Counsel for Jonesboro 'Obscenity' Defendants Challenges State Law

JONESBORO, AR—Looks like Jonesboro officialdom has (for want of a better term) a real hard-on regarding anything sex-related that happens in their town, and while one recent fracas surrounding the opening of an Adam & Eve franchise store cost the owner one hell of a lot of time and money, another could cost a young local couple as much as $90,000 in fines and/or 54 years in the hoosegow if convicted on all charges, all because they secretly shot porn videos in various "public" places around town and posted them on tube sites.

AVN reported on defendants Leslie Sessions and Derek Calloway almost exactly two years ago, when they were first arrested by Jonesboro police after an "anonymous tip" led the cops to viewing the couple's hardcore videos on the internet. Trouble is, no one has yet come forward to claim that they actually saw the couple in the process of filming their scenes, and that may cause a bit of trouble for prosecutors who are charging the pair with violation of Arkansas Code Sec. 5-68-307, which states, "A person commits a public display of hard-core sexual conduct if he or she knowingly engages in hard-core sexual conduct in an open public place."

Now, it's true that two of the couple's scenes took place in a secluded area of a public park and the Arkansas Nature Center, where Sessions (who goes by the stage name "MayvenDoll") can be seen in one of the videos pleasuring herself while blowing an unidentified guy, but the question remains, is the sexual act a "public display" if no one sees it happening in real time? Similarly, even though Sessions was filmed masturbating under a table at a Cheddar's restaurant, apparently even the elderly women who can be seen in the background in some shots were unaware of what was happening just a few feet away.

Other charged acts include Sessions playing with several sex toys in a vehicle parked in a Home Depot parking lot, after which the camera follows her walking into the store, her blue undies peeking out from under her mini-dress (photo above), and also an encounter in a dressing room at a Kohl's department store, where the couple had sex in one of the curtained-off dressing rooms.

But "public display" isn't all the couple are charged with. There's also Code Sec. 5-68-203, which states, "It is unlawful for any person to knowingly exhibit, sell, offer to sell, give away, circulate, produce, distribute, attempt to distribute, or have in his or her possession any obscene film." That Code section even attempts to define "obscene" to mean "to the average person, applying contemporary community standards, the dominant theme of the material taken as a whole appeals to prurient interest"—a definition that is at odds with the controlling U.S. Supreme Court's view on obscenity in Miller v. California, in part because it leaves out the requirement that the material must "depict[] or describe[] sexual conduct in a patently offensive way," and because "prurient interest" is defined in law as "a morbid, degrading and unhealthy interest in sex," as distinguished from a mere candid interest in sex—and nothing in the descriptions of the pair's sex videos even comes close to meeting those threshholds.

And finally, Sessions and Calloway are charged with Code Sec. 5-68-304, "Promoting an obscene performance," which suffers from the same "patently offensive" and "prurient interest" problems as the "obscene production" charge.

Fortunately, the couple's attorney—Randel Miller—is on top of this defense, and has filed a motion to declare all three Code sections unconstitutional.

"All three statutes are unconstitutionally overbroad that unnecessarily infringes on defendants’ right to privacy, free expression and constitutes and unwarranted invasion into their personal life," Miller argued in his motion. "An overbroad statute is one that is designed to punish conduct which the state may rightfully punish, but which includes within its sweep constitutionally protected conduct. These obscenity laws are unconstitutional under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Defendant also asserts these statutes violate the Arkansas Constitution."

That's the basis of at least one motion that will be argued in Craighead County Circuit Court on January 2 of next year, and if the motion(s) fail, trial is scheduled to begin on January 13.