LOS ANGELES—Jury selection in the second obscenity trial of producer Ira Isaacs began today, more than a year after the agreed-upon retrial date, and more than four years after Judge Alex Kozinski declared a mistrial in Isaacs' original prosecution because the Los Angeles Times had revealed that Kozinski, who also serves as Chief Judge of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, had maintained a private website containing humorous sexually oriented photos and videos.
This time, the presiding judge is George H. King, a former U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California from 1975-'79 who's been a district court judge since 1995, and after a panel of nearly 100 potential jurors had filed into courtroom 650 of the Roybal Federal Building in downtown Los Angeles at about 8 a.m. this morning, Judge King briefly reviewed for them what the case they might be deciding would be about.
At issue are four movies sold by Isaacs' companies Stolen Car Films and LA Media: Mako's First Time Scat and Hollywood Scat Amateurs 7, both of which had also been charged under Isaacs' original indictment, plus Hollywood Scat Amateurs 10 and Japanese Doggie 3 Way, with the government having dismissed charges relating to three other movies, including Gang Bang Horse 'Pony Sex Game' which had been part of the original indictment.
Isaacs is charged with "producing with intent to distribute and sell, and [being] engaged in the business of selling, obscene matter," "knowingly us[ing] a facility and means of interstate and foreign commerce, and an interactive computer service in and affecting interstate and foreign commerce, for the purpose of selling and distributing," "us[ing] an express company, common carrier, and interactive computer service, for carriage in interstate commerce and delivery to a location outside the State of California," and "knowingly caus[ing] to be delivered by mail according to the direction thereon to an address located in Los Angeles County, non-mailable obscene matter" consisting of some or all of the charged movies. The government is also trying to seize any real or personal property acquired by Isaacs through the profits from making or selling the films.
During pre-trial proceedings, the prosecution and defense agreed on a 14-page questionnaire to be presented to the potential jurors, and the panel spent most of the morning answering questions like, "Do you have such strong beliefs or convictions about the sale or use by adults of sexually oriented materials, either in favor of or against, including magazines, videos, movies, or other sexually oriented items, that you believe you could not be a fair or impartial juror in this case?," "Do you have any feelings about sexually explicit materials that you have not yet mentioned that might affect your ability to be a fair and impartial juror in this case?" and "Do you have such strong feelings as a result of any personal, philosophical, religious, or other beliefs about the subject of this case that you would be unable to serve as a fair and impartial juror in this case?" After they completed the questionnaire, Judge King dismissed the panel until Wednesday morning, with the interim to be used by the attorneys to determine what additional questioning might be necessary of some potential jurors beyond their answers to the written questions.
Representing Isaacs is Santa Monica-based civil liberties attorney Roger Jon Diamond, while the current prosecution team, all from the Justice Department's Child Exploitation and Obcenity Section (CEOS), consists of CEOS Deputy Chief Damon A. King and trial attorney Michael W. Grant—but interestingly, thanks to a pretrial motion filed by the Justice Department, the jury will not be told that the prosecution team has been imported from the Washington, D.C. area, rather than being formed of local U.S. attorneys.
But there have been some early developments of interest... like the fact that after Judge King finished telling the potential jurors his outline of the case, one member of the panel began crying uncontrollably, apparently at the idea that she would be forced to look at more than six hours of sexual and scatological material, while another potential juror claimed to be a sex addict, and that service on the jury would upset his treatment regimen. Both panelists were dismissed from the panel.
AVN has also been informed that Isaacs was subjected several months ago to a "Daubert hearing" to determine whether he could be called as an art expert in his own case, and contrary to a ruling by Judge Kozinski that Isaacs could be so designated, Judge King ruled that Isaacs could only testify about his intent in producing and marketing the movies—and according to Isaacs, the prosecution has threatened that if he did take the witness stand for such a purpose, it would call actress Veronica Jett in rebuttal.
According to Isaacs, Jett, whom Isaacs alleges to be a former methamphetamine user, would claim that Isaacs supplied her with drugs on the set, that he engaged in human trafficking to obtain some of his performers, and that he had threatened to blacklist her from the adult business if she told what she "knew." Isaacs denies that any of Jett's claims are true.
Keep checking back with AVN for updates as this incredibly complex obscenity trial proceeds.
Pictured, l-r: Ira Isaacs and Roger Diamond.