A 36-year-old man from Monett, Missouri has pleaded guilty to possession of obscene comics, with prosecutors recommending a sentence of three years without parole. The case was initiated based on a complaint by the man’s wife, who reported that she’d found files that she believed were child pornography on his computer. The comics "contained multiple images of minors engaging in graphic sexual intercourse with adults and other minors" according to an announcement by the District Attorney.
The defendant was arrested last December and has remained in custody. He was unable to afford an attorney and was represented by a court-appointed attorney.The titles of the comics were not revealed. The D.A. claimed that they "clearly lack any literary, artistic, political, or scientific value." That question, which would be required to determine whether or not the comics were obscene, was not litigated because of the guilty plea.
Bee did not contact the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, according to the Fund’s Executive Director Charles Brownstein, who said of the case, "We don’t yet have enough information to determine what factors led to Mr. Bee’s decision to plead guilty to obscenity charges. I would say, however, that the government’s description of the comics on his computer could easily describe a variety of comics that possess artistic and literary merit, including Robert Crumb’s "Joe Blow," a story I frequently lecture about because it was the subject of a badly reasoned obscenity conviction in the 1970 case People v. Kirkpatrick."
This case is another example of the changes wrought by the PROTECT Act, which treats drawings of children in sexually explicit situations as child pornography, a classification that used to apply only to photos in which there was an actual victim.
Brownstein emphasized that persons who find themselves in a First Amendment case involving comics should contact the CBLDF. "The main lesson this sad case should send to the community is that your very first call in any First Amendment emergency should be to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund," he said.