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News Man whose Web site shows pictures of war dead is arrested

  1. Oct 10, 2005 #1
    Man whose Web site shows pictures of war dead is arrested

    Saturday, October 8, 2005


    ORLANDO, Fla. -- Authorities have arrested a Lakeland, Fla., man on obscenity charges after investigating his adult Web site, which has gained international attention for allegedly allowing U.S. soldiers to post pictures of war dead on the Internet.

    The charges against Christopher M. Wilson, a former police officer, are likely to reignite the debate about obscene material in the Internet age. They also raise questions about whether the federal government played a part in motivating the prosecution.

    Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said late Friday that the 300 obscenity-related charges against Wilson -- which include counts of distribution of obscene material, offering to distribute obscene material and possession of obscene material with intent to distribute -- involve sexual content posted on his Web site, and not graphic war-scene images posted by soldiers.

    "It is the most horrific, vile, perverted sexual conduct," Judd said. "It is as vile, as perverted, as non-normal sexual conduct -- which rises to the level of obscenity -- as we've ever investigated."

    Judd, however, said he could not describe the sex acts because "they really can't be printed in the newspaper."

    Army officials said they could not confirm whether photographs on Wilson's site, some of mutilated corpses, were actually posted by U.S. soldiers. Police investigators obtained a search warrant and removed computers from Wilson's home.

    An Islamic civil-rights group was disappointed that the Army did not pursue criminal charges. Last week, Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations said, "For this to be treated in a manner that suggests the Army does not take this seriously is only going to further harm our nation's image and interests around the world, particularly in the Muslim world."

    Wilson, 27, was said to be allowing soldiers access to portions of his Web site in exchange for the graphic war-scene shots or proof that they were fighting in the Middle East.

    Late Friday, the site -- which the Orlando Sentinel will not name -- still had grisly images of war dead.

    Judd said none of the 20 films and 80 photographs that brought about the charges involve pictures of the war dead. But Judd confirmed that his detectives did speak with officials in the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division before arresting Wilson on Friday.

    Wilson's Web site and his deal with U.S. soldiers have been the subject of many recent news articles.

    "Obviously, we knew the military had an interest in this," Judd said.

    Judd said that his obscenity charges have nothing to do with the Army's interest in the case, and he maintained that he was not pressured to investigate Wilson.

    "We unilaterally initiated the investigation without any support, help or encouragement from the federal government," Judd said.

    But Wilson's lawyer, Larry Walters, questioned the motivations behind the prosecution, noting that there may be hundreds of thousands of Internet sites with explicit material.

    "Why are they getting into this battle now, and why Chris Wilson?" Walters asked. "It's the military that potentially stands to have the greatest gripe."

    Walters argued that local community standards, the guiding principle behind the implementation of obscenity laws, cannot be applied to the Internet, a global venue.

    "Any obscenity charge against any Web site content or Internet content is unconstitutional," said Walters, who specializes in First Amendment law. "There is no commonality based on just geography anymore. It's not the 1800s anymore, not here. But I don't know about Polk County."

    He said part of Wilson's mission "is telling the truth about the war going on in Iraq."

    As of Saturday, at least 1,952 members of the U.S. military had died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to the Associated Press.

    Wilson was being held in the Polk County Jail, with bail set at $151,000.

    http://www.freep.com/news/latestnews/pm6544_20051008.htm [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
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  3. Oct 10, 2005 #2


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    Hmm . . . I wish they would say what's on the site that is making the sheriff charge him.
  4. Oct 10, 2005 #3


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    Well, it wasn't that difficult to find the site by googling on "Christopher M. Wilson lakeland"
  5. Oct 10, 2005 #4
    Other than naughty photos of service members (a lot in uniform) there's some really grotesque photos of dead people with what appears to be service members hamming it up for the camera on or near them. Bad form all around actually.
  6. Oct 10, 2005 #5
    The site appears to be a regular adult site, nothing involving minors.
    But I have seen a few articles recently about adult site operators being charged for obscenity in different states and even the administration going after obscenity on the internet.
    Is this is just a case of selective prosecution or a sign of things to come?

    While it may be bad form, that doesn't mean it should be illegal.
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2005
  7. Oct 10, 2005 #6
    True, but the explicitly naughty photos have no barriers. I thought there was a law against that.
  8. Oct 10, 2005 #7


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    Ideally, there would be a way to make it impossible for minors to view the material. Other than that, technically, people have the right post any kind of sickness they want. Our rights apply to the freaks as well as to people with taste.

    It's just a matter of where to draw the line. On one hand people will say "Who are you to decide what's appropriate?", and the other hand people will say, "This is disgusting, off with their heads!".
  9. Oct 10, 2005 #8


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    So what is the law on porn or "obscenity" on the internet ? Anyone ?
  10. Oct 10, 2005 #9


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    Well ... uhm... my friend here has told me that you must "sign" (which means click yes) an agreement stating that you are 18 years old if there is any pornographic material on the website. If you fail to disclose the fact that there is pornographic material on a website and don't have that little "yes im an adult" agreement, you are commiting a crime. As far as I can tell without actually looking at the site (no time right now), this arrest would be legal if there is pornographic material on the website and no adult-agreement at the front of the webpage. Otherwise, if he does have an agreement, it should be legal.

    I also believe there is an exception however if the material was not meant to be pornographic (something outa National Geographic with african tribes for example... being stereotypical of course) and is not one of hte main focuses of the websites.
  11. Oct 10, 2005 #10

    The site does have a disclaimer and agreement button. The charges are for obscenity, which according to a few different articles, depends on community standards.


    Here is Georgia's legal definition.

    http://www.security.gatech.edu/policy/law_library/ga-obscenity-law.html [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
  12. Oct 10, 2005 #11
    There was a link to his site on a large forum. The link went directly to the pictures of the "war dead". Some of these were teenage males, dead and unclothed.

    I wrote to him, and warned him that images like that were graphic depictions of nude childern, and he would be subject to arrest on kiddie porn charges. I pointed out to him that the nations he is trying to help by depicting the horror of the situation, would be very angry with him for these depictions. I pointed out that displaying the dead, children or not, was not nearly as bad as actually making people dead, but he was exposing himself to risk.

    He emailed me back with his firm anti-war convictions and thanked me for the advice.
  13. Oct 11, 2005 #12


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    Should National Geographic get charged for showing naked tribespeople (including children) in Africa (for instance) ?
  14. Oct 11, 2005 #13


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    Does anybody ever listen to me anymore :cry: :cry: :cry: :cry:
  15. Oct 12, 2005 #14


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    Who ever gets past the second line of one of your posts ? Okay, I apologize.

    Now then, do we not have a consistent definition of pornography ? Is that a judgement call thing ? Are we going to need slow-motion cameras and a review booth next ?
  16. Oct 12, 2005 #15


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    I think this is a direct infringement of the 1st amendment.

    You cant arrest a man for showing pictures on his site, especially given the context. His pictures represent the ongoing war and not some 13 year olds on 22 year olds action in the basement of his parents.

    He should sue the socks off the Florida and let them suck on it.
  17. Oct 12, 2005 #16
    If he indeed was not showing anything illegal, definitely. But we can't be completely sure yet.
  18. Oct 12, 2005 #17
    The illegal part of it is US soldiers taking photos of war dead and exploiting it. That's a direct violation of the Geneva Conventions. The prosecution of the guy who posted the photos is to deflect criticism away from the military and the WH.

    I seriously doubt posting the photos themselves was illegal. It's certainly not an "obscenity" issue, as the photos are newsworthy. Nobody charged Life magazine with obscenity for publishing photos of naked Vietnamese girls running down the street with napalm burns.

    This is political.
  19. Oct 12, 2005 #18
    As far as I can tell, the answers to your questions are no, yes, and not really - just a rule book with about 1,254,687,000 rules in it.

    You gotta remember though, what we're talking about is *obscenity,* not pornography. Pornography is legal in most areas, at least so long as the guidelines for its production, distribution, and sale are followed - much like alcohol or tobacco. Obscenity on the other hand *is* illegal and prosecutable. The problem is determining what constitutes pornography and what constitutes obscenity. A quote from page 1 gives an idea of the scope of the problem:

    Each community will have different standards obviously, so that makes it difficult to say. I seem to remember the 'prurient purpose and absence of artistic merit' clause being an issue in older porn. It wasn't uncommon for a nude girl in a video to be shown holding a flower arrangement or a painting so that the producers could prove 'artistic purpose' in their work. :wink: I think both sides eventually got tired of playing that game. Someone (maybe it was Meese?) once said something to the effect of 'I can't define it [obscenity] but I know it when I see it.' In order to really define where pornography ends and obscenity begins, you'd have to make rules that encompassed every single possible sexual variation, camera angle, etc, and even then it would probably *still* come down to a judgement call in some cases.

    To further muddy the waters, just because certain content isn't illegal doesn't mean the person displaying it won't get convicted. During the trial, the prosecution is sure to inundate the jury with the very worst of the pictures. Even if no laws have been broken, a jury who has strong feelings about the subject may convict anyway. Of course there's an appeals process, but it may take years before it even gets heard and it's not certain either, so in a lot of cases those accused are encouraged by their lawyers to just plead guilty in exchange for a lighter sentence rather than rolling the dice with a trial.
  20. Oct 12, 2005 #19
    are there pictures of dead soldiers? i thought there was some kind of media ban on showing anything to do with a body count of service people or was that just coffins being unloaded from planes?
  21. Oct 12, 2005 #20
    There will be charges made against Service Members that will be along the lines of "...conduct unbecoming..." which is basically the catch-all charge. Fines vary but are usually minimal depending on what level of court the charge appears in. Still, for taking a photo of some dead guy someone can lose half a months pay for 3 months(I think)...OUCH! Yeah, its ethically and morally wrong but (shruggs shoulders) the damage is done. Why are there again?
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