U.S. v. Karen Fletcher: Text of the Indictment

AVN has now obtained the text of the six-count indictment against webmistress Karen Fletcher in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania.

Each of counts charges her with violation of "18 U.S.C. §§ 1462(a) and 2)." Section 1462 is titled "Importation or transportation of obscene matters," and reads, in pertinent part, "Whoever brings into the United States, or any place subject to the jurisdiction thereof, or knowingly uses any express company or other common carrier or interactive computer service (as defined in section 230(e)(2) of the Communications Act of 1934), for carriage in interstate or foreign commerce (a) any obscene, lewd, lascivious, or filthy book, pamphlet, picture, motion-picture film, paper, letter, writing, print, or other matter of indecent character."

Section 2 of Title 18 is titled, "Principals," and reads, "(a) Whoever commits an offense against the United States or aids, abets, counsels, commands, induces or procures its commission, is punishable as a principal. (b) Whoever willfully causes an act to be done which if directly performed by him or another would be an offense against the United States, is punishable as a principal."

Apparently, the inclusion of Sec. 2 is for the purposes of the forfeiture allegations which are also included in the indictment.

Each count of the indictment begins, "On or about August 8, 2005, in the Western District of Pennsylvania, and elsewhere, the defendant, KAREN FLETCHER, did knowingly use an interactive computer service for carriage in interstate and foreign commerce of an obscene matter, that is:" – and then each count lists the text piece charged in that count.

For Count One, that text is, "'melinda.txt', a text description of the kidnapping and sexual molestation of eight-year-old 'Melinda.'"

For Count Two, the text is, "'4men2.txt,' a text description of the sexual molestation of a five-year-old girl."

For Count Three, the text is, "'katie.txt,' a text description of the kidnapping, torture, and sexual molestation of six-year-old 'Katie.'"

For Count Four, the text is, "'redonnashow.txt,' a text description of the torture and sexual molestation of an eight-year-old girl, a nine-year-old boy, and a four-year-old girl."

For Count Five, the text is, "'jandj.txt,' a text description of the torture and sexual molestation of two-year-old 'Mina;' and the sexual molestation and murder of four-year-old 'Cindy.'"

For Count Six, the text is, "'M&M.doc,' a text description of the torture and sexual molestation of five-year-old 'Katey;' and the sexual molestation of a six-year-old girl."

The final section is titled "Forfeiture Allegations," and seeks to forfeit "all computer equipment seized August 31, 2005" from the defendant's residence, because Fletcher allegedly "used the ... property to commit, and to promote the commissions of said violations, thereby subjecting the property to forfeiture to the United States of America pursuant to Title 18, United States Code, Section 1467(a)(3)."

First Amendment attorney Jeffrey Douglas finds it unconscionable that in the modern era, the government would attempt to prosecute fictional texts for obscenity.

"Consistent with so many other policies of this Justice Department, this indictment reflects an effort to return to the 1920s," Douglas noted. "In that era, the Justice Department attempted to chill the notion that ideas should be explored, and that there is a difference between ideas and conduct."

Although there have been text-only prosecutions since then – John Cleland's "Memoirs" was in '66, and Kaplan v. California was part of the Miller quintet of cases that underpin modern obscenity law – Douglas noted that it was in the '20s and '30s that several of what are now considered classic works of literature, taught in colleges across the country, were either banned from publication and/or banned from importation. These would include James Joyce's "Ulysses," Voltaire's "Candide," and Boccaccio's "Decameron."

"If you can prosecute successfully mere descriptions of child molestation and other such conduct," Douglas continued. "then libraries had best remove Vladimir Nabokov's "Lolita" from its shelves – indeed, even any academic textbooks that cover topics such as child molestation – because it's only a matter of time before they too are indicted. Moreover, prosecutors had best not e-mail indictments or affidavits if they contain descriptions of such acts or they too may find themselves under indictment."