CBLDF Initiates Obscenity Defense in Georgia

Official Press Release

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has undertaken the defense of retailer Gordon Lee of Legends in Rome, GA against charges arising from the dissemination of "Alternative Comics #2." Lee was arrested on charges of distributing material depicting nudity, and distributing obscene material to a minor; the first charge alone, a felony offense in Georgia, carries a penalty of one to three years in prison and/or fines of up to $10,000, if convicted.

The Fund has retained the firm of Begner & Begner of Atlanta, GA to lead the case, with experienced obscenity defense attorney Alan Begner heading up the defense. The Fund has also retained Paul Cadle, an independent practice attorney specializing in criminal law, as associate counsel in Rome.

On Halloween, Legends participated in a trick-or-treat event in downtown Rome by distributing free comics. "Alternative Comics #2," the Free Comic Book Day edition from publisher Alternative Comics for 2004, was inadvertently included in the mix of books being disseminated. The comic features a variety of stories from the company's line, including an excerpt from Nick Bertozzi's "The Salon" depicting the first meeting between Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso. On three pages of the eight page section, Picasso is depicted in the nude, a factually accurate detail for the period during which the story is set. There is no sexual content in the story. The comic was inadvertently distributed to a minor, whose parent filed a complaint with the police. The age and identity of the minor are unknown. Days later, Gordon Lee, the owner, was arrested.

Lee appealed to the Fund for help late in January by bringing his situation to the attention of Board Member Peter David. The CBLDF Board of Directors voted unanimously to financially support Lee's defense. Within days a defense team was in place to prepare for the arraignment, which has yet to occur.

"Our view is that Gordon was wrongly arrested and that no crime has been committed," Charles Brownstein, Executive Director of the Fund said. "We don't believe that the material is constitutionally obscene nor harmful to minors, and we know that even though the work is not illegal, that Gordon did not intend for it to fall into the hands of a minor. We feel that Gordon is within his rights, and we're confident that we've retained the best counsel in the state to defend those rights. We hope that we can get the charges dropped before it has to go to trial. If not, we're prepared to fight this battle as far as it needs to go."

Gordon Lee says, "Though I am willing to apologize for this particular art book getting in the hands that found it offensive, I will adamantly agree that the book is not 'harmful to children' or 'obscene.' In my opinion, this book is no more offensive then viewing the beautiful paintings of the Sistine Chapel or reading one of the best selling books with stories of sex, lust and nudity known as the Bible."

Lee continues, "I would like to thank Peter David for expediting my concerns and contacting the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund on my behalf. I feel their influence and considerable knowledge in First Amendment rights will be extremely beneficial in this case which will lead to a very successful and satisfying conclusion."

The Fund has already invested $10,000 into the defense of this case and is prepared to continue its investment in this case through to its conclusion.

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund was founded in 1986 as a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of First Amendment rights for members of the comics community. Donations and inquiries should be directed to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund at P.O. Box 693, Northampton, MA 01061.

For additional information, call 800-99-CBLDF or visit www.cbldf.org

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