As reported yesterday, Christopher Handley, the Iowa man arrested for owning drawn material depicting children engaged in sexual acts, has pleaded guilty to possessing obscene visual representations of the sexual abuse of children and mailing obscene material. Handley was arrested after Customs intercepted a package from Japan containing the questionable material specifically “Japanese manga drawings of minor females being sexually abused by adult males and animals.”
Pursuant to his plea agreement, Handley today pleaded guilty to one count of possessing obscene visual representations of the sexual abuse of children in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1466A(b)(1), which prohibits the possession of any type of visual depiction, including a drawing, cartoon, sculpture, or painting, that depicts a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct that is obscene.
Handley also agreed to plead guilty to one count of mailing obscene material and to forfeit all seized property. Handley faces a maximum of 15 years in prison, a maximum fine of $250,000, and a three-year term of supervised release.
The CBLDF had supported Handley as a special consultant, and has released a statement, reproduced below.
Although no one likes a kiddie fiddler, that is not the issue here — Handley did not have a record as a sex offender. As Dirk Deppey observes (albeit with a very disturbing, NSFW panel from LOST GIRLS), anyone owning a copy of LOST GIRLS might be guilty of the same crime Handley committed. In fact, we just got a package from a manga publisher and have no idea what is in it — is it something we could go to jail for? Current US law prosecutes drawings of child pornography the same as photographed material, and that is troubling on many levels.
Don’t get us wrong, we find the loli-con, child sex branch of manga and anime very disturbing and troubling. (Hell, we find Ray Caesar’s work disturbing and troubling.) But it isn’t the same thing as actual child pornography.
Here’s the CBLDF release:
According to a press release issued by the Department of Justice, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has learned that Christopher Handley, the Iowa manga collector, has pleaded guilty “to possessing obscene visual representations of the sexual abuse of children and mailing obscene material.” CBLDF had served as a special consultant to Mr. Handley’s defense. The government’s press release states, “Handley faces a maximum of 15 years in prison, a maximum fine of $250,000, and a three-year term of supervised release.” Additionally, he forfeits all property seized in his prosecution.
The CBLDF became special consultant to Mr. Handley’s defense team last October. In this limited role, the Fund facilitated access to First Amendment experts; recommended expert witnesses on manga; and funded expert research pursuant to an eventual jury trial. The CBLDF spent $2,400 on that research, and had allocated up to $15,000 for expert witness expenses.
“Naturally, we are very disappointed by this result, but understand that in a criminal case, every defendant must make the decision that they believe serves their best interest,” CBLDF Executive Director Charles Brownstein said. “Because the set of facts specific to this case were so unique, we hope that its importance as precedent will be minimal. However, we must also continue to be prepared for the possibility that other cases could arise in the future as a result.”
Brownstein adds, “Mr. Handley now faces the loss of his freedom and his property, all for owning a handful of comic books. It’s chilling. The Fund remains unwavering in our commitment to be prepared to manage future threats of this nature wherever they arise. This is the unfortunate conclusion of Mr. Handley’s case, but it is not the end of this sort of prosecution. For that reason, the Fund stands steadfast in our commitment to defending the First Amendment rights of the comics art form.”