In a surprising turn of events, prosecutors dismissed all charges against comic retailer Gordon Lee today, only to re-file new charges alleging different facts than the ones they've been alleging for the last year and a half.  In the past, the prosecutors alleged that the defendant had given Alternative Comics #2, in which a panel depicted the artist Pablo Picasso working in his studio in the nude while painting a picture of a nude model, solely to a nine-year-old.  The new charges allege that Lee handed the comic to a six-year-old and the nine-year-old together (the nine-year-old in the original indictment is the older brother in the new indictment). 


One of the two misdemeanor counts facing Lee now alleges that he 'did unlawfully...knowingly furnish and disseminate to a minor...a book, pamphlet, magazine and printed mattter containing pictures, drawings, and visual representation and images of a person or portion of the human body which depict sexually explicit nudity, sexual conduct, and sadomasochistic abuse and which is harmful to minors...' 


The other misdemeanor count refers to text instead of pictures, and alleges that Lee furnished material containing 'explicit and detailed verbal descriptions and narrative accounting of sexual excitement, sexual conduct and sodmasochistic abuse and which taken as a whole is harmful to minors.' 


Lead defense attorney Alan Begner noted how unusual it is for a prosecutor to change the 'facts' alleged in an indictment as was done in this case.  'I have never--as a criminal trial lawyer for thirty years--seen a complete changing of the facts like this,' he said.  'Throughout the last year and a half, through written statements, the investigation, and the presentation of evidence before the grand jury, as well as the written accusation and indictment, the State had steadfastly asserted that the comic book had been handed to the nine-year-old.  The dismissal of the charges today reflects the prosecution's admission that everything that was presented as evidence before was untrue, and that they had stuck to the false facts through procedure after procedure in this case.' 


Lee and his CBLDF-funded defense team first heard about the charges being dropped on Sunday afternoon; the trial was to begin at 9 a.m. on Monday (see 'Gordon Lee Goes to Trial').


The DA had originally charged Mr. Lee with two felonies and five misdemeanors, though the charges were whittled down to just two misdemeanors by judicial rulings based on objections raised by Mr. Lee's lawyers (see 'Another Count Dismissed in Gordon Lee Case'). 


Comic Book Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Charles Brownstein laid out the situation for the Fund.  'Our purpose is to defend retailers like Gordon against such unjust prosectuion,' he said.  'And while the cost of proving his innocence is great, it is a pittance in comparison to seeing a member of our business community sold down the river for crimes of which he is innocent.  I can only shake my head at the fact that the case has come this far, and that the prosecution appears ready and willing to sink even more of Rome's public resources into prosecuting such a meritless misdemeanor,' he said.  'That said, we intend to finish the job we started:  to continue our march to prove Mr. Lee's innocence, and to ensure that no retailer in Georgia is harmed by any bad precedent that could arise from a conviction in this case.'


Perhaps the people of Floyd County will take appropriate action for the prosecution's handling of this case during the next election, but meanwhile supporters of the CBLDF must apparently prepare all over again to fight this costly legal battle.  Brownstein expects costs to rise to $50,000 after current hours have been billed.