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Omaha Undaunted by Florida Rap Ruling : Pop music: Officials still will prosecute retailers for selling 2 Live Crew albums despite obscenity reversal.

May 09, 1992|CHUCK PHILIPS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Despite a U.S. appellate court reversal of a 1990 Florida ruling that had declared a 2 Live Crew rap album obscene, Omaha officials vowed Friday to press forward with their own pornography trial involving the group's music.

"We are moving ahead with the case," said city prosecutor Gary Bucchino, referring to the upcoming July 7 trial against four retailers who allegedly violated Nebraska law by selling copies of the group's "Sports Weekend (As Nasty as They Wanna Be Part II)" album to minors in an unofficial sting operation.

If convicted, each retailer faces up to a year in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.

The Omaha case was cited Friday by both free-speech forces in the record industry and anti-obscenity crusaders as evidence of why they don't think Thursday's appellate court reversal in Atlanta ends the national debate over explicit lyrics in pop music. The federal ruling does not apply to the Nebraska case.

The Thursday decision reversed federal Judge Jose Gonzalez's June 6, 1990, ruling, which made it illegal for retailers in the southern Florida counties of Broward, Dade and Palm Beach to sell 2 Live Crew's 1989 "As Nasty as They Wanna Be" album.

According to the court, no evidence was presented in the Ft. Lauderdale trial to prove that the group's controversial album has no serious artistic value as defined in the Miller vs. California decision of the U.S. Supreme Court.

The 2-million-selling album, filled with graphic descriptions of sex acts, had been criticized repeatedly by church, feminist and law enforcement organizations.

"The censorship war is far from over," said Jason Berman, president of the Recording Industry Assn. of America, the Washington group that represents all of the nation's major record companies. "Thursday's ruling is significant but I doubt that it will do anything to stop other anti-free-speech forces from causing trouble in other parts of the nation."

Florida anti-pornography crusader Jack Thompson, who initiated the 2 Live Crew saga in Florida in 1989, said he spoke with Bucchino by phone Friday and provided him with information for the upcoming trial.

"Let me tell you something, those people who are out dancing in the streets today (about Thursday's ruling) won't have anything to celebrate two months from now," Thompson said.

In the Omaha case, the sales to minors allegedly took place during a private sting orchestrated by Omaha City Councilman Steve Exon and an anti-pornography group called Omaha for Decency in conjunction with the Omaha city prosecutor and city police vice squad.

Two months ago, city prosecutor Bucchino successfully prosecuted Pickles Records & Tapes--the Omaha store cited along with the two chains--for selling "As Nasty as They Wanna Be" to an 11-year-old girl. The store chose to pay a $250 fine rather than face trial.

Meanwhile, 2 Live Crew leader Luther Campbell said he hoped that Bucchino and other prosecutors who dislike his music would pay attention to Thursday's ruling.

"I'm no evil sex fiend villain like everybody keeps making me out to be," Campbell said. "I'm a comedian. 2 Live Crew's stuff is no different from what is being joked about in locker rooms and men's rooms and ladies' rooms all across the country. Any prosecutor who thinks my music is offensive is out of touch with what's happening in America. Whether these prosecutors like it or not, I'm an American entertainer. I wish they'd respect me for the joker that I am."

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