Gordon Lee is a comic book retailer in Georgia. He is currently facing two misdemeanor counts of Distribution of Harmful to Minors Material, each carrying a penalty of up to one year in prison and up to $1,000 in fines. The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF) is defending him. The charges stem from a Halloween 2004 incident in which Lee handed out an anthology comic featuring both female and male full-frontal nudity to children.
He doesn’t appear to believe he did anything wrong. He insists that the book is not obscene or harmful to a minor. This is what Lee said about the incident:
Though I am willing to apologize for this particular artbook getting in the hands that found it offensive, I will adamantly agree that the book is not ‘harmful to children’ or ‘obscene.’ In my opinion, this book is no more offensive then viewing the beautiful paintings of the Sistine Chapel or reading one of the best selling books with stories of sex, lust, and nudity known as the Bible.
Though I don’t know if it’s actually obscene, I have no doubt that it is not suitable for children. I disagree with Lee when he states that it is similar to the beautiful paintings of the Sistine Chapel.
The book Lee gave the kids (ages 6 & 9) not only shows full-frontal nudity, but it also contains a reference to masturbation. In one panel, it even shows what appears to be an erect penis. There seems to be a difference of opinion on whether the penis is actually erect or not. I would argue that if the issue must be debated, the book is not suitable for a child.
Compounding the problem for Lee is that he was convicted of selling pornography in 1993. I would think someone who had been convicted of selling pornography once before would be hyper-vigilant in not doing things like accidentally giving free comics that feature dick pictures to kids.
I honestly don’t understand just how his lawyers expect to defend his innocence in this case. The jury won’t be deciding if the law is valid or not, they will be deciding if Lee broke that law or not. The jury has to consider only the facts of the case, not the merits of the law. Arguing the merits of the law is something that should be brought up in the appeals, not the actual criminal case in front of the Georgia jury.
Do they honestly think a southern jury will have a hard time with a law that prohibits distributing porn to children?
Lee can claim that the comic was no more obscene than the Sistine Chapel or the Bible. The problem is the jury will be looking at the actual book Lee gave the two kids. I doubt many of them will see similarities to the Sistine Chapel or the Bible. I think he is going to have a hard time finding a sympathetic jury in northern Georgia. Especially when he seems to think he did nothing wrong.
It would be one thing if Lee admitted it was a bone head mistake and apologized for his mistake. He has not done that.
The CBLDF has already spent $80,000 on this case and expects to pay even more. They are urgently trying to raise more money. Like a lot of comic book nerds, I’ve donated money to them in the past. I don’t think I will be doing so again.
Not this time.