Obscenity Charges Against Former Coach Tossed Out

A former high school coach who had been charged with distributing obscene material to minors because one of the state laws used for the prosecution had been deemed unconstitutional during a previous unrelated case.

Officials agreed in court the charges against David Alan Clifton, 46, involving incidents with male students during his tenure in the Van Dyke Public Schools district.

Both the prosecution and defense both agreed that the obscenity charge was void because of a federal judges ruling in 2001 on the pertinent law. The law included a section on Internet pornography that was considered to be too vague and broad to be enforced in a constitutional manner.

That ruling struck down all of the obscene material law, even the portion pertaining to Clifton that didn't involve the Internet. Clifton allegedly exposed four male students to printed materials depicting homosexual sex acts.

There were no accusations of molestation by the students.

"In federal rulings like this, they don't really cut up the law and decide this part of it is good and this part of it is not good. The entire law is invalid until the (state) Legislature fixes it, and so far they haven't," said Robert Berlin, chief of appeals for Macomb County prosecutors, who researched the federal ruling.

Berlin also noted the people jailed under the obscene materials conviction could seek a new trial or to have that conviction overturned.