Extreme Associates’ Black, Borden Get 1-Year Sentences

Jul 1, 2009 10:00 AM PST
PITTSBURGH — Extreme Associates partners Rob Black and Lizzy Borden will each spend a year and a day in prison as part of their guilty pleas on obscenity charges.

Black, whose real name is Robert Zicari, and his wife, Borden, whose birth name is Janet Romano, also received two years of supervised release at sentencing Wednesday.

They pleaded guilty in March to one count of conspiracy to distribute DVDs purchased by an undercover U.S. postal inspector in Pittsburgh.

The court formally dismissed nine other counts Wednesday at the 55-minute hearing in front of U.S. Judge Gary L. Lancaster.

Defense attorneys contested the government's claim that the material is "sadistic or masochistic" for sentencing purposes but that argument was denied.

Attorney Jennifer M. Kinsley, who represented the pair, submitted a brief to the court earlier this week that asked the court to sentence them “to probation or, at most, a short period of house arrest.”

Kinsley, in her brief, said that the pair had already paid a steep price with the indictment and six years worth of legal anxiety.

“What was once a thriving film production company grossing over $1 million in annual sales is now defunct and deeply in debt. [Black], a former award-winning director and president of his own company, is similarly bankrupt and unemployed. [Borden] earns meager booking fees for dance performances and other entertainment," the brief said.

“They are both reliant on the financial assistance of [Black]’s family to subsist. As a result of the deep decline in customer base and industry support this case spawned, [Black] and [Borden] have lost their house to foreclosure and have seen their livelihoods and careers slip away.

“When Extreme Associates, [Black], and [Borden] became the first mainstream adult producers to face federal obscenity prosecution in decades, their once-adoring fans were afraid to purchase the films and wholesalers and distributors were scared to do business with them, lest they too be charged with a crime.”

The case has been waged for much of the decade and began when an undercover U.S. Postal Service inspector bought porn videos through Extreme Associates' membership site, ExtremeAssociates.com, in 2002.

A federal grand jury indicted the couple in August 2003 on 10 counts of conspiracy to defraud the U.S., mailing obscene or crime-inducing matters and transporting obscene matter for sale.

A federal judge dismissed the case in January 2005, ruling that the anti-obscenity statutes were unconstitutional when applied to Extreme Associates because they violated an individual’s right to privacy. But the Justice Department appealed that ruling before the 3rd Circuit, which overruled the judge.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear Extreme’s appeal from the 3rd Circuit, sending the case back for trial. Upon learning of the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the case, Zicari said it was “a big fuck you.”

Industry attorney and Free Speech Coalition Board Chair Jeffrey Douglas called Wednesday's sentencings “disappointing.”

“This is really tragic and utterly pointless,” Douglas told XBIZ. “The sentences don’t serve any ‘penalogical’ deterrence. The sentences are disproportionate [to the conspiracy charges] and offer no rehabilitative purpose.”

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