Plea Deal Reached in Torture Portal Obscenity Case

Jul 13, 2010 2:30 PM PST
NEWARK, N.J. — Torture Portal operator Barry Goldman has reached a plea deal with federal prosecutors over obscenity charges, XBIZ has learned.

Goldman, who faces sentencing later this year before U.S. District Judge Dennis Cavanaugh in Newark, was indicted by a federal grand jury for violating 18 U.S.C. § 1461 and § 1467 for the distribution of “Torture of a Porn Store Girl,” “Defiant Crista Submits” and “Pregnant and Willing” through the mail. The videos all were mailed in 2006 and 2007.

Details of the plea were unavailable at post time, but Justice Department spokeswoman Rebecca Carmichael confirmed to XBIZ the plea and sentencing hearing for Goldman was slated Tuesday for Nov. 29.

The case has been mired in legal controversy after Goldman was indicted by a federal grand jury in New Jersey after a previous indictment was dropped in Montana.

Goldman attorneys Lisa M. Mack and Louise Arkel — both federal public defenders — in previous briefs to the court argued that the Justice Department handled his investigation in a “heavy-handed and inexplicable” pattern and that its beginnings were "the result of a deliberate and intentional search for the most favorable forum possible.” Mack and Arkel did not return XBIZ calls for comment.

Further, Goldman’s attorneys said that the Justice Department probe was done “in contravention of DOJ policy, both with respect to venue and to prosecutorial targets” because the government went against its own rules over picking on smaller adult distributors as opposed to larger fish and that it was inconsistent over choosing prosecutorial forums.

“It meant dragging a retired man in poor health and with extremely limited resources halfway across the country to answer for having allegedly mailed three movies, placing him under strict court supervision and placing him under media and community scrutiny, until a federal judge refused to play the government’s game and transferred the case to New Jersey,” Goldman’s counsel said in an earlier motion.

Federal prosecutors Bonnie Hannon and Pamela Satterfield of the government's Obscenity Prosecution Task Force, who are involved in the Goldman prosecution, also were unavailable Tuesday to provide details of the plea arrangement. Hannon and Satterfield are in the midst of the John Stagliano obscenity case being weighed by a jury in Washington.

The Justice Department first learned of Goldman, 60, when he promoted his companies' movies at a Las Vegas adult industry convention in January 2006. The movies were sold through the web at TorturePortal.com.

Industry attorney and Free Speech Coalition board Chairman Jeffey Douglas told XBIZ that is is difficult if not impossible to judge what the impact will be on the industry at this stage without knowing the details of the plea agreement.

"[But] it is unusual if not rare when a plea agreement has broad impact on the industry," he said. "A plea informs no one of anything other than the defendant has either gotten a very attractive offer or has run out of resources — here emotional rather than financial since the federal public defender has been appointed.

"Moreover, although I have not viewed the movies and know only the titles and the fact that the website refers to torture, it is unlikely that a conviction on torture movies will affect most distribution.

"Assuming it is a standard plea, the significance is the lost opportunity to gain a benefit from the federal forum shopping."

With the original indictment, Goldman faced forfeitures of domain names MastersOfPain.com and TorturePortal.com and a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000 on each of the eight counts charged in the indictment.

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