Open Letter to the Porn Industry, FSC, and Its Attorneys

Note: The following was received as an email from Ira Isaacs, who as this is written is waiting to hear his fate at the hands of the jury that is considering the several counts of obscenity filed against him by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).

LOS ANGELES—At the time I'm writing this letter, the outcome of my trial is unknown. The trial has ended and the jury will make its decision soon.

First, I want to say, I love porn. I've watch porn since the early '70s, the time of John Holmes, Ron Jeremy, Harry Reems, and my all-time favorite porn icon, Jamie Gillis. Gillis, an artistic genius, explored the dark side of human sexuality. He was not afraid to explore the edge and he sometime went over it.

But did you know that Gillis produced and starred in over nine scat movies? That's right: Jamie Gillis, artist, innovator, shit in girls' mouths, filmed and sold it.

The Walking Toilet Bowl series (five in all) show Gillis defecating in a woman's mouth and then smearing the feces on the girl—the exact same type of movies that I produce; the same type movies I'm being prosecuted for.

It used to be the porn industry would celebrate innovators like Jamie Gillis. Now they condemn them.

Multi-million-dollar porn producers seem only to care about profits. Artists like Gillis, myself, Rob Black, Max Hardcore and others threaten their massive empire. Innovation and artistic risk have no place in today's porn industry. Mediocre porn is today's goal and there is no room for producers and directors who challenge mainstream producers, who are more concerned with words like "brand" and "franchise" than words like "art" and "innovation." They want to be respectable and accepted so badly, they are willing to throw anyone under the bus who threatens them.

A little background on my case: In 1999, I started an adult fetish distribution business. I would acquire fetish DVDs from Europe and Japan and sell them over the internet. I'm still in business today and hope to remain in business tomorrow. Below is a brief timeline of my case, though some dates are approximations. This is offered as a general background, not a legal document.

January 17, 2007: The FBI raided my offices in Koreatown—approximately 20 agents from the D.C. FBI, local FBI, and LAPD—and searched them under the pretense of wanting to see my 2257 info (model releases and model IDs). They asked me if I want a lawyer. I said I didn't need one and answered all their questions for the next three hours. I was not arrested.

March 2007: Met with two local prosecutors and a D.C. prosecutor to discuss a plea offer. I was facing eight felony accounts including two 2257 and six obscenity violations totaling a possible 40 years in prison. They offered me an 18-month prison term. I said no. A few days later, they offered me four months house arrest and four months prison time. I said no.

July 24, 2007: I was indicated on obscenity and 2257 violations. The DOJ offered me five months house arrest and five months prison plus a $20,000 fine. I said, if I declined an offer of a four months and four months plea, why would I take a worse deal like five and five? They said, "Because now you're indicted. I was not interested in a plea. After all, I'm not guilty and saw this as an opportunity to stand up for something important.

Also around this time, local prosecutors dropped out of the case and only the DOJ from D.C. was handling it by themselves.

February 2008: They dropped the 2257 counts in light of another court ruling that 2257 was too broad, etc. (I guess; I was not privy to their exact reason.)

March 2008: Chief Judge of the 9th Circuit Alex Kozinski takes over the case. Trial was scheduled for June 9, 2008.

June 9, 2008: Jury selection begins; take two days.

June 11, 2008: Opening statements; prosecution begins calling their witnesses; almost two movies played. L.A. Times front page story comes out about Kozinski storing porn on his private (non-public) server.

June 13, 2008: Kozinski declare a mistrial.

August 2008: I file a claim with the 9th Circuit to have the charges dismissed under the Constitution's "double jeopardy" prohibition.

December 22, 2009: 9th Circuit denies my double jeopardy appeal.

February 2010: I appeal 9th Circuit decision to U.S. Supreme Court.

June 28, 2010: Supreme Court declines to hear case.

September 2010: New trial is set for May 2011.

October 2010: DOJ prosecutor Ken Whitted is taken off the case and Grant Ward, chief of the Obscenity Prosecution Task Force, and federal prosecutor Bonnie Hannan take over case for DOJ. They offer me three months house arrest, no prison time as a plea. I turn them down after considering the deal very seriously. I believe in the First Amendment and America's promise of freedom of speech, and oppose its hypocrisy of limiting our freedom of speech under the excuse of obscenity.

April 2011: Two new attorneys for the DOJ were assigned to my case. I was then again indicted on both old and new movies.

May 17, 2011: Trial was delayed in light of new charges; new trial set for February 27, 2012.

February 27, 2012: Trial starts.

March 2, 2012: Trial ends; goes to jury.

Five years have gone by since I was raided by the FBI.

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Why is my obscenity case so important to adult production companies and the porn industry in general?

Before his trial, I had talked to Max Hardcore on the phone to wish him good luck. He did the same, and we were both connected forever by being the witches in the government's witch hunt. I called John Stagliano to wish him good luck before his trial as well; left a message with his office, but never got a return call.

As far as I know, Max and Stagliano were never offered any plea deals. The Bush administration and groups like Morality in the Media, religious crazies, and the like, want to scare the adult industry into submission. The mission was to shut the porn business down. Max's trial shows that the government can win without the defendant even distributing the movies himself. He just had a server in an uptight Florida community.

Many in the industry would say Hardcore is too extreme; he treats the girls too rough. Of course the government wants him; what do you expect? Max is "over the line." The porn industry will be fine just as long as we follow the mainstream companies' "safe model" for content. But is it really safe?

Then they came for Stagliano—What? Wait a minute: Evil Angel is mainstream porn, a great company; John is a genius; what Henry Ford did for the motor car, Stagliano did for the butt. How can this be? I thought it was only the extreme porn like Max and this Isaacs guy they were interested in prosecuting, not mainstream porn.

After convicting Max, the message was, in the right venue, we can get you, even if you didn't actually distribute the material; just being connected with it in some way is enough. Max was a big win for the government. Now it's time to go after more mainstream producers like Evil Angel. If we win, dare we say that next will be the Holy Grail of Porn: the feature producers?

The religious right got their first witch (Hardcore); now it's time to move up the porn food chain: Stagliano.

The government's defeat in the Evil Angel case was a big victory for free speech advocates; however, a lot of bad case law came from the trial. First, the prosecution was able to convince the judge to ignore the Miller test's "taken as a whole" requirement and left the prosecution to play the most biased parts of the movies without playing the full movies in open court. Hardcore's judge allowed the same thing.

The prosecution in my case tried the exact same move, citing case law from the Stagliano trial. But the judge in my case felt "taken as a whole" means that the entire movies must be played in open court. This is good case law, that will help the next victim of the next obscenity prosecution.

Second, the government convinced the judge in the Stagliano case that expert witness both for the prosecution and the defense were not necessary in an obscenity case. My case established that even though the prosecution may not need experts, the defense was sure to be allowed to use them.

Many people believe that I'm responsible for the heat coming to the porn industry. If only extreme producers would go away, the industry would be safe from obscenity prosecutions. Actually, the opposite is true. The government wanted a prosecution in Los Angeles, the porn capital, to show the porn industry giants that even on their home turf, they can win an obscenity case. They picked me because they thought I would be a slam-dunk win, that I would lie down and take their plea and not fight them. They were wrong; I stood up for all our rights to watch what we want. I was fighting for you, but you—the porn industry—seem more concerned about how you looked than any free speech rights.

I wasn't an important player in the adult business. In fact the religious right criticized the DOJ for wasting its time on a small fringe producer like myself. They really want you, porn industry, and not me. I was a necessary casualty of the war against sex by the religious right.

I'm risking serious prison time, so the government would think twice before coming for you. I could have sat in my house for three months on house arrest, instead of putting my personal freedom on the line. I'm fighting for the right of artists to take risks and not to have to worry about the government prosecuting them.

It amazes me that the Free Speech Coalition will not mention my case in any of their writings or events concerning obscenity cases. Either they've never heard of my case, which is doubtful, since I've been on the front page of the L.A. Times four times, in articles and interviews with media like Salon.com, Radar Online, Boing Boing, etc., local TV, local radio, etc. My case is the highest profile case in the history of the U.S. according to BoingBoing.com. And if that's not enough, AVN has been writing stories for five years, and last week Congress and the Attorney General mentioned my case by name.

Obscenity prosecutions are a major concern for the adult industry and the FSC, and yet they act like I don't exist.

If my attorney Roger Diamond had never heard of Max Hardcore, John Stagliano, Rob Black, JM Productions, the Harb Brothers and others, he would be fired for being incompetent.

Why do they ignore my case? Because they believe I make the adult industry look bad. It seems they are more concerned about how they look rather than about the real free speech issues that affect all of us. They are more like a PR firm for the adult industry than advocates of free speech for everyone.

Like the Larry Flynt of old, I'm putting my ass on the line for your free speech rights. If I lose my case, it will just embolden the government to go after more mainstream adult producers, especially if a Republican wins the presidency in November.

For the few who support me, you can e-mail me at [email protected] (Don't worry; I won't reveal who you are.) And for all others, to quote Bob Dylan, "Don't Think Twice 'Cause It's All Right."