Clarification

In my last post, I did a little play on words (“Law and (Gag) Orders”), but I just want to clarify that I myself am not subject to any legally-binding gag order, and as far as I know, no one involved in the Handley case is subject to a “gag order” in the strict sense of an order issued by the court. As I understand it, the conditions of the plea bargain Handley agreed to include a (rather standard, I suppose) restriction on what Handley or anyone of his surrogates can say about the case. (Obviously the prosecution is not going to be happy if they strike a plea agreement, and the defendant then tells the media, “I’m acually innocent, but I signed the plea agreement because I was threatened with a harsher sentence if I didn’t.”) The repercussions of violating those conditions, though, are very real, since the prosecution can withdraw the plea agreement, or ask the judge for a harsher sentence.

Can you say “coercive plea agreement“?

In the meantime, I am trying to find a list of the materials deemed obscene by the prosecution, preferably in Japanese, so that I can check it out for myself. (Remember that I live in Japan, where the material is quite legal.)

At this point, all we have are rumors and speculation. For example, a widely referenced article from MTV’s Splash Page contains this passage:

“There is explicit sex in yaoi comics,” Handley’s lawyer Eric Chase told MTV. “And the men are drawn in a very androgynous style, which has the effect of making them look really young. There’s a real taboo in Japan about showing pubic hair, so they’re all drawn without it, which also makes them look young. So what concerned the authorities were the depictions of children in explicit sexual situations that they believed to be obscene. But there are no actual children. It was all very crude images from a comic book.”

Based on this quote, many commentators have concluded that the problematic books were (at least in part) yaoi. The Splash Page writer herself draws the same conclusion when she says, “[Handley] was arrested in Iowa for possession of obscene material based on his private collection, which included lolicon and yaoi manga.” Yet a careful reading of the quote reveals that Chase does not say that the problematic material in Handley’s case was yaoi. His statement could also easily be read as simply offering an example of a kind of manga that could be mistaken for depictions of minors in sexual situations.

I myself concluded that the material must be explicitly pornographic, based on this description from the indictment (quoted here):

a copy of a book containing visual depictions, namely drawings and cartoons, that depicted graphic bestiality, including sexual intercourse, between human beings and animals such as pigs, monkeys, and others.

Yet things I have read and heard since have made me skeptical of this description. The bottom line is we cannot comment on the specifics of the material until those specifics are made public. And as far as I can tell, they have not.

But regardless of whether the manga in question are the kind of thing any manga collecter would have on her shelf or are explicitly pornographic, as long as the material passes the Miller Test (as even the most explicit legal pornography evidently does), the material should be protected by the First Amendment.

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