Robot 6

Handley pleads guilty in manga obscenity case

cbldf-logoChristopher Handley, a 39-year-old manga collector from Iowa, pleaded guilty yesterday to possessing “obscene visual representations of the sexual abuse of children and mailing obscene material.”

He faces up to 15 years in prison, a maximum fine of $250,000 and three years of supervised released.

The Handley case began in May 2006, when customs agents reportedly intercepted a mail package from Japan addressed to Handley containing what they deemed obscene material, “including books containing visual representations of the sexual abuse of children, specifically Japanese manga drawings of minor females being sexually abused by adult males and animals.” Agents from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service obtained a warrant to search Handley’s Glenwood, Iowa, home, where they seized “additional obscene drawings of the sexual abuse of children.”

Handley was indicted in May 2007 under a federal law that prohibits the possession any visual depiction — including cartoons — of “a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct that is obscene.”

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, which in October 2008 became a special consultant for the defense, expressed disappointment over Handley’s plea.

“Because the set of facts specific to this case were so unique, we hope that its importance as precedent will be minimal,” Executive Director Charles Brownstein said in a press release. “However, we must also continue to be prepared for the possibility that other cases could arise in the future as a result.

“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.”

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17 Comments

That is really bad news for all artists!!!

I’m sure whatever material was flagged was in extremely poor taste. The description from this brief article alone is just wrong. A child being sexually abused by animals? Argue “art” all you want, there’s a line that was crossed.

However, the problem with a ruling like this hinges on a few tricky definitions:

1. What is a “criminal visual representation”? Can showing a rape scene in a movie be considered a criminal training manual?
2. What is a “minor”? By current US law, a 16 year old girl drawing a naked picture of herself is considered child pornography, and a sex crime. A 16 year old engaging sexually with someone only two years older is considered criminal for the older party.
3. What is the definition of “pornography”? Where is the line drawn between poor taste and criminal pornography? What is the difference between a movie like Fast Times at Ridgemont High and a comic book detailing the same thing?

It doesn’t matter what the comic book was about. It was drawn by one adult person for another. That’s everything there should be to it, in a perfect world.

In a “perfect world” grown-ups wouldn’t want or need to read stories about children having sex in the first place.

I’ve seen some of this kind of art posted on websites. It is pretty obscene. Little girls being raped – sorry, there is a limit on free speech.

Kevin Melrose

May 21, 2009 at 2:39 pm

What’s the limit?

If the First Amendment only protected speech that we agree with, or images that we find wholesome and heartwarming — well, then there wouldn’t be much need for it.

The qustion is do you want these people doing the real thing? Or do you want to keep it in their imagination. It is only imagination. It can’t hurt anyone.

Lost Girls by Alan Moore has depictions of children having sex. Would that mean I should be in jail??

The problem is that now that cartoon depictions of children having sex are considered illegal, would the verbal representation of children having sex be illegal? If so, take Michener’s “Hawaii” out of your library.
The fact is, children have sex. They have always had sex. They will continue to have sex. Bad things happen to children, but if communication about those things is stifled, solutions to the problems will be stifled as well.
I don’t know–or care what the content is. The representations of the rape of children by adults could be used as a warning to children. It’s harsh, but so is life sometimes. No children were harmed in the making of those comics so free speech should have been protected.

This is a very tricky slope we are traveling down. The reports have stated the art in question was manga and not all of his collection. There have been reports that Lost Girls was also named as being seized in the search. I have to state that i understand that he felt pressured from the prosecuting attorney to plead his case down. Now this prosecutor has a big win under his belt and can use this for re-election and that is a shame. Everyone remembers the store owner who given what was deemed inappropriate to the child. Those of you who deem this man as a child molester do you also think the same of the store owner? I own Lost girls myself not for the sex but for the artistic merits in it. I think that if it was revealed the titles that they think was obscene we might have a different opinion of it. Take for instance Battle Royal. It is the story about 9th graders put on a island and forced to battle to the death for the sake of Reality TV. It is so much more than just the violence but it is a statement on society today. Is it obscene? To some yes. Is it punishable by jail time or fines or loss of freedoms? I don’t think so. I am not the biggest fan of Manga but i accept it as art. Just like i accept rap as a art form of music. I don’t accept others loosing their rights because i might not like it personally. Because if i accept that then others will accept it when something i care about gets removed from my choices.

I’m worried about the description of what “appeared to be minors”. The oriental women I’ve seen are usually pretty flat. Were these characters actually children, or were they just flat chested?

