CHATSWORTH, Calif. – A bust, a raid, or any sudden intrusion by law enforcement into one's business is never a pleasant experience, but the sad truth is that it can happen to anybody at any time. In anticipation of the unexpected, it can't hurt to, as the Boy Scouts of America say, "be prepared." And there are leading lights in the adult industry who agree.
Jeff Mike of JM Productions said that while being prepared for such a circumstance used to be commonplace, it's less so these days.
"In the late ’80s, early ’90s," Mike said, "it was fairly common for companies to get busted. It happened all the time. Back then, it seems like everyone was very supportive of one another, and people had war chests of money set aside to take care of it. Nowadays, people don't do that. They're just kind of doing their thing, spending the money, being big shots or whatever ... meanwhile, they get busted, they're going to put us all in jeopardy, because they don't have any money set aside for legal."
And a defense fund isn't cheap. Mike emphasized, "If you have less than, like, $250,000 set aside for legal, get the fuck out of the business because you're a liability. I don't think people, number one, realize how expensive it is to defend yourself, and number two, a lot of times they're under the impression that for whatever reason, they're untouchable, which isn't the case. Everyone is equally vulnerable."
Mike also said that if one is in the adult business, one must be committed to seeing unfortunate government intrusion though to the bitter end…for the good of all. He reasoned, "If you're not prepared to play the game to the end, you should get out. Because you're going to end up taking a deal and fucking everybody else. It's like a snowball effect; if the government gets any kind of a win, they're just going think, 'Well, we'll just move on to the next one.' But if they get losses, maybe they'll think twice about going after people."
If Mike has one message he wants to get out to the adult-movie community, it's that everyone is a potential target.
"The message really is, you just have to know that you are vulnerable, and that you should have the money set aside to fight the battle," Mike said. "And if you don't have the money, you need to get out of the business. It's like an insurance policy, and that's the way I've always looked at it. I got busted in 2000 locally, and my attorney at the time was telling me that I'm fortunate that it was a local bust and wasn't that expensive, and if it was a federal bust, it'd be very expensive. And I can tell you now that he's absolutely 100 percent correct. It takes things up about 20 times for a federal indictment."
Mike also stressed the importance of sticking together as a community.
"When someone gets indicted, they need everyone's support, not a blacklisting," he said. "Because when you blacklist somebody, then they're not going to have the money to defend themselves, and that hurts everybody. It's dangerous to push people out and say, 'Well, they deserve it,' or whatever. Nobody fucking deserves it, for God's sake; we're Americans, and we're supposed to have freedom of speech. I can say that there have been some people who have been extremely supportive of my company and what we're doing, and have offered to help me. I've denied help from anybody, but I have had very, very generous offers from several people. The two that have been the best, that have really been out there doing the fucking right thing and are on the front line, quiet freedom fighters, have been General Video Cleveland and IVD. Joel [Kaminsky] and Rondee [Kamins, of GVA] came here and actually sat down with me and straight-out offered me money, and I told them to give it to Five Star. Very fucking standup people. And Frank [Kay, IVD] has been fucking awesome, too. Those are people that deserve everybody's support, because they're quietly fighting the war, too."
Another producer who has seen his share of governmental interference has been Max Hardcore. Hardcore, too, agrees that it isn't a bad idea to have resources set aside for the unexpected bust. He said, "In this business, having a stash of hundred dollar bills—whether it's in the mattress or the bank or wherever it is, and it's better if it's not in a bank because they can always freeze your accounts—is invaluable.
However, Hardcore feels it's more important to be organized than to have a stash of cash on hand. He explained, "What's even more valuable is having your whole life and your business organized from the ground up, from the tips of your toes to the top of your head. I'm a very organized person, and I realize the value in that. It's almost like military organization. And always have a Plan B if you make a mistake. And if B doesn't work out, then you go to Plan C."
Hardcore lays the necessity of this strategy on the burdens imposed by the 2257 regulations. "In our business, we have to be especially well-organized because of the burdensome requirements off the 2257 regulations. The way the laws are designed it's almost like they want you to make a mistake. You have to keep records three different ways: by a performer's real name, by a performer's stage name and by the movie or movies that they're in. What's the point of that other than trying to get people to stumble? Every violation is potentially $5,000 and possible jail time. Being organized and having all your materials easy to retrieve is important. It also allows your mind to relax a little bit and lets you think ahead to what you're going to be doing next because your files are all in order. Organization has been the key to my success."
Hardcore speaks from experience. He noted, "The cops have hit me a few times now, and when they did, I was ready. While I don't have what you'd call huge amounts of cash ready to go. I have enough and I also am completely comfortable in the knowledge that I'm ready for these motherfuckers. They're not going to trip me up on stupid, silly things."
Attorney Jeffrey Douglas agrees to certain extent with both Mike and Hardcore, although he doesn't believe having an attorney on a monthly retainer is necessary. Douglas noted, "Irrespective of the complexity of the business, having at least some kind of relationship with a criminal defense/First Amendment attorney is wise. If it's a relatively straightforward business where it's just straight production or a simple website, having a close ongoing relationship with an attorney is probably not necessary. I don't think paying a lawyer on a regular basis like a monthly retainer is necessary and I think it's rare when that's necessary."
Still, Douglas firmly believes in the importance of having money set aside in the event of trouble. He said, "Having a 'war chest?' That's always a good idea. If nothing ever happens, you just have an additional savings account. Trying to get up to speed to put together a defense without having some money in reserve is often as traumatic—or is certainly an additional level of trauma—as being on the wrong side of a caption that says 'the United States versus…'"
Douglas also reminds all who play on this field that it's an inherently risky business. "We all have to live with the fact that this is a highly regulated industry," he said. "It shouldn't be, but it is. That means there are some unfortunate risks associated with it. As much as we wish this weren't true, and as hard as we're working to change that, in the here-and-now, you're playing Russian roulette if you don't have a substantial amount of money set aside. And how much money? It depends on the level of complexity of the business, how the distribution goes, and those are things you need to talk to a lawyer about…and one who does criminal defense."
Words to live by, people. Words to live by.