the united states vs christopher handley

while behind closed doors england is currently pushing thru new laws, without any discussion or opposition, criminalising cartoons or any sexual depictions of anyone under 18, already in america a 38 year old guy, christopher handley, is being prosecuted for his manga collection – potentially ten years jail merely for possessing drawings determined to be child pornography and bestiality – i’ve been following the few scattered reports on comix blogs for a while but this week, after he submitted (or rather, was incomprehensibly pressured into) a guilty plea, the case is blowing up big in blogland – most recently hitting wired

as this will doubtless be used as a precedent-setting case, the guilty plea latently more shocking than any of the disgusting drawings – the comic league defense fund was prepared to put up $15000 to fund manga and first amendment rights experts and witnesses – but it appears christopher’s own idiotic “defense” lawyer is more intent making statements to the press giving his opinion that the drawings are indeed child pornography and no jury could be convinced otherwise… !

but regardless even if deemed obscene surely the drawings could still be defended on artistic merit – altho it’s still unknown exactly what titles are impeached, matt thorn, a translator, writer and lecturer on manga in japan, proffered his services to demonstrate “in detail – panel by panel, page by page, if necessary – the artistic and technical care that went into the works” – in correspondence with the defense lawyers, since sadly removed from his blog (for legal reasons, ho hum), my name was also suggested as an established reputable (?) artist working at the intersection between lolicon and fine art – i’d be utterly lousy at testifying tho

and most movingly, bringing dissociated reports of events down-to-earth, the same deleted blog entry also had correspondence with christopher’s mother who naturally painted a loving portrait of her maligned son religiously coping with type one diabetes, getting up and going to work which he loved (computer programming) then coming home to enjoy his books and video games – “…he is not prison material … this is a travesty and I wish someone could come forth with a miracle…” – next court appearance is august or shortly after

welcome to thought-crime and the criminalisation of art – the most essential reading on this, putting the case into a wider context, is lawrence stanley’s down the slippery slope – the crime of viewing manga

18 comments

  1. Martin Holgersson said on 29 May 2009 at 7:31 pm

    This pisses me off on so many levels. It’s art, shocking to some maybe, but some people get offended by seeing a cross, a gun or the star of David. Nevertheless, having your defense convincing you to plead guilty is an atrocity in itself.

    The former minister of justice here in Sweden was saying things in the same line a few years back. It made me want to rip his head off..

  2. substrom said on 29 May 2009 at 9:03 pm

    poor kid…it’s kafka’s ‘the trial’

  3. freakyjapan.com said on 29 May 2009 at 11:10 pm

    the world is going to shits…

  4. cham said on 30 May 2009 at 12:37 am

    how did the case start?

  5. MechanicalPencilGirl said on 30 May 2009 at 4:11 am

    I don’t get how art gets deemed offensive or obscene when especially in America we have Reality TV….isn’t that the most obscene and offensive thing you could ever witness. It has little or no value even entertainment wise. We should just go back to the old days of watching executions for entertainment, it’s about the same thing (and probably more amusing).

    It’s just art, if they discover live photos or video of children that is something different.

    The world is going to shit

  6. SAN KYU said on 30 May 2009 at 7:03 am

    the art defense is pretty stupid as the definition of art is totally fucking subjective and you are not in a million years going to satisfy a supposedly objective court that something is art if they don’t think so

    a more reasonable defense would be that pedophilia is not actually a crime yet and just because something may “encourage” abuse of children does not mean you should really prosecute until that abuse occurs, especially since you can’t actually prove simulated pornography encourages anything other than fantasies that already exist.

  7. trevor brown said on 30 May 2009 at 8:50 am

    >how did the case start?

    customs opened his mail from japan
    http://www.usdoj.gov/opa/pr/2009/May/09-crm-493.html
    altho it seems they resealed it, posted it on, then law enforcement officers followed him home when he collected the parcel from his post office (thus he gets charged with possession and causing the material to be passed thru interstate commerce)

    >the art defense is pretty stupid

    maybe – but it’s part of the miller test so don’t knock it

    >may “encourage” abuse

    altho a bit off-topic i found the following comment someone left somewhere quite interesting:

    if you download kiddie porn without paying for it you are (allegedly) encouraging the business of producing kiddie porn
    if you download music/movies without paying for it you are (allegedly) discouraging the business of producing music/movies

  8. Jack said on 31 May 2009 at 9:37 am

    Does this mean that possession of Little Miss Sticky Kiss counts as child porn?

  9. basura is trash said on 2 Jun 2009 at 2:27 pm

    this sorta reminds me of the senate controversy with bondage and pornography that came out in the 50s(?)

  10. Hayami said on 3 Jun 2009 at 4:10 am

    @ Trevor Brown

    The problem with consumption of real CP is not only support of CP business (obviously only if people pay for it!), but also (further) victimization of the filmed / photographed children.

    Compare it with the following situation:
    Person A installed a hidden camera in your bathroom or filmed you while you were raped and posted the video/photos on some porn site.
    Person B found these video/photos by chance and sent to your classmates/colleagues (let’s call them C1, C2, C3, …)
    Whether it’s legal or not for your classmates/colleagues to possess these video/photos, there is a real victim in this case and the more people around you receive these media, the worse are the implications (the torture) for you. Just like in this case: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29546030/

    It’s commonly assumed that children can’t give consent to sex or to be filmed in sexually explicit situations. In this case the consumers (C1, C2, C3) can’t say that perhaps you gave your consent to be filmed (fake rape, not-so-hidden camera, etc.)

