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Is AG Eric Holder ‘neglecting’ porn?

By Kase Wickman
Monday, April 18, 2011 15:16 EDT
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Often shoved under the mattress of social issues, conservative activists are making sure that pornography will take the center stage of political discussion.

Holder quietly shut down the Justice Department’s Obscenity Prosecution Task Force recently. It was created in 2005 under President George W. Bush, to crack down on pornography. Conservatives are calling foul, and say the move shows Holder doesn’t care about prosecuting porn-related cases.

Department of Justice officials said that they were not looking the other way on porn cases, just that the issue would be better handled by the U.S. Attorneys’ offices, or Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, according to Politico.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) was one of 42 politicians who signed a letter sent to Holder earlier this month, asking him to prosecute “all major distributors of adult obscenity.”

“Attorney General Holder told the Judiciary Committee last year that this task force was the centerpiece of the strategy to combat adult obscenity,” Hatch told Politico in a statement. “Rather than initiate a single new case since President Obama took office, however, the only development in this area has been the dismantling of the task force. As the toxic waste of obscenity continues to spread and harm everyone it touches, it appears the Obama administration is giving up without a fight.”

Among the mostly Republican signatures on the letter, six Senate Democrats and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) also added their support to a harder stance on pornography.

Justice Department officials, however, insist that the shuttering of the task force was not a step back in the effort, and more a streamlining action.

“Re-incorporating the prosecution of obscenity violations into the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, as opposed to having a separate task force, provides for increased collaboration among experienced attorneys and agents, and gives our prosecutors the most solid foundation possible for pursuing their mission,” Justice Department spokeswoman Laura Sweeney told Politico.

The head of the task force, former U.S. Attorney Brent Ward, has been revealed to be unhappy with the slow progress of the task force’s prosecution record.

“It has now been 10 months since I arrived here. In that time, two cases have been indicted,” Ward wrote in an email in August 2006. “In light of this, the Task Force would have to be considered a failure so far.”

The email became public as part of the record during the U.S. Attorneys firing controversy.

“I hope [prosecutors] have been somewhat discouraged because I don’t think they’ve really gained a whole lot in what they did. They’ve gotten a couple of guilty pleas and prison terms of one to three years but in the last series of cases they got directed verdicts [of not guilty] and acquittals,” Lou Sirkin, a Cincinnati lawyer who defends clients in the adult industry, told Politico. “It didn’t really go anywhere.”

Kase Wickman
Kase Wickman
Kase Wickman is a reporter for Raw Story. She holds a journalism degree from Boston University and grew up in Eugene, OR. Her work has been featured in The Boston Globe, Village Voice Media, The Christian Science Monitor, The Houston Chronicle and on NPR, among others. She lives in New York City and tweets from @kasewickman.
 
 
 
 
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