Isaacs Given Green Light for Testimony in Obscenity Trial

Mar 2, 2011 12:00 PM PST
LOS ANGELES — Ira Isaacs won't be able to give expert testimony in his defense over federal obscenity violations, but he will be able to testify about what he aimed to achieve in creating one of the scat movies named in his indictment.

A federal judge in a pretrial ruling on Wednesday ordered trial to begin May 17 and will allow Isaacs to take the stand, a decision that allows him to offer "layperson testimony."

"This is a big victory," Isaacs told XBIZ. "Fact is that the prosecution did not want me to take the stand."

Isaacs has been charged with federal obscenity violations over the mail distribution of “Gang Bang Horse — ‘Pony Sex Game’” and “Mako’s First Time Scat,” as well as “Hollywood Scat Amateurs No. 7,” the film he created and the one he will be able to offer testimony for.

Isaacs has been pushing to offer testimony since a January pretrial hearing, but in Wednesday's ruling U.S. District Judge George King said that Isaacs proposal does not meet the standards for expert testimony.

"First, the court is concerned that [Isaacs] could provide no methodology in determining whether something qualifies as art or has serious artistic value," King said. "Defendant also points to the articles that have been written about the prosecution of him as evidence that his work has received the requisite amount of attention to distinguish it as art.

"This cannot be a proper methodology because prosecution for obscenity cannot have the legal affect of shielding the work from prosecution for the offense. Finally, defendant does not provide any examples of what is obscene or characteristics that would make some images obscene (short of some film director declaring his own work obscene)."

King, in his ruling, noted that the federal obscenity trial targeting Evil Angel founder John Stagliano faced a similar situation in deciding whether to certify Constance Penley, a professor of film studies at UC Santa Barbara, as an expert.

"That court ruled that although the professor possessed impressive credentials to discuss film studies, those credentials were not directly relevant to the task of distinguishing art from obscenity, and she had never written or lectured on the topic," King said.

But King in the ruling said that Isaacs' layman's testimony about art could be relevant in relation to the film he created, “Hollywood Scat Amateurs No. 7.”

"Given its inherent subjectivity, and the vast range of considerations a viewer of art might consider determinative in assessing a work of art, testimony concerning the artist’s goals, inspirations, and intended meaning is at least relevant," he said in the ruling.

"If testifying as a nonexpert, defendant would purportedly testify about his intentions in creating the video. The applicable legal standard here is whether a reasonable person, applying a nationwide standard, would think the work has serious artistic value."

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