Anti-Obscenity Group Encouraged by Justice Dept. Crackdown

By Lawrence Morahan | July 7, 2008 | 8:21 PM EDT

( - Recent arrests in a multi-million-dollar racketeering, obscenity and fraud case involving the distribution of obscene material hopefully is a harbinger of tougher federal action to come against the pornography industry, a representative of a leading anti-obscenity group said.

Patrick Trueman, an advisor to Morality in Media (MIM), said the indictment of seven people in Texas is the first of its kind for the Bush administration and hopefully won't be the last.

"You're going to see a ratcheting up of this issue of obscenity, both in the House and Senate - but now, apparently, at the Justice Department - and we're very pleased to see that," Trueman said.

Trueman also said he was encouraged by statements this week by Rep. John Sullivan (R-Okla.), who indicated he will introduce a resolution calling for vigorous prosecution of obscenity.

"This is a non-binding resolution, but it puts Congress on record after 10 years of no significant prosecution of supporting vigorous prosecution of obscene material, so I think that's a very good thing," Trueman said.

"In the Senate, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) indicated some time ago that he would do the same," Trueman added.

Federal authorities arrested five people in Texas and are seeking two others in connection with a porn-based business involving 27 outlets in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.

The Department of Justice said the suspects were members of an organization that made money through the sale and distribution of obscenity, including child pornography.

A federal grand jury returned a 30-count indictment against the individuals, who allegedly transported child pornography and other obscene materials across state lines and created fake businesses as fronts for their illegal operations.

The indictment also seeks $9.7 million from the defendants, including 58 pieces of property across Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri and Utah, plus stock in several corporations.

"This is also a RICO [Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organization] obscenity case, so in addition to charging suspects with obscene material distribution, they are being charged with racketeering offenses, which gives higher penalties and can result in forfeiture of property once a conviction is rendered," Trueman said.

If convicted, the defendants face up to 20 years in federal prison per RICO charge and up to five years in federal prison for each of the remaining charges.

"This is a tactic we used successfully in the Reagan administration and the first Bush administration. I hope it's a harbinger of things to come," said Trueman, who served as chief of the Child Exploitation Section of Justice Department's Criminal Division under presidents Reagan and Bush.

MIM has forwarded more than 30,000 complaints about unwanted porn spam and other possible crimes to the Justice Department in recent months, Trueman reported. Internet users registered the complaints through MIM's page.

"What it has done is involve lots of people in America - not just pro-family organizations and their associates - but people from all across America who are offended by pornography in their e-mail or on websites that they come by accidentally, or their children come by accidentally, and they have a central location to file those now.

"The Justice Department is pleased to get these complaints, I understand, and they've made a difference," Trueman said.

Listen to audio for this story.

E-mail a news tip to Lawrence Morahan.

Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.