LOS ANGELES—The second day of adult producer/retailer Ira Isaacs' third obscenity trial got under way today with just 62 potential jurors left from the original pool of 120. During discussions held late Monday between counsel for both sides—Damon King and Michael Grant for the U.S. Department of Justice; Roger Jon Diamond for the defense—and Judge George H. King, 56 potentials had been dismissed for cause based on their answers to questionnaires they'd filled out at the court's direction, and as the morning session opened, two more were dismissed for logistical reasons.
Also as a result of the previous evening's discussions, Judge King posed additional questions to a few of the remaining poolers, often because they had failed to respond to one or another question on the questionnaire, but in a few cases, the potentials had indicated that, for religious or cultural reasons, they either didn't think they could view the four charged movies objectively, or they weren't sure if they could. However, under Judge King's questioning, most assured the court that even if their personal beliefs were anti-porn, they could put those feelings aside, watch the movies at issue—Mako's First Time Scat, Hollywood Scat Amateurs 7 & 10 and Japanese Doggie 3 Way—and apply the judge's instructions as to the obscenity law to what they'd seen, without their own beliefs getting in the way.
But anti-porn feelings weren't the only problem areas. One potential juror declared that he was a libertarian, and as such believed in jury nullification, a doctrine dating as far back as the late 1700s, where jurors can judge not only the facts of a case, but also the law under which the defendant is being prosecuted. Another claimed that he has such a short attention span that he would be unable to sit all the way through the movies, and would be "wandering around the room" after a few minutes of watching them. Still another said she opposed the "subjugation of women," and felt that all adult actresses were being exploited.
As it turned out, almost none of those respondents were picked for the final jury of 12 plus four alternates—with the woman who'd said she was close friends with an adult movie editor also failing to make the panel.
After a short recess, the jury and alternates took their places in the jury box and Judge King gave them preliminary instructions regarding their job during the trial—to evaluate the evidence, both direct and circumstantial, objectively and without prejudice to either side—and also a short description of what obscenity law was and how they were to apply it to the evidence.
Essentially, Judge King recounted the three prongs of the Miller test for obscenity, stating that for the charged material to be obscene, it had to appeal to the prurient interest—that is, an unwholesome, morbid or unhealthy interest in sex or excretion—of the average adult; that it had to depict or describe ultimate sexual acts in a patently offensive way, applying the contemporary community standards of the Central District of California; and that it had to be completely without serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value. He cautioned the jurors that they must not apply their own standards to the material, nor those of any political or religious pressure groups, unless they felt those standards were shared by the majority of the community, and interestingly, he also told them that they could find that the material might pass muster if it was aimed at, and did not offend, the standards of a specified "deviant group," such as one that had an interest in excretory porn.
With all that (hopefully) in mind, DOJ attorney Michael Grant gave the government's opening statement, saying that the evidence would show that rather than any devotion to art, Isaacs' sale and production of the charged movies was "all about making money." He said that these "depraved depictions of sexual conduct" had been sold all across the country and featured "women taking part in sex acts while ingesting feces and drinking urine," while the final charged movie featured a woman having "oral, vaginal and anal sex with two full-grown dogs." He stated that various FBI agents had purchased videos from Isaacs' companies, Stolen Car Films and LA Media, through some of the 20 websites Isaacs owned and which he allegedly used to "pander, sell and advertise" the videos.
"This is not a whodunnit," Roger Diamond assured as he began the defense opening statement, adding that Isaacs had always operated his businesses in an open, honest manner, even to the point of listing the business's name in the directory for the office building on Wilshire Boulevard in LA where LA Media/Stolen Car Films was located. He also spent some time comparing Isaacs' business to that of mainstream adult companies, which he noted often exhibited and sold their wares at the LA Convention Center as well as through websites. Diamond termed Grant's charge that Isaacs was "only in it for the money" as inflammatory, noting that every business is in business to make money—and that Isaacs only sold his products to consenting adults who ordered it on the internet.
Diamond also sought to head off some arguments the government had made at Isaacs' previous trial which had ended with a hung jury. Where the government had made an issue of the fact that the packages of DVDs that Isaacs sent to customers carried a return address in Bronx, New York, Diamond noted that the government had been well aware of the fact that Isaacs did business out of Los Angeles at least as far back as 2006, when the FBI first contacted him, and also brought out the fact that in the two movies Isaacs himself directed under the name of "Josef K."—an allusion to the protagonist in Franz Kafka's novel The Trial—the "feces" the women were fed was in fact a combination of peanut butter and chocolate with a bitter herb thrown in so the women would not smile when eating it.
Diamond also preemptively took the prosecutors to task for wasting time establishing facts to which the defense had already stipulated, such as that Isaacs had indeed mailed or shipped the movies to his undercover FBI customers, and that he had talked openly to FBI Special Agent James Myrick when Myrick visited Isaacs' offices for a search-and-seizure. Diamond did note, however, that Isaacs would testify as to his intent in making the movies, and asked the jurors to consider just what "deviant group" the movies were targeted to.
Indeed, as soon as Diamond finished his statement, Grant read a long list of stipulations into the official record, then called Myrick to the stand to testify.
As he had at the previous trial, Myrick recounted some of the details of his employment with the FBI, noting that he had joined the Obscenity Task Force in 2006 and had taken over the Isaacs investigation from Special Agent William McDermott. Myrick described how, as part of his job, he searched the internet looking for obscene material, and had ordered two movies from one of Isaacs' websites, stolencarfilms.com. He also described the FBI's search of Isaacs' offices, with five members of the LA Police Department assisting the 10 FBI agents who conducted the search, took photos of the offices, seized master duplication disks, copied computer hard drives and interviewed employees. He said that although not in custody at that time, Isaacs willingly admitted to owning the business, designing the websites and selling the videos at issue as well as several other similar ones, and that he had hired performers and filmed them having sex and eating the (faux) excrement.
On cross-examination, Diamond brought out that Myrick knew Isaacs' actual business address in 2006, and that it was in Los Angeles and not the Bronx. He also briefly questioned Myrick about the operation of the Obscenity Task Force and elicited that it had been shut down in 2007 or 2008, and that during most of its operation, George W. Bush appointee Alberto Gonzales had been the Attorney General in charge of it. Myrick also admitted that everyone in Isaacs' office had been polite to the agents and police, and that the offices were not hidden or "camouflaged" in any way.
Once Diamond had completed his cross examination, and Grant had had some short redirect questions, Judge King dismissed the jury for the day, since there was not enough time left before the judge's self-imposed daily 2 p.m. deadline to complete showing even one of the charged movies. After the jury exited the courtroom, the judge and the parties discussed the likely schedule of the trial, with all sides agreeing that two movies would be shown Wednesday morning, some testimony taken Wednesday afternoon, the final two movies shown Thursday morning, with Isaacs' testimony taken Thursday afternoon, with deliberations likely beginning sometime Friday.
Adult industry members should note that the trial, which takes place on the sixth floor of the Edward Roybal Federal Building on Temple Street in downtown LA, is open to the public—at least, to those over 21 years of age—and though the Justice Department attorneys have taken some care to prevent spectators from viewing the charged movies, visitors can still get a sense of their character from the soundtrack and brief glimpses of the action.
In any case, check back with AVN.com tomorrow for further accounts of the only obscenity trial anyone is likely to see for quite some time.