Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Cartoon Spurs Taliban-Style Prosecution

Sadly, this story of backwards, sex-obsessed, anti-freedom police action takes place is your United States of America.

From the Book Standard:
The section from Nick Bertozzi’s graphic novel The Salon begins like this: the artist Georges Braque is led into Pablo Picasso’s studio by a nude model. Picasso, the model explains, is enraptured by his art – “he’s in there masturbating” – and is angry at Braque for interrupting. The painter, as it happens, is also completely naked. After some blustering, punctuated by caustic interjections from the model (“Go fuck yourself, little man”), Picasso realizes that Braque is a fellow artist and embraces him as a brother – still naked.

This scene was included in a sample issue by the small press Alternative Comics and was distributed on Free Comic Book Day on July 3, 2004, in shops across the country. One such shop was Legends, in Rome, GA, where some 25 copies were given to patrons without incident. But— say lawyers of the shop’s owner, Gordon Lee — a single copy found its way to the back room of Legends. It remained there until October 30, 2004, when it was placed in a Halloween giveaway pile and was handed to a nine-year-old boy.
Whoopsie! Certainly not a comic book I would give to my nieces and nephews -- but handing it out was a simple mistake that could be remedied by a simple apology right?


Not in our 21st Century version of America.
Now Lee faces possible jail time in a case that has attracted the attention of the comic book community as well as the resources of a small anti-censorship group.
Alan Begner, an Atlanta civil liberties lawyer hired by
the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund to represent Lee finds the furor aroused by Bertozzi’s non-sexual depiction of Picasso's pee-pee somewhat bewildering:
“Picasso is not erect [in the comic book]. I don’t see what is wrong with showing a kid a comic book of an event that’s factual. Are these Greek and Roman statues harmful to minors?” (The prosecution has a different take on Picasso’s state of arousal – or lack thereof – while the artist agrees with Begner: “Anybody that has a penis can tell you that when you walk around it moves around,” says Bertozzi.)
Not strange enough?

Yesterday, the prosecutors in the case of cartoon ding-a-ling kicked it up yet another notch. From the CBLDF site:
The long-running case of Georgia v. Gordon Lee took yet another strange turn of events yesterday when the prosecution dismissed all charges against the Rome, Georgia retailer only to bring a new accusation arising from the Halloween 2004 incident that resulted in his arrest.

When Judge Larry Salmon entered the courtroom shortly after 9 AM Monday, prosecutors declared the case nolle prosse, meaning that the charges that were to go to trial this week have been dismissed.

Prosecutors are re-filing under a new accusation alleging that Lee handed “Alternative Comics #2” to a six-year-old minor and his nine-year-old brother, instead of solely to the nine-year-old, as has been previously, and repeatedly, declared.

Lee now faces two misdemeanor counts of “Distribution of Materials Harmful to a Minor” *** The next step will be for prosecutors to bring a new arraignment for Lee, at which point the case proceeds down the long road to trial all over again.

Yes, you read that right.

With their case circling the drain, the prosecution is rebooting its case by completely changing its story with regard to the basic facts of the case -- now claiming that a second, different, kid was given the funny book with the dirty doodle.
Lead counsel Alan Begner says, “I have never -- as a criminal trial lawyer for thirty years -- seen a complete changing of the facts like this. 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 the case. We now intend to investigate how a year and a half of statements based on one set of facts has now been changed at the last minute to another set of facts.”
My thoughts on this turn of events match up pretty well with Mark Evanier's pro bono, pro se legal analysis:
At the risk of making a Bill Frist-style diagnosis from afar, it sounds to me like the prosecutors are trying the old Bleed 'em Dry strategy. They're afraid they can't win on the merits of the case so they'll drag it out and make it expensive...and hope that the accused will agree to a fast plea bargain just to get the thing over with. This works more often in our nation than it should. I hope it doesn't here.
If you want to help in the legal battle against the pickle-patrol you can visit CBLDF site and become a member or buy a nifty t-shirt.

UPDATE: Evanier just can't stop thinking about this hypocritical instance of "Prosecutorial Tyranny".

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