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An Obscene Betrayal


An Obscene Betrayal

James R. Marsh

February 5, 2008 11:12 AM

The United States District Attorney in Pittsburgh, Mary Beth Buchanan, has widely taken credit for rescuing Masha Allen and delivering Matthew Mancuso to federal prison. Now Buchanan is once again capturing national attention for a controversial obscenity prosecution involving fictional stories on the website RedRoseStories.com about the kidnapping, rape and torture of children.

The creator of the site, Karen Fletcher, is a social recluse who missed several court hearings in the case, United State v. Fletcher, because she is uncomfortable leaving her home in rural Pennsylvania.

Fletcher claims she wrote the stories for therapeutic value to help get over the abuse she suffered as a child. One of the rules for her web site, which her attorney said had about 20 members, was that no one was allowed to post pictures.

What makes this prosecution significant is that there has not been a case applying obscenity laws to text since the United States Supreme Court refined the test for obscenity in its 1973 case Miller v. California.

It is also significant that Buchanan has apparently ignored the obscene and highly exploitive writings of Peter Sotos who celebrates the girl Buchanan rescued, Masha Allen, as the world's first "child porn star."

Despite a national call to action last sumer, and numerous appeals to state officials in Georgia and Pennsylvania—including Pennsylvania Superior Court Judge Cheryl Allen who Masha is named for—the Sotos book Show Adult continues to sell briskly at Amazon.com.

Sotos, who was the first person in the United States convicted for child pornography in the 1970s, is a seemingly compelling target. In less than a year, Show Adult has sold thousands of copies and Sotos enjoys a cult-like following throughout the world. Fletcher, on the other hand, has few resources and even fewer subscribers.

Amy Ginensky, a First Amendment attorney with Pepper Hamilton, said in an e-mail to The Legal Intelligencer that under the "contemporary community standards" standard of the Miller test, it would be difficult in this day and age to show that Fletcher's words were prurient.

She said one might wonder why the government is prosecuting this case instead of focusing on "real issues." "While child pornography prosecutions make sense, because there are victims involved, here there appears to be no victim at all," Ginensky said.

So why the official indifference to Masha's ongoing commercial and sexual exploitation? Why hasn't this crusading United States Attorney stood up for a "real victim" of child pornography, Masha Allen?

United States v. Fletcher will likely be tried in the next several months. For Masha Allen justice is a long time coming.

2008 Feb 5