The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund scored a victory last Friday when prosecutors dismissed all charges against Rome, GA retailer Gordon Lee. Neil Gaiman announced that Judge Larry Salmon signed off on the dismissal on Friday evening at New York Comic Con.
“This is a victory for Gordon, and a victory for comics,” says CBLDF Executive Director Charles Brownstein. “For more than three years, the comics world has stood behind Gordon’s innocence and now we are vindicated.”
The dismissal comes after more than three years and $100,000 of CBLDF resources were spent to prove Lee’s innocence. The battle was waged against a prosecutor’s office that grossly overcharged Lee at the start of the case, and proceeded to cause multiple delays, including throwing out and refiling charges a year and a half into the case, and creating a mistrial when the case finally went before a jury last November.
Following the mistrial, Rome District Attorney Leigh Patterson vowed to bring the case back for trial on the next misdemeanor calendar. Last winter, CBLDF counsel filed a motion to dismiss on grounds of prosecutorial misconduct. That filing detailed the history of the prosecutor’s errors up to and including the mistrial. Last February, the next trial calendar came and went without Gordon’s case being called and without that motion being heard. Shortly afterwards, Patterson’s office contacted Lee’s counsel, and said they would be willing to drop the case if Gordon wrote a letter of apology. Lee had always been willing to write such a letter, and promptly delivered one to Patterson’s office, where it sat for several weeks. After multiple attempts to bring the matter to a close, CBLDF counsel finally succeeded in moving Patterson’s office to live up to their end of the agreement and drop the case last Friday.
Lead counsel Alan Begner says, “But for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, and their willingness and ability to go to war on this case, the results might have been much different. There certainly would have been a trial without our specialized experts, and it would have likely been a felony trial. It was a worthy fight for them, and a worthy fight for us.”
Begner adds, “The defense of comic books on obscenity charges is a highly specialized area of expertise where even really good criminal lawyers who fight these things without that expertise are at a great disadvantage. The CBLDF found me — I’m a lawyer who has tried the most obscenity cases of any lawyer in Georgia since the mid 80s, and their knowledge of the field coupled with our specialized knowledge of obscenity law made the difference. We were also able to network with the First Amendment Lawyers Association, which includes CBLDF’s Burt Joseph and Media Coalition’s Mike Bamberger, two of the great experts in the field, to maximize our strategy. We believe strongly that if we had gone to trial we’d have won. But I learned long ago that a win is win, and if they offer to dismiss it, I know not to turn it down.”
Charles Brownstein adds, “This is a great victory for comics. Because of the support from all levels of the industry, the CBLDF was able to successfully fight back against a prosecutor who seemed determined to run a small retailer out of business. We were fortunate to engage the best legal team in Georgia, and the best experts in the region. We’re grateful to Alan & Cory Begner, our lead counsel, and Paul Cadle, our local counsel, for working so aggressively to make this case a win. And most of all, we’re grateful to all of our supporters for sticking with Gordon through all the ups and downs this case has had. Thanks to them, we were able to see this through to victory.”