Jesus Castillo was a clerk at Keith's Comics in Dallas, Texas in 1999, when he was charged with selling obscene material for selling an adult comic book to an adult undercover police officer. The United States Supreme Court has recently declined to hear an appeal in Castillo's case (see 'Castillo Supreme Court Appeal Denied'). ICv2 talked with Castillo after he learned of the Supreme Court's refusal to consider his case.
Having been convicted for the 'crime' of selling an adult comic to an adult and now finding out that the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to consider your case, how do you feel about the American judicial system?
Right now I am little down on it. I think the Supreme Court thought about it, but decided it's got to be state-by-state. It's just like that Arkansas law (see 'South Carolina Judge Denies Dismissal Motion'), sometimes the laws are ill-conceived and some people unfortunately get caught in the system.
What about your defense, do you think it was as good as it could have been?
Yeah, I think so. We had two different experts on the stand testifying for me -- I thought we did the best job we could.
What recommendations would you have for retailers to help them avoid the situation that you were in?
Well, I don't know. I guess it would be---get rid of your X-Rated comics--we don't sell that type of material anymore. Unfortunately, it's the only way I know to avoid the situation in Texas, at least.
So Keith's Comics has changed its product mix and gotten the adult comics out of it?
Yes, we do carry 'mature' items like Vertigo titles, but we don't carry any titles that show anything that's X-Rated.
What book did you sell that got you in trouble?
It was a mangaesque book, called Demon Beast -- I don't know if you are familiar with that book -- I think it was like issue #3 of that particular book.
They sent an undercover cop in to buy an adult comic?
Yeah, from what we gather they were investigating for a while, maybe not an entire year, but for a while. They bought a lot of items. Then they chose the one that they thought would have the best chance of getting them a guilty verdict.
Did you have your adult comics in a separate area where underage patrons weren't allowed to see it
Yes, we had them in a separate area where kids weren't allowed to go.
Tell us about your sentence -- have you had to spend any time in jail?
No, when I was convicted the original sentence was 180 days in jail, but it was suspended -- and there was one year of probation -- this happened in 2000---and a four thousand dollar fine. Right after the sentence, my lawyer, by going through appeals, froze the situation, so I didn't actually go to a probation officer, everything was pretty much put on hold at that time. When the Supreme Court turned it down, I had to start serving it -- right now I am in unsupervised probation, which means no probation officer, and I already paid the $4000 fine. The probation will be over next April.
You are not an owner of Keith's Comics are you?
No I am not. I was an employee.
Did you just happen to be the clerk that sold that book that day?
Yes, that is correct. The way the law was written, the person that actually sells the product is the person that gets the trouble. It could have been Keith, the owner, it could have been his wife (she was working at the time).
What lessons have you learned from this whole experience?
I think one lesson is that you try to be a responsible retailer in terms of not letting adult material be read, or even be looked at by kids. The other lesson is that it can happen to you -- and that you should support the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, that the lesson that I learned. The fund helped with the lawyers, the financial side of that. The $4000 fine, I did pay it, but it didn't come out of my pocket, it was raised with the help of Keith, by having fundraisers, way back early on in 2000. So we had all the money raised. If it didn't go our way, which it didn't, we were ready.
ICv2 also talked to Comic Book Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Charles Brownstein about the implications of the case (see 'Interview with Brownstein').
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