The trial of an American man arrested for ordering loli manga from Japan has ended after he pled guilty; he now faces a possible 15 year sentence, along with a $250,000 fine and the loss of all his precious loli manga.
The man, Iowa resident Christopher Handley, pled guilty to “possessing obscene visual representations of the sexual abuse of children and mailing obscene material,” charges stemming from postal workers rifling through his package and discovering it contained manga supposedly depicting underage sexual activity.
After lengthy and complex legal proceedings, details of which were covered in the previous article on the matter, Handley finally folded and faces a maximum sentence of 15 years and $250,000 in fines, along with forfeiture of anything the government happened to take during the trial. Sentencing is due at a later date.
The precise nature of the material he was arrested for is not clear, but Handley’s lawyer has previously insisted they were harmless yaoi comics, which suggests either that the material was rather willfully misconstrued by the authorities, or that the defence is trying to pass off shota as being “yaoi” in order to lessen the opprobrium.
His lawyer, Eric Chase, explains in comments to the media last year:
“There is explicit sex in yaoi comics, and the men are drawn in a very androgynous style, which has the effect of making them look really young. There’s a real taboo in Japan about showing pubic hair, so they’re all drawn without it, which also makes them look young. So what concerned the authorities were the depictions of children in explicit sexual situations that they believed to be obscene. But there are no actual children. It was all very crude images from a comic book.”
However, we hear from the confession that the shipment in question consisted of “obscene material, including books containing visual representations of the sexual abuse of children, specifically