The Sexist

Buttman Trial: Porn Download Corrupts Government Evidence

"A lesson lived is a lesson learned," porn performer Angela Stone announces after expelling copious amounts of vaginal fluid in Storm Squirters 2: Target Practice. Shortly after the film was shown to the court in the John "Buttman" Stagliano obscenity trial yesterday, prosecutors learned the greatest porn lesson of all: That shit will fuck up your computer.

When the government attempted to play Exhibit 9—a copy of the trailer for Belladonna's Fetish Fanatic 5, as downloaded from the Internet by FBI Special Agent Daniel Bradley on Jan. 21, 2008—the video froze midway through the 5-minute parade of enemas, squirting, and foot play. "The video worked before trial," Prosecutor Pamela Slattery informed Judge Richard Leon. "The file is corrupted." She added that the file is "so sensitive" that it could be thrown off by something as minor as the laptop overheating. She suggested that jurors view the remaining 1 minute 53 seconds in the trailer off a copy of the original file prepared by the prosecution.

The corrupted file threatens to undermine a big part of the government's case against Stagliano: The accusation that he made obscene materials available to minors. Count Seven in the indictment against Stagliano asserts that he "knowingly used an interactive computer service to display an obscene image, that is, a motion-picture trailer identified as 'FETISH FANATIC CHAPTER 5,' in a manner available to a person under 18 years of age." Without the full Fetish Fanatic 5 trailer, the count could be scrapped.

Defense attorneys jumped on the opportunity to clear the count, urging the court to strike the corrupted file from evidence—along with any copy made by the government. "We were never able to open up the copy we were sent," defense attorney Allen Gelbard argued. And since the defense never viewed the government's original, "we have no way of knowing" if the copy is exactly the same as the trailer that was actually admitted into evidence. Furthermore, both the original and the copy are "glitching at different points," making the "audio continue to play while the video catches up," Gelbard said. The defense went on to argue that the inconsistent glitching made the porn unreliable as evidence: You're "not seeing it or hearing it as a whole. . . . This is going to go back in the jury room and it's going to play differently. . . . we don't know how it will play." Also: In its first presentation to the jury, the trailer was mistakenly played without sound.

The government countered that the file was already admitted into evidence, whether it plays correctly or not. Exhibit 9 "is what it is," Slattery said. "It's like a grainy photo of a robbery outside a 7-11"—the evidence could require some explanation, but it's still the file that Bradley downloaded from Stagliano's website. Now, the defense is just "playing games," Satterfield added. "They were hoping that I wouldn't be able to open it." Satterfield said that she first sent the defense the evidence for review over two years ago, and that "they have a duty" to object to the evidence before trial begins if they have concerns about its reliability. "There's been so much time for them to work with me on this," she said. As for the sound? Slattery attributed that to "a jack in the wrong hole," but added that the sound wasn't a significant part of the evidence. It's just "groans, screams, moans, and expletives," Slattery said. "It's not as if we're missing any dialog."

The determination will come down to the pornographic memory of FBI Special Agent Bradley. Slattery asserted that Bradley could confirm that the trailer and the more reliable copy were an exact match, but under cross-examination, Bradley admitted that he couldn't determine whether the trailer is glitching in the exact same spots.

Judge Leon voiced his "frustration" with the prosecution over the technical glitch. "You've had a year and a half to get this together," he told the government. "This is not an acceptable way to do business." If Leon remains unconvinced that the government "copy is complete and accurate. . . . that count is gone," Leon said. He is expected to rule on the matter this morning.

Photo via Stallio, Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0

  • Aaron

    I'd be a lot more worried about modern obscenity trials if it didn't so often turn out that the prosecution is utterly hapless. It seems kind of like how if you criticize somebody's spelling or grammar on the Internet, you'll invariably screw up your own? Like if you try to prosecute for obscenity, you'll invariably trip over your own ass in front of the judge, or something like that.

  • Em

    You could not have better characters in this thing if you cast these people. Classic.

    Though, it's not so funny that this is what our government is spending time and money on. There are many things I'd like our government to care about--porn really isn't one of them. If it's not your cup o' tea, don't drink it. Don't sue the fuck out of the people who made the tea.

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  • k not K

    A "jack in the wrong hole", eh?

    Eh? Eh?

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