I was doing some reading on the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF) website and discovered something interesting. It concerns a 1997 case involving Oklahoma City comic book retailers Michael Kennedy and John Hunter. Undercover police officers entered their store on two different occasions and purchased copies of Verotika #4, a comic book featuring “erotica from Hell”.
Seriously, that’s what it says on the publisher’s website, erotica from Hell.
A police raid found other books at the store that were problematic. Some of these books included Mighty Morphing Rump Rangers and The Devil’s Angel, a book supposedly featuring cartoon sodomy with children.
Both men were charged with multiple felony counts of trafficking in obscenity and faced up to 45 years in prison. The CBLDF agreed to take on the case and arraigned to pay the men’s legal fees. The case never went to trial.
This is from the CBLDF website. I’ve highlighted the important part:
Rather than risk imprisonment and a permanent felony record, the retailers agreed to plead guilty to the two felony charges. In exchange, they were granted a three-year deferred prison sentence and a fine of $1500 each. Kennedy and Hunter will serve no jail time if they are not convicted of any further criminal activities for a period of three years. After that time, the felonies will be permanently removed from their records.
This action was undertaken without notifying the CBLDF. It is the Fund’s policy to only take on cases where the accused individuals agree not to plead guilty in exchange for reduced penalties. “To say that we’re all disappointed is an understatement,” said Susan Alston, then executive director of the CBLDF. “In human terms, we all share a sense of relief that Kennedy and Hunter’s ordeal is over. But that in no way diminishes the fact that they were convicted in violation of their rights as Americans under the First Amendment.
If you accept help from the CBLDF, you might go to prison
Evidently, when you receive assistance from the CBLDF there are strings attached. Your first obligation isn’t to stay out of prison. No, it’s to ensure your case goes all the way to trial. In exchange for CBLDF assistance you seemingly have to agree that you will not accept a plea deal even if it keeps you out of prison. What this policy does is cause cases to drag out longer than they normally should. It also might land you in prison.
Don’t let the HBO show Oz fool you. Prison is not fun and it should be avoided at all costs.
Most criminal cases end in a plea agreement
Most criminal cases don’t end in a lengthy and expensive jury trial. That’s why prosecutors start by charging a defendant with as many charges as the evidence allows. That way they can whittle down the charges and offer the defendant a deal. It’s called justice American style. It’s faster, cheaper, and more or less gets the job done.
If a defendant feels as though he or she is obligated to reject any deal a prosecutor offers no matter how attractive the terms, they aren’t looking out for their own best interests. This ensures the case will go to trial. That means the case takes longer and it will cost a lot more money then it really should. It also carries the risk of going to prison.
I find it ironic that the folks at the CBLDF were “disappointed” that the two men broke their promise not to accept a plea bargain. Who would have thought you couldn’t trust guys that sell such fine comic books as Mighty Morphing Rump Rangers?
Don’t sell smut comics featuring children, don’t accept help from the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, and don’t go to prison.