Al Goldstein, editor and publisher of a magazine that has been called "obscene and vile" in a federal indictment, burned his lawyer's bill before an American Bar Association panel today and said, "Some people here might call this obscene."
As New York Appeals Court Judge Jacob D. Fuchenberg, who was sitting next to Goldstein, tried to put out the fire, Goldstein's attorney, Herald Price Fabriger, said, "Don't bother. I'll send him another."
That was the beginning of a three-hour discussion of obscenity and freedom of the press that pitted Goldstein, editor of Screw magazine, and porn movie star Harry Reems, their attorneys and First Amendment advocates against prosecutors and pornography cases.
Reems, a star of the porn movie "Deep Throat," said, "I'm not an attorney," and advances the theme that the First Amendment is designed to protect minority views - including those of people who like pornographic books and movies.
"As many people as we have in this room," he said, looking at the packed hotel room, "that's as many views as we have of what is obscene."
Or, as Goldstein put it "to a foot fetishist, a shoe window may be obscene."
Both attacked prosecutors who reach across state lines to grab editors and actors involved in the porn industry. Goldstein said he was arrested in Kansas City, even though Screw magazine isn't sold there, because postal inspectors ordered copies by mail from New York. Reems was convicted in Memphis for acting in "Deep Throat" even though he had never been in the city. His conviction has been overturned.
"The law is really an act of gamesmanship," Reems said. "The facts are almost unnecessary. It's really a verbal battle between prosecutor and defense attorney."
on the other hand, larry Parrish, who prosecuted Reems, complained that most community leaders - he singled out journalists, public officials, academicians and professionals - don't want to get involved in pornography cases because they turn out to be a screaming match.
"One side shouts CENSORSHIP, and the other side cries SMUT," he said.
Simon Leis, who prosecuted Larry Flynt, editor of Hustler magazine, in Cincinnati, pointed out that the Supreme Court has held that all pornography is not protected by the First Amendment. Leis said there is no comparison between the rights of "an admitted smut peddler" and the First Amendment rights of legitimate news organizations.