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Porn Producers Indicted for Selling Material on Web

A federal grand jury in Pittsburgh has indicted the owners of a Los Angeles adult video production company for violating federal obscenity laws by offering videos depicting violence against women over the Internet and through the mail. U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan said possession of obscene material is not illegal, but the production and distribution is.

Robert D. Zicari and his wife, Janet Romano, are charged with distributing obscene material. The indictments are part of sting operation in Western Pennsylvania and, according to the Justice Department, other investigations are ongoing throughout the country.

"If a company is wanting to take advantage of the Internet for marketing and distribution purposes, it's their responsibility to make sure they are not violating local laws," Buchanan was quoted as saying at a Pittsburgh press conference.

Zicari and Romano, who own Extreme Associates, were featured on a PBS Frontline investigative show last year focusing on the pornography business. On that show, Zicari challenged law enforcement officials to "come after us for obscenity."

On Tuesday, they did.

Federal marshals and postal inspectors from Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, with assistance from the Los Angeles Police Department, served a search and seizure warrant at Extreme Associates' San Fernando Valley offices for four videos, including one entitled "Forced Entry," which depicts a woman being beaten, raped and spat upon.

Also seized were sales records, distribution records, invoices, transaction records, records of payments and deposits, profit/loss and financial statements, records of accounts payable and accounts receivable, expense records, customer lists, employee records, notes, correspondence and other business papers which reflect or relate to the production, advertisement, distribution, and the sale of the films.

"This is not a case about limiting personal sexual conduct. It is not a case about banning sexually explicit material," Buchanan said. "This is a case about a pornography producer who has violated federal law. Extreme Associates has engaged in criminal conduct by producing and distributing material that violates our contemporary community standards."

The Supreme Court ruled in 1973 that material is obscene if it is patently offensive, appeals to prurient interest and has no artistic merit. There has not been a major obscenity trial in the U.S. in the last ten years.

On a posting on the Extreme Associates site, Zicari vowed to fight the indictments.

"Extreme Associates doors are now and will remain open for business selling the fine quality Extreme product that you have grown to love," Zicari stated. "This will include all of the videos which are part of this obscenity investigation as we stand by our product and feel that nothing we have ever produced is obscene. The only thing we may be guilty of is bad taste."