Holding that "the law is designed to protect children until they are adults," a federal judge Thursday convicted Van Nuys video distributor Rubin Gottesman of three child pornography charges stemming from the distribution of a trio of films in which teen-age porn queen Traci Lords appeared.
U.S. District Judge David Kenyon rejected arguments that the federal child pornography statute is unconstitutional because it permits criminal convictions even in cases involving actresses, like Lords, who have acted in dozens of X-rated films and who persuade producers and distributors throughout the industry that they are older than their years.
"The court finds that the statute was not simply designed to protect very young minors, but minors up to and including the age that Traci Lords was at the time," Kenyon said.
The judge also held that there was sufficient evidence to conclude that Gottesman suspected that Lords was under the age of 18, including warning letters on his company's stationery about Lords' films and secretly recorded conversations with an undercover agent in which Gottesman expressed fears about trafficking in Lords cassettes.
Kenyon also convicted the corporation, X-Citement Video, of the same three counts of interstate transportation and shipping of child pornography and conspiracy to commit the offenses.
The conviction followed Kenyon's dismissal earlier this year of the most serious counts against Gottesman, including racketeering and obscenity charges. Kenyon concluded that he had not been presented with sufficient evidence, including expert testimony, that the films in question violated community standards.
That ruling left Gottesman to stand trial for distributing three Lords films, "Sex Shoot," "Lust in the Fast Lane" and "Harlequin Affair."
In urging dismissal of the remaining charges, defense lawyer Stanley Fleishman argued in court papers that the federal child pornography statute "was not intended to protect an enterprising woman like Traci Lords."
The defense also sought to dismiss the charges on constitutional grounds. But Kenyon said that he "does not agree" with the constitutional argument and further held that while the statute does require defendants to know they were violating the law, Gottesman did, in fact, know of the violation.
Sentencing was set for Aug. 7.
Gottesman faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and a $300,000 fine.