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Monday, July 20, 2009

Ruth Ann Dailey libels Pittsburgh's porn connoisseurs

Posted By on Mon, Jul 20, 2009 at 3:04 PM

Strangely enough, I don't feel too much like mixing it up over the latest column about local US Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan. She's in lame-duck mode, for one thing. So if the P-G's Ruth Ann Dailey was talking about me with her column "U.S. attorney's critics need history lesson," I can't tell, even though I have been one of those critics.

Most of Dailey's column, I think, is about whether Buchanan should have said she still thought former county coroner Cyril Wecht committed a crime, even as she was withdrawing charges against him. This has something to do with politicized justice, I think? So, okay, I'm for Buchanan saying whatever the hell she wants.

But Dailey trips on one of the things I do find problematic about Buchanan's career. Summing up Buchanan's years of noble service, Dailey opines ...

Ms. Buchanan has prosecuted what our region presented her, from corrupt officials to drug trafficking, possession of illegal firearms, sex slavery, child pornography and violent pornography depicting the torture and murder of women.

Now at least one part of that statement is untrue, and a libel on Pittsburgh's many fine, upstanding pornhounds. Assuming that Dailey is referring to the Rob Zicari case, the truth is that "our region" never "presented her" with the "violent pornography" in question.  Buchanan went HUNTING for that material, and she went well outside "our region" to find it. 

As we wrote a while back, it's not like some horrified citizen called Buchanan's office after accidentally walking into a porn shop on McKnight Road while looking for the Starbucks. Instead

undercover agents and postal inspectors used the Internet to order Extreme Associates movies. The films were then shipped to Western Pennsylvania -- where Buchanan said they violated "community standards."

So in fact, agents ASKED for this material, and paid to have it shipped to them. Zicari obligingly did so, and got arrested for his trouble. In other words, Buchanan IMPORTED violent pornography into her district ... and then busted the cretin who exported it to her.

This matters, as we pointed out in our story, because 

There is no national standard for whether material is obscene: A multi-part legal test requires a judge or jury to determine whether the material has political or literary merit, and whether it appeals to "prurient interest" according to community standards. For an online pornographer, the problem is that community standards could be stricter in Pittsburgh than in California.

"It's called forum-shopping," says Bob Richards, co-director of the Pennsylvania Center for the First Amendment at Penn State University ...  "Mary Beth Buchanan seemed to do that a lot."

If you want to argue that Zicari was a slimeball, you'll get no argument here. Or maybe you think an online pornographer should know the risks, and that smut-peddlers should all open up bricks-and-mortar dirty-book stores instead, just like dear old dad. That is also a defensible position. But you can't say, as Dailey did, that this case was something WE stuck BUCHANAN with. It was the other way around, and that was what some of us critics found so irritating about her.

As it turned out, Zicari pled guilty. But had he not done so,  Buchanan would have been doing as much to inflict his porn on her district -- or at least on a luckless judge -- as Zicari ever did. 

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