LOS ANGELES—After a nine-month delay, U.S. District Judge George H. King has sentenced online adult retailer and self-described "shock artist" Ira Isaacs to four years in federal prison plus a $10,000 fine and nearly another thousand bucks in court costs—and then, after his release, Isaacs will have to be on probation for yet another three years. And it's all because he sold four videos featuring bestiality and copraphagia, otherwise known as shit-eating.
The movies in question were Hollywood Scat Amateurs 7 and 10, which Isaacs himself directed, and Mako's First Time Scat and Japanese Doggie 3-Way, which were movies Isaacs imported to sell on the internet through his company Stolen Car Films.
It was the third time Isaacs had been put on trial for the same or similar movies. His first trial, which began in early June, 2008, was presided over by Judge Alex Kozinski, whose "day job" was as Chief Justice of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Appeals court judges are allowed to preside over federal trials if they so choose, and it remains a mystery why Kozinski chose to try Isaacs, especially since it was discovered while the trial was in progress that Kozinski was the webmaster of a private website containing humorous images and videos of sex acts. Kozinski soon declared a mistrial, and it took nearly four years for the U.S. Department of Justice to refile charges against Isaacs—and Isaacs' attorney, Roger Jon Diamond, feels the government acted shamefully in not supporting Kozinski.
"They didn't have to do what they did to him, harming his reputation just because he had some X-rated materials on a private website," Diamond opined. "I felt, at that time, the government should have defused the situation right away by simply telling the media and everybody else it's no big deal, and that they had confidence in Judge Kozinski, and they'll just go forward with him. Instead, they talked about recusing him and they embarrassed the judge, and I felt that was overreaching on the part of the government. The government spent a fortune on this case because they kept flying in prosecutors. It was always guys from Washington; they were not the local people."
When Isaacs was reindicted and stood trial again in late February, 2012, this time before Judge King, but after one week, a mistrial was again declared after the jury failed to reach a unanimous verdict on the charges. Isaacs was tried for a third time last April, and today's sentencing was as a result of those verdicts of "guilty" on all charges.
"The sentence was 48 months," Diamond recounted. "The government asked for between 57 and 71 months, according to the guidelines. Of course, from the judge's perspective, it was a lighter sentence than the guidelines called for. The judge went through the guideline factors, including the things that pushed up the guidelines, such as use of a computer, the fact that money was being sought, and the employees that Ira employed over the years pushed it above a certain level. I argued for a reduction in the point total based on the acceptance of responsibility, something that a defendant ordinarily gets in a criminal case when he pleads guilty. Of course, Ira didn't plead guilty, but I argued that he admitted everything, he never disputed it, but the government's response was that after the jury's verdict in April of last year, he continued to sell the same stuff. That was a big deal for the government and the judge, that he continued on. He went on a Sunday morning radio show [David Cruz on KFI-AM] to promote the same movies or similar movies to what had been found guilty by the jury. That didn't go over well with the judge, that he kept doing it."
One thing that didn't figure into the judge's sentence, however, was the allegation that two actresses, Veronica Jett and one of the several "Aprils" that have passed through the industry, had been victimized by Isaacs when he hired them to perform in Hollywood Scat Amateurs 10. But even though Jett filed a statement with the Court that remains under seal, detailing allegations of abuse, Judge King refused to let that influence his verdict, describing the actresses as co-participants and co-conspirators rather than victims.
Diamond told AVN that he got into a long discussion with the judge about what constituted "obscenity" under the First Amendment, but the judge adamantly maintained that the description of factors known as "prongs" in Miller v. California, the seminal federal obscenity case, were sufficient to place Isaacs' works beyond constitutional protection.
"Judge King felt the material was, he said, an abuse of the First Amendment, that the First Amendment did not apply, and that obscenity is not protected by the First Amendment," Diamond recounted. "But I argued that what is obscenity is affected by the First Amendment, because First Amendment considerations should affect the determination. He wouldn’t let me argue that in front of the jury, which is one of our grounds for appeal. He just took the position that if it's obscene, it isn't protected by the First Amendment. That assumes the issue. And to determine whether something is obscene, you have to have the First Amendment in mind. Of course, his position was, you just have to look at the [approved federal] jury instructions to look at the definition, that the First Amendment was factored in when the US Supreme Court decided the Miller case; the three-prong test was designed to eliminate any violation of the First Amendment.
"I argued that if we were here arguing this case a hundred years from now, assuming the case lasted that long, and we were arguing about what facts led up to the case at trial, we would be laughing ourselves silly, but the government went to the trouble to prosecute," he continued. "It's like how we look back now at the Salem witch trials and we say, 'Jesus, they were really stupid.' Or we look back at the Dred Scott slave case. We know now, with the benefit of time, that that was the wrong thing to do. As I told the judge, if we have a chance to look back on this case 100 years from now, if anybody's still around, we will know then that this case was a waste of time; why can't we get the benefit of that type of perspective now? Why do we have to wait a hundred years to figure out this was wrong. The judge didn't go for that."
The judge also rejected Isaacs' claim tht his works were intended to be "shock art" and therefore protected under the Miller test's third prong, but Judge King pointed out that Isaacs had never exhibited his movies at an art gallery or any other artistic environment. The judge termed Isaacs' artistic defense as a "sham," an after-the-fact rationalization and a post hoc justification for what he did.
But for Diamond, Isaacs' conviction is, in a way, a backdoor victory for the adult industry in general.
"Ironically, when I tried to argue in court that the pornography industry established the community standard in Southern California, and that Ira was simply part of the overall community standard, it was the LA Vice Detective Kyle Lewison who testified in front of the jury that this was not mainstream pornography, that it's not the type of material that one would see at the LA Convention Center at any of the adult conventions," Diamond stated. "So it seems like, in a way, the mainstream porn industry benefited from Ira Isaacs by him giving them legitimacy. It was like the detective was defending them, telling the jury that this was much different. So the mainstream adult industry attained some sort of legitimacy and enhanced its reputation for being more mainstream thanks to Ira."
While it is not yet known to what prison or prison camp Isaacs will be assigned, Diamond is hopeful that Issacs' incarceration will be delayed by the fact that he will be filing a notice of appeal on Isaacs' behalf.