WASHINGTON-In the end there was justice. But why did it take so long?
The prosecution’s case crumbled earlier in the trial when Judge Richard Leon ruled out Belladonna’s trailer for Fetish Fanatic 5, in part, because the FBI agent’s memory of it seemed no more specific than a way too seriously rendered reference to, ahem, “a foot insertion.” I think there is no way not to laugh at least inside when an FBI agent with a straight face says “foot insertion.” I hope Belladonna is proud to have directed a scene so powerful the agent remembers the climax of just the trailer years later.
Still, because the trailer was from the internet and downloaded by the FBI agent in public this was the most dangerous piece of evidence. But the FBI agent’s fuzzy memory was not the entire story. It gets better. Thanks to the technical incompetence of the government in court that downloaded trailer was unplayable. The term: “flawed.”
Jules Jordan and Joey Silvera were sitting right in front of me and I bet they could have helped explain how to download porn to the government’s prosecutors. John Stagliano could have helped, too. And I have enough experience directing films and working on content for the web to figure it out. But in the case against Stagliano, even with all the infighting and gossip we sometimes have in our industry, not a single person in the entire adult world that I know thought John was a criminal. We were all very happy watching the case crumble.
With this trailer no longer in play, and two of the harshest charges against Stagliano removed precisely because of it, the rules of the game shifted suddenly and both sides spent many hours devising and creating new courtroom tactics.
The lead prosecutor focused more on her witnesses. She only had two of those. One was the FBI agent and the other was a detective that looked all too familiar to me. I heard the detective explain how he had to attend the AVN Expo for the last five years in a row “undercover” in order to research the new material being put out by adult companies. I was surprised to hear how the LAPD spends tax money so consistently on porn related materials in the name of “research” when the city is reeling from recent budget cuts. But mostly, as the LAPD detective answered questions under oath, I began to realize why I was recognizing him; I am almost sure that I have signed autographs for him at adult conventions. That is one dedicated undercover officer! I wonder if somewhere in a police evidence folder is a signed photo of me or if the detective kept that for his personal collection. I hope the latter. I don’t want to be in a file and even detectives should have fun with their porn collections.
The LAPD surveillance efforts even extended to Evil Angel’s buildings. There were photos snapped of the Evil Angel office. The problem was the office building that the detective pointed out to the jury had no significant indication of actually being “Evil Angel.” But the detective did identify a cat picture in the window with a hand written caption “beware the evil pussy.” I couldn’t help but laugh at that! How cute and harmless does it get? I was not the only one in the courtroom laughing at that point either.
By that point the prosecution already crumbled and only the details remained.
In the end, the porn world proved better organized and more competent than our own government. The charges against Evil Angel were thrown out even before the jury heard the case by the judge on the grounds of insufficient evidence.
And, we are no longer talking about Milk Nymphos and Storm Squirters 2. There was no evidence to prove that Stagliano had actually shipped the DVDs, there was no evidence that Evil Angel had shipped the DVDs, there was also no evidence that the DVDs were opened and watched here in Washington D.C. ... so what evidence was there?
The government’s lead attorney was sure she could lead the jury to believe that the “E.A. Productions” label on the shipping box for the DVDs was actually Evil Angel. She was so sure that she never acquired proof that E.A. productions was identical to the charged defendant Evil Angel Productions Inc. Quite the opposite turned out to happen. The prosecutor offered evidence that Evil Angel Productions Inc. stopped doing business years before the movies were made. Ooops.
Here is how things go when I show up to work for comparison. A porn set is far more thorough. On set, no matter how old or young a girl looks two forms of government issued identification are always required to verify age. Photocopies along with several forms, including a model release, are filed away for every porn movie that gets shot, for every performer on every scene. Without the proper paperwork no adult movie would be released.
How is it this case against Evil Angel ever made it this far? Can a case really be brought this far for this many years only using speculation? The good guys won one because the prosecution failed to prove what our whole industry knows: John Stagliano is Evil Angel.
While I am thrilled at the result, I cannot help feel a little angry, too. This case wasn’t won because of the First Amendment protecting the freedom of expression of our movies. An injustice was done to a good man and a great company. None of it seems fair. And, what stops the government from sticking their fingers in this one again?
In 2010, I think it’s time to agree that porn is no longer considered obscene, but mainstream adult entertainment. And, while I am not naming names, because porn is a private pleasure, let’s just say a number of the lawyers, judges and officers of the court, I was pleased to discover were my fans. And, when the very courthouse of the trial is filled with porn fans, it is time to end these show trials. This obscenity question has already been decided by history and the people of our country: adult films are not obscene!
Congratulations to Evil Angel and John Stagliano-but he should have never been charged and put through a three-year ordeal when the government didn’t even have enough evidence for the judge to let the jury decide the case. I guess there is some justice in that, but the entire thing also feels like it was years of persecution of our industry and an innocent man over nothing. Let it end here, please.