CHATSWORTH, Calif.—As news spread that all obscenity charges against John Stagliano and his companies had been dismissed by Judge Richard J. Leon, reactions have begun to be expressed by members of the industry.
Christian S. Mann, general manager of Evil Angel Video, issued the following comment a short time after the ruling was announced.
“Words fail to express how happy I am for John and for his wife, who has been going through this ordeal with him,” he said. “The spouses and families share the risk and yet they receive precious little acknowledgment. Additionally there are a lot of employees (myself included) whose livelihoods depend on this company. Trickle it down to directors and their crews and casts who derive some part of their living from John Stagliano/Evil Angel ... and it's evident the impact of this decision is significant. We're all very grateful for the expertise of the legal team, for John's willingness to stand behind his principles and to all who offered support and encouragement.”
Paul Fishbein, chairman of AVN Media Network, also provided a comment on the noteworthy news of the day.
“First,” he said, “I want to express how pleased I am for John, Karen and their family; They have had to go through something that no one should ever have to go through, because John never broke the law. I have a lot of respect for John; he is a man of strong character and principle, and he would have never backed down or agreed to settle with the government.
“On another level,” he continued, “it was extremely significant that the judge saw fit to dismiss these charges because of the incompetence of the government, and I only hope that we have seen the last case in which an innocent person is dragged into court to face this sort of persecution. If anyone in the industry doesn’t understand the significance of what happened today, or understand what John has done for all of us, they don’t belong to be in it. We all owe John and his family a profound sense of gratitude for standing up to the government and fighting so decisively for our rights.”
AVN also has contacted a number of industry attorneys for comment, and received the following from AVN legal columnist Clyde DeWitt.
“I would like to think that this is an object lesson for the government as to what a colossal waste of time these cases are. My heartfelt thanks go to John and Karen—who are wonderful people—for standing up to the government. They put at risk their freedom and everything they had worked for,”he said.
DeWitt also told AVN that an unnamed source at the trial relayed a very revealing incident that occurred at the conclusion of the trial, shedding some light on the mindset of the jury.
“After the judge ruled, he instructed the lawyers that they were not allowed to talk to the jury unless they [the jury members] approached them. But a reporter apparently corralled a handful of jurors, and what the reporter said was that the jurors said that they would not have convicted Stagliano anyway. That is from a very reliable source, the identity of whom I am not allowed to disclose. I got the impression he was talking about maybe five jurors; not two but not as many as seven.
"Jurors are not allowed to deliberate until instructions are read to them and they adjourn for deliberations. The judge instructs them at the beginning of the trial not to talk to each other about the case until they’ve heard all the evidence and the arguments and until he’s given them their instructions. At that time, they elect a foreman and can deliberate. But this jury never got that far.
“So we don’t know that these comments were reflecting the sense of the whole jury, but they were certainly reflecting the sense of the jurors who were talking. Now, it’s possible that after the judge said they were excused, they might have talked to each other, but we don’t know that. So the only thing you can surmise is that at least this handful of jurors would not have convicted. Of course, they had not heard the closing arguments, but that was their sense of things at that point.”
Noted industry attorney Lawrence G. Walters of the Florida-based Walters Law Group sent in the following comment: "Obviously this is a great day for Mr. Stagliano as well as the First Amendment. He did not back down, and put the government to its proof. Obscenity trials are generally very uncertain, and in this instance the right side won. It sounds as though the government lawyers were sloppy in shoring up the details of their case."
AVN will provide more reactions to the ruling from members of the industry in the coming days.
Stagliano is scheduled to appear at The AVN Show to discuss his experiences, along with members of his legal team. The AVN Show takes place Aug. 5-8 at the Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa in Hollywood, Fla.