In other words, can you now only buy comics where the women are shaped like Luba and have EEE chests?

Also, in some countries the age of consent is 16, not 18.

So does this mean that mean that I cannot buy any manga where the characters are 16, and may be engaging in sex with each other? No more “Utena”?

And where does this put the comic “Seven Miles a Second”? SMaS is an autobiographical story about an abused boy who runs away from home and lives on the streets. And while it does have sex involving minors in it, the story is a great story of the human spirit and how the kid finally ‘makes it’. Yes, it does have the sad ending of the death of David Wojnarowicz from AIDS in 1992. James Romberger, the artist, finished up the book after Wojnarowicz died and it was published in 1996.

Does this mean now that this comic is illegal?

Or what about “A Tale of One Bad Rat”? Where the young girl runs away from home because her father was molesting her? Is that now illegal to have as well?

I get a little twitchy about comics, because I run into so many folks who think comics should be only for kids. I worry that one day in the US this will be true. Then I wouldn’t be able to purchase any manga or adult comics. Or draw any.

He was no collector of child porn nor a pedophile as some might want to paint him.

He was a collector of Japanese manga not some sort of raging pervert with an affinity for children.. His sentence is based off of the “possession of 150 but less than 300 such images in total.” Not 150 to 300 magazines mind you, but cartoon pages with one or more panels or individual jpgs. That is of over 1,000+ books, several computers, and hundreds of DVDs seized from his house by the prosecutors.

The dude had a massive collection and if you were to look into any library of that size I am sure you can find plenty of material some might find obscene. I am looking at my own collection and my uncensored Tokyopop releases of Yubisaki Milk Tea start coming to mind…

Right on Ariolander. Some how you know the truth of him. FYI to all of you. He didn’t want to plead guilty but lawyer managed to say the right thing to change his mind. Lawyer not there for plea date, sent sub. Guy not prepared for what would happen. It was a disaster mentally and emotionally. He was barred from accessing anime websites or “chatting” about case previously, so he has not been aware of all the support. He didn’t want to let down the anime community, but as a Type 1 diabetic, he needs to spend the least amount of jail time possible. It will be hard enough for him to survive any small amount of time incarcerated if his medical needs aren’t met. Wish all the supporters had known of the plea date so they could have shown up at the court house. But I doubt any would have. Rightly so to be concerned about own collection. Good luck to all of you

SaintNightwalker

May 26, 2009 at 9:03 am

“Wish all the supporters had known of the plea date so they could have shown up at the court house. But I doubt any would have.”

Wait a minute. First you express and almost demand that all of this dude’s supporters had been informed of the court date so they could be at the courthouse, then you slam all of them for not coming??!!! As for the lawyer bit, it’s hardly all the lawyers fault. If you hated the lawyer you had, fire them and get a new one.

As for imagination never hurting anyone, Hitler imagined wiping the Jews off the face of the earth, but he never actually hurt any of them, right?

“As for imagination never hurting anyone, Hitler imagined wiping the Jews off the face of the earth, but he never actually hurt any of them, right?”

What kind of sarcastic argument from fear is that? Hitler’s imagination never killed any Jews. No one’s imagination has ever killed anyone. I can sit in my office and imagine the death of my coworkers all day everyday and they will never die. The moment I get up, grab the fire ax from the wall and begin hacking away, then I’ve killed someone.

The fact is that cartoon images don’t hurt people. I could draw a million pictures of little girls being sodomized by elephants and once I’m done not one actual little girl will have ever been hurt.

This man was convicted of a thought crime, plain and simple, and it’s clear that the system as a whole conspired to screw this individual. Not just those of you who own material that might be questionable should be afraid–everyone should be.

In Germany, they came first for the Communists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist;

And then they came for the trade unionists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist;

And then they came for the Jews, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew;

And then… they came for me… And by that time there was no one left to speak up

~Pastor Martin Niemöller

OMFG, I can’t believe this! I’m sure he was “pressured” into pleading guilty, somehow. Or, maybe the pigs just ‘wore him down’ to the point that he just wanted it over.

And, the effing Feds — this is the EXACT reason I left the USSA (United Socialist States of AmeriKKa)! It’s becoming more of a Police State every day — and, insane guilty pleas like this only strengthen and embolden the pigs.

– a former American

Welcome to the new America: the land of the cowards, home of the slaves. Where possessing drawings the government doesn’t approve of can land you hard time in prison.

Very few countries on Earth have such outlandish Orwellian laws, and it’s the main reason why “The Land of the Free” has the highest number of imprisoned persons on the face of the planet.

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