  11. trevor brown said on 3 Jun 2009 at 10:02 am

    i, and the person who made that comment, were just playing devil’s advocate

    of course i understand your argument – and it only further emphasizes how far removed that is from christopher handley – no abuse and no victim involved (besides christopher himself) yet he is being tarred with the same brush

  12. Scott Ferry said on 12 Jun 2009 at 2:30 am

    seems like there is always a rise and fall of witchhunts… usually its when they wish to divert attention from other more pertinent subjects..

  13. Scott Ferry said on 12 Jun 2009 at 3:20 am

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OggM1jfr4l0

    its in french sorry… Ségolène Royal against japanese animation in france

  14. otto117 said on 25 Jun 2009 at 2:48 am

    Of course athe UK is next. Today the Lords Committee is supposed to consider the bill that will criminalize drawings and cartoons. Stay Tuned.

    http://www.melonfarmers.co.uk/gca.htm

    BTW, art defense under US law is problematic because what is “art” for purposes of the Miller test ISN’T totally subjective when you get into a US courtroom. An expert witness has to testify that the work has SERIOUS artistic value, not merely some artistic value. That’s actually a difficult burden. I wonder if the experts and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund were up to it. It’s easy to say, ‘yes, this is serious art,’ but when a prosecutor is cross-examining an expert over cartoons of 6- or 12-year-olds being tied up and fucked by huge dicks or tentacles, well, it becomes a bit more difficult. Certainly in the eyes of a lot of Americans, cartoons are to “Art” as science fiction is to literature.

    As for the silly notion that something should be banned because it leads to criminal conduct, there is no better comment than that made by Justice Kennedy in Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition (finding that images of fictional minors could not be banned as child porn, but could be banned as obscenity):

    “The Government submits further that virtual child pornography whets the appetites of pedophiles and encourages them to engage in illegal conduct. This rationale cannot sustain the provision in question. The mere tendency of speech to encourage unlawful acts is not a sufficient reason for banning it. The government “cannot constitutionally premise legislation on the desirability of controlling a person’s private thoughts.” Stanley v. Georgia, 394 U. S. 557, 566 (1969). First Amendment freedoms are most in danger when the government seeks to control thought or to justify its laws for that impermissible end. The right to think is the beginning of freedom, and speech must be protected from the government because speech is the beginning of thought.”

  15. trevor brown said on 25 Jun 2009 at 8:53 am

    cartoons are to “Art” as science fiction is to literature.

    so, if they refuse to attach any seriousness to stupid cartoons, why are they put on the same level as actual photography of child abuse – something they see as having no value whatsoever also seen as a huge threat to civilisation

  16. otto117 said on 26 Jun 2009 at 1:32 pm

    Yes, it is, um, ironic, isn’t it? But the “seriousness” they attach to cartoons is a “moral” seriousness, of course. What truly worries me is the CBLDF’s apparent defense strategy was to bring in experts to testify that creating the images in question takes artistic skill and care. I don’t think that the courts are going to accept that as the standard of “serious artistic value.” (So I can see why the lawyers didn’t want those letters published – it shows their hand so the gov’t can prepare their counterarguments for future cases.)

    The fact is, and this is not to flatter you, that Trevor Brown is an artist whose work has “serious artistic value,” a fact validated in the breadth of your work (e.g., a wide range of cultural material engaged) and its publication (by various publishers which publish material other than images of you-know-what), inclusion in gallery shows, etc. Fitting the most artists who have drawn images that would fall under the rubric “lolicon” into this kind of framework is rather difficult. Suehiro Maruo is an exception to the rule. I don’t know if, say, Aki Uchiyama or Nishi Iori are. (Just because I like their work doesn’t mean a thing!)

  17. trevor brown said on 26 Jun 2009 at 2:33 pm

    ..and, ironically, nishi iori is more technically proficient / artistically adept than me!

    i don’t know the intricacies of the american law (it’s all state dependent and they make it up as they go along or as it suits them?) but with the new uk law going thru, the very first clause makes it the burden of the prosecution to prove the arraigned image has been produced “solely or principally for the purpose of sexual arousal” – so altho that would condemn loli manga, it would not convict trevor brown painting – imo! – but you’d probably be relying on the opinions of (literally) a bunch of random people picked off the street which of course is quite likely to include idiots (or formerly sensible normal people now brainwashed by paedohysteria)…

  18. otto117 said on 27 Jun 2009 at 12:02 pm

    You are correct: the motivation behind the creation of a trevor brown painting is not “solely or principally for the purpose of sexual arousal.” It’s really not that different from the first prong of the Miller test, i.e., whether the work, taken as a whole, appeals to “prurient” interest (which is defined in that good Christian nation, Dog bless it, as a “shameful or morbid interest in sex”). The third prong of the Miller test, which is still the law federally and in all the states, btw, would save you every time: whether the work has serious artistic value.

    This raises various levels of hypocrisy which lurk behind this issue. Here’s one level: the moralists (politicians, preachers, NGOs, etc.) sell these laws under the banner child protection. They raise in the public mind the preposterous notion that lolicon must be banned because it arouses people and makes them go out and rape children. But if the cartoons have serious artistic or literary value (or were not “principally” created to arouse), then – what? Either “art” can’t arouse and cause people to go out and rape children, or it’s okay if SOME children are raped, because it’s in the name of art?

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