Official Press Release
The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund welcomes the outcome of today's pretrial hearing on motions brought in defense of Georgia retailer Gordon Lee.
Four out of seven counts against Lee were dismissed before Judge F. Larry Salmon at a pretrial hearing in Rome, Georgia. Prosecutors dismissed both felony counts (1 & 2) of Distribution of Material Containing Nudity or Sexual Conduct (OCGA §16-12-81), as well as the two misdemeanor counts (6 & 7) of Distribution of Harmful to Minors Material (OCGA §16-12-103) to alleged John Does. Three misdemeanor counts (3, 4, & 5) of Distribution of Harmful to Minors Material to the alleged victim were the subject of arguments not yet ruled upon.
Lead counsel Alan Begner says, "I'm delighted that the felony counts are now thrown out. They should never have been brought and the District Attorney waited until the last minute to dismiss them, but [co-counsel] Paul [Cadle] and I were confident all along that they could not stand. Now they do not stand."
While much of Begner's written argument in this motion challenged the constitutionality of the Harmful to Minors law, he explains that with his oral argument, "I didn't really argue the constitutionality of the misdemeanor statutes, but I argued that the comic book as a matter of law did not violate the law and is protected under the First Amendment."
The prosecution's decision to dismiss the felony charges mooted two of the four motions brought by the Fund's counsel, while the decision to dismiss the John Doe counts mooted, in part, a third motion. The remaining intact motion that was argued challenged the constitutionality of the State's Distribution of Harmful to Minors Material law on its face and as applied to this case, specifically challenging whether the material in question could be considered Harmful to Minors as a matter of law.
Begner's arguments before the court weighed in on the constitutional issues at stake in the remaining counts, while Cadle attacked the remaining portions of the motion challenging the separation of misdemeanor counts 3, 4, and 5, and State's decision to prosecute those counts as separate matters. Begner explains, "Paul argued that the use of three separate counts to charge one offense was improper and was done to make the jury believe there were three crimes committed when it should have all been put into one count. That's been taken under consideration too: we asked [the judge] to require the State to put it in one count, to properly reflect that there should be only one count left."
Overall, counsel was positive about the outcome of Lee's first day in court. Paul Cadle says, "We're very pleased with what happened today, and we believe that the prosecution's dismissals are recognition of the strength of our arguments."
A decision on today's arguments is expected by the end of the month. To date the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has spent roughly $40,000 on Lee's defense, and is currently fundraising aggressively to shore up money for a trial on the remaining counts.
CBLDF Executive Director Charles Brownstein says, "We join our counsel in welcoming today's encouraging developments in Gordon's case. We never held doubt of his innocence, and the dismissal of the majority of the counts against him vindicates our position. We were able to get this far because of the commitment and generosity of the comics community who have recognized Gordon's case as a clear and present danger to our art form and our livelihoods. We still have a long, expensive road to travel before we get to trial, but with the continued generosity of the comics world, we hope to be unbeatable."
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