Google Could Provide Evidence in Ray Guhn Obscenity Case

PENSACOLA, Fla. - The defense team for Clinton Raymond McCowen, aka Ray Guhn, plans to use publicly accessible Google search data to try to convince jurors of Pensacola residents' interest in sex-related material.


Guhn's defense, which includes Jerry Mooney and Derek Brett and is being led by adult-industry attorney Lawrence Walters, will introduce its strategy during the trial, which is scheduled to start July 1 in Pensacola.


Walters said he chose Pensacola because it is the only city in the court's jurisdiction that is large enough to be singled out in Google's data.


Guhn, owner and operator of the adult affiliate program, and two of his associates originally were charged by prosecutors in Escambia County with racketeering, enterprise prostitution and the production and sale of obscene material. Escambia County later dropped its charges, but the current charges of racketeering and money laundering were re-filed against Guhn in Santa Rosa County.


Walters said the prosecution's case relies on proving that the material on Guhn's site is obscene.


Regarding the obscenity charges, Walters questioned which community's standards would be used to determine obscenity. Circuit Court Judge Ron Swanson determined that the community would consist of the four counties of Florida's 1st Judicial District: Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa and Walton.


The defense plans to show that residents of Pensacola are more likely to use Google to search sex-related terms, rather than more "mainstream" topics.


"This is an important case and carries very serious consequences for the client, so we left no stone unturned when it came to establishing the community standard in the 1st Judicial Circuit," Walters told AVN Online. "In previous cases, we had to rely exclusively on the availability of comparable explicit material in the relevant jurisdiction or, possibly, polling data or surveys. However, with Internet technology, we can breach the barrier between what people say they do and what they really do, in terms of accessing sexually explicit material."


Russ Edgar, the Florida prosecutor in the case, said he believes that the volume of Internet searches may not necessarily be an indication of a community's principles.


"How many times you do something doesn't necessarily speak to standards and values," he told The New York Times.


Edgar said he was still deciding whether he would try to block the search data's use in court. He declined to discuss the specifics of the case, but he said the popularity of sex-related websites had no bearing on whether Guhn was in violation of community standards.


Last week, Walters served Google a subpoena seeking more specific search data, including the number of searches for certain sexual subjects done by local residents. A Google spokesman said the company was reviewing the subpoena.


The search data Walters is using is available through Google Trends, a service that allows users to compare search trends in a given area.


"Not surprisingly, we found that people across the country searched for erotic material such as was found on our client's website more often than they searched for many other 'mainsteam' items or words," Walters said. "That is not terribly astonishing, given what we know about the success of the adult industry in general, but it finally allows us to prove that every community is interested in sex, even if they won't admit it publicly."


Rather than showing broad availability of sex-related websites, Walters said he is trying to show both accessibility and interest in the material within the jurisdiction of the 1st Circuit Court for Santa Rosa County, where the trial is taking place.