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Jurors in Tampa to decide; What is obscene?

TAMPA — A federal jury will soon have the unusual task of deciding what Tampa Bay residents consider obscene, and whether a Hollywood producer's violent pornographic films are unacceptable to the local community.

They may spend an entire day watching porn to do it.

A judge will rule today on just how much pornography will be displayed in the courtroom as prosecutors present evidence against Paul F. Little of Altadena, Calif., and his company, MaxWorld Entertainment Inc.

Little, also known as Max Hardcore, and MaxWorld are charged with five counts of using a computer server to sell obscene matter and five counts of delivering obscene matter through the U.S. mail.

Little, well-known in the pornography world, has acted in more than 130 movies, directed more than 100 and produced about 30, according to the Internet Movie Database. His films show men inflicting pain or humiliation on women. The movies have scenes that include urinating, vomiting and defecating. Adult actresses in the films are often made up to look like young girls.

Defense attorneys say that what Little and MaxWorld produce and distribute is legal and protected in the marketplace by the First Amendment.

While adult pornography isn't illegal, it can be prosecuted as obscene under the Miller test, named for the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court case Miller vs. California.

The court developed a three-part test to determine obscenity: It must appeal to prurient interests, be patently offensive by community standards and have no literary, scientific, political or artistic value.

Jurors get to decide whether, by the contemporary standards of their community, the material in question would be deemed obscene.

Seven women and five men on the jury will speak for the bay area in this case.

To prove their case, prosecutors plan to show at least 2 1/2-hours of clips produced and directed by Little. But defense attorneys said if jurors are to fairly decide if the pornographic depictions are obscene, the law requires they see the entire movies. That could include up to 8 1/2-hours of porn on five DVDs with titles like Max Hardcore Golden Guzzlers 7 — Euro Edition and Fists of Fury 4 — Euro Edition.

U.S. District Judge Susan C. Bucklew planned to spend Tuesday evening reviewing them before she ruled.

Attorneys with the Justice Department's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section have flown from Washington, D.C., to try the case. The government announced its charges against Little and MaxWorld in May 2007. He is on trial in the Middle District of Florida because prosecutors purchased the DVDs from Little's Internet Web site and had them sent to a Tampa post office box.

During jury selection, which lasted most of the day Tuesday, one woman said she literally wouldn't be able to stomach watching hours of the type of pornography described in court. She was dismissed after saying the sight of vomit makes her physically ill.

A man who identified himself as a youth pastor was excused from the jury pool after saying he had a previous addiction to porn and didn't want a relapse by having to view it during trial. The judge also dismissed a man who said he had four daughters, and the thought of anyone mistreating any young woman would upset him.

The 12 jurors who will decide the case include an insurance claims adjuster, a nurse, a civil engineer and a pawnshop owner.

The government is seeking forfeiture of the obscene films mentioned in the federal indictment, all gross profits from their distribution and all property used in producing the films, including Little's home and his Internet domain names.

Court resumes at 9:30 a.m. today with opening statements. The trial may last through the start of next week.

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Kevin Graham can be reached at kgraham@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3433.

>>fast facts

Defining obscenity

The 1973 landmark U.S. Supreme Court case Miller vs. California established a standard three-part legal definition of obscenity that jurors must use in considering the case against Paul F. Little, also known as Max Hardcore, and MaxWorld Entertainment Inc.: By community standards, does the material appeal to the prurient interest; is it patently offensive sexual conduct defined by state law; and does the work, taken as a whole, lack serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value?

Jurors in Tampa to decide; What is obscene? 05/27/08 [Last modified: Monday, June 2, 2008 3:59pm]

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