to mount an internet child porn sting—except, of course, there's no child porn involved.
At issue is "The Pedophile's Guide to Love and Pleasure: A Child-Lover's Code of Conduct," authored by Pueblo, Colo. resident Philip Greaves, whose most recent notoriety involved his book, which reportedly is a "how-to" guide to having sex with children, being banned from sale on Amazon.com—and which led to a cascade of erotic volumes being banned by the online retailer.
The book which contains no photographs of actual children engaged in sexually explicit conduct (or even not so engaged)—and Greaves has never been convicted of molesting a child— nonetheless reportedly contains suggestions on how to have a relationship with a child that does not involve sexual penetration—and that was enough for Judd.
Upon learning of the book's existence, Judd commanded one of his undercover detectives to order a copy of the book from Greaves and have it sent to a Lakeland, Fla. post office box, and once it was received, Judd leapt into action.
"You cannot engage or depict children in a harmful relationship," Judd claimed to CNN.
In fact, Judd managed to convince Polk County judge J. Michael McCarthy that the book violated the Florida statute prohibiting the distribution of obscene material depicting minors engaged in activities harmful to minors—even though no actual minors are involved. Judge McCarthy issued an arrest warrant for Greaves, charging violation of statute 847.011(1)(C), a third-degree felony—and Judd promptly had Colorado police arrest Greaves to await extradition to the "Sunshine State."
One Florida attorney who knows Judd's tactics well is First Amendment advocate Lawrence G. Walters.
"This is another attempt by Sheriff Judd to impose his personal views – not only on Polk County, Florida, but now on the Nation as a whole, by misusing obscenity laws," Walters wrote on the blog LawOfSex. "Mr. Greaves resided in Colorado, not Florida. Polk County detectives ASKED Greaves to autograph and send them his book. Now they’re going to extradite him from his home state of Colorado, to face obscenity charges here in Florida, because Sheriff Judd doesn’t like his book."
Judd's problem is that the statute requires that the charged work "depict a minor," and the U.S. Supreme Court held in Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition—the Child Pornography Prevention Act case—that such "depiction" must be of an actual minor; a living, breathing individual. None appear in Greaves' book.
The distinction apparently is lost on Judd.
"There may be nothing that the other 49 states can do, but there is something that the state of Florida can do," Judd told CNN. "That's to make sure we prosecute Philip Greaves for his manifesto."
"The message is very clear, if you write a book , if you sell that book, if you transmit that book to anyone in our jurisdiction, then we will investigate you and arrest, because our goal is protect the children," Judd further said.
"There is real crime in Mr. Judd’s jurisdiction," Walters observed. "Meth labs, rape, gangs, etc. What a waste of law enforcement resources going after an author with whom he disagrees. Sure, Greaves’ book was thrust into the national spotlight when Amazon stopped selling it. But is that a justification for an interstate extradition on obscenity charges? Sounds like somebody has been missing the media spotlight for too long. I’m sure Sheriff Judd will get some headlines for this. Maybe his attention will be diverted long enough for some bank robbers to pull off a heist, or for some scammers to set up a Ponzi scheme."
"I suppose as long as Sheriffs are popularly elected in Florida, we’ll have to put up with these kinds of hijinks," Walters continued. "But the First Amendment has taken another hit by Polk County law enforcement. Hopefully, Mr. Greaves has the fortitude to fight back, despite what will certainly be a difficult battle, and a lack of popular support."