A top-ranking federal prosecutor Thursday challenged a claim by the attorney general's Commission on Pornography that there have been no adult obscenity prosecutions by the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles in the last two years.
Chief Assistant U.S. Atty. Richard E. Drooyan cited the successful prosecution of two adult obscenity cases last year and another 15 child pornography indictments since mid-1984 in responding to the commission's charges that federal law enforcement anti-obscenity efforts have been lax in Southern California.
In addition to challenging the commission's statistics, he rejected a commission suggestion that "rigorous" pursuit of child pornography cases by U.S. attorneys throughout the nation is merely a "rationale for neglecting (adult) obscenity prosecutions."
"We have a child pornography task force in Los Angeles that is a major priority for the U.S. attorney's office, and we consider child pornography cases to be very important," Drooyan said.
"We have also prosecuted adult pornography cases, but that is not a major priority for us, primarily because of limited resources and the fact that the atmosphere in Southern California is not as conducive to prosecuting obscenity cases as in some other regions of the country," Drooyan added in an interview.
"We have just so many resources in this area with which to address some enormous crime problems," he said. "To the extent that you divert any of those resources from one area to another, something has to give."
Drooyan's comments came as other state and local law enforcement officials cited the difficulties of obtaining convictions in pornography cases in California because of state law that defines obscene matter as material that "is utterly without redeeming social importance" as defined by local community standards.
At the state and local levels, however, some officials said prospects for tougher anti-pornography law enforcement efforts will be improved Jan. 1 when a new state law takes effect redefining obscenity as material lacking "significant literary, artistic, political, educational or scientific value."
The local reactions followed release in Washington on Wednesday of a 2,000-page report on pornography, commissioned by U.S. Atty. Gen. Edwin Meese III, which calls for a national crackdown by federal, state and local authorities on an estimated $8-billion-a-year pornography industry.
One controversial section of the report accused U.S. attorneys throughout the nation of ignoring Justice Department guidelines calling for prosecution of large-scale distributors of adult pornography as well as those involved in child pornography. The report cited New York and Los Angeles as examples of weak federal law enforcement.
"From May 1, 1984, through July, 1985, there were obscenity prosecutions in only seven of the 94 federal districts," the commission report stated. "There were no obscenity prosecutions in the Southern District of New York (Manhattan) or the Central District of California (Los Angeles) where the majority of obscene materials are now and were then being produced or distributed."
While Drooyan conceded that the majority of federal obscenity cases in Los Angeles have involved child pornography, he noted that the U.S. attorney's office filed obscenity charges last year against two Los Angeles firms--Tao Productions and Platinum Press--accused of producing and distributing adult sadomasochistic films. He said they were subsequently fined.
"I don't know why there was a statistical breakdown--whether it was our office or the commission or the Justice Department," said Drooyan, in charge of the federal prosecutor's office here in the absence of vacationing U.S. Atty. Robert C. Bonner.
No Comment on Discrepancy
A spokeswoman for the commission declined to speak about the discrepancy in the figures. Commission Chairman Henry E. Hudson, a U.S. attorney in Alexandria, Va., also declined to speak.
Defending federal efforts in Los Angeles at curbing the distribution of child pornography, Drooyan noted that a special task force was set up two years ago to focus specifically on the sexual exploitation of children.
The task force consists of three assistant U.S. attorneys and agents of the Los Angeles Police Department, the FBI, the U.S. Postal Service and U.S. Customs.
FBI spokesman Fred Reagan agreed with Drooyan that one problem facing law-enforcement efforts at all levels in California is the region's generally more permissive sexual standards than some other areas of the country.
"The difficulty here comes in the magic words 'community standards,' " Reagan said. "What's prosecutable in Omaha, Neb., isn't necessarily prosecutable in Los Angeles. Because of the difficulties we face here in defining obscenity, there usually have to be some aggravating circumstances to a successful prosecution.
"That most definitely includes child pornography cases and some of the sadomasochistic materials, too."