MIAMI, JUNE 6 -- An album by the controversial Miami-based rap group 2 Live Crew was found obscene today by a federal district court judge in Fort Lauderdale, who said that the group's lyrics appealed to "dirty thoughts."
U.S. District Judge Jose Gonzalez, in a 62-page opinion, agreed with Broward County Sheriff Nick Navarro, who in March obtained a circuit court opinion that the group's hot-selling album, "As Nasty as You Wanna Be" was "probably obscene."
"It is an appeal to 'dirty' thoughts and the loins, not to the intellect and the mind," Gonzalez wrote in today's opinion, which was read to a packed courtroom that included the rap group's members.
Lawyers said they expect the opinion to have an impact on albums and music stores far beyond the Southern District of Florida, which is served by Gonzalez. The judge, who had listened to the double album in court, said that in making his ruling he had applied the three-way test of contemporary obscenity standards established in a 1973 Supreme Court decision. That ruling said that before any material could be banned, the average person applying community standards must find that the work appeals to prurient interests, is patently offensive and lacks any serious artistic, political or scientific value.
"The recording depicts sexual conduct in graphic detail," Gonzalez said. "The specificity of the descriptions makes the audio message analogous to a camera with a zoom lens, focusing on the sights and sounds of various ... sex acts."
The opinion continued: "It cannot be reasonably argued that the violence, perversion, abuse of women, graphic depictions of all forms of sexual conduct, and microscopic descriptions of human genitalia contained on this recording are comedic art."
Afterward, the group's leader, Luther Campbell, who has used the stage name Luke Skyywalker, said, "We'll keep making the same music. We probably won't sell no records in Broward County."
Bruce Rogow, 2 Live Crew's attorney, defended the album as "art" and said he would appeal the ruling. "Put in its historical context, it is a novel and creative use of sound and lyrics," he said. "The trouble is, you have a bunch of white folks who don't understand the culture."
Rogow also predicted album sales would get a boost from the decision. "I think the demand for the record is going to be extraordinary," he said.
The judge's decision was not a clear-cut victory for Navarro. Gonzalez found that the sheriff and Broward County Circuit Judge Mel Grossman had committed an unconstitutional "improper prior restraint of free speech" after Navarro sought and received an opinion from Grossman in March that the album was "probably obscene" and warnedrecord store owners they could be arrested for selling it.
After the decision was announced, Sheriff's Attorney John Jolly said, "The court is clearly saying we're doing it the wrong way. We're going to change our procedures."
But Navarro vowed to enforce today's ruling on the album. "If it is obscene," he said, "we will make an arrest. If you sell it, you're going to jail."
During the May hearing, Rogow played the album for the judge and a packed courtroom. He also showed X-rated videotapes and displayed pornographic magazines obtained locally as evidence of the community's standards.
He also brought in two music critics and a sociologist as expert witnesses to testify about the recording's artistic, political and literary worth.
Jolly brought no experts.
"The tape speaks for itself," he said before the trial.
2 Live Crew is scheduled to play at a nightclub in Hollywood, Fla., this weekend. Officials there said today they would not attempt to ban the group from appearing in their town, but suggested that a performance of the now-obscene lyrics would not be tolerated.
The album, which has sold 1.7 million copies, has drawn controversy since it was released last July. The group released a second version of the album, "As Clean as They Wanna Be," which has had limited radio play.
A record store manager at Peaches, one of Fort Lauderdale's largest record and tape outlets, declined to comment on the ruling and added that most of the city's record store managers were trying to stay out of the controversy. Most record store managers pulled the record from their racks after Navarro warned that they could be arrested for selling it.
Meanwhile, Campbell said the band was releasing its fifth album and warned it was at least as raunchy as the current one. Its title, he said, is "Banned in the USA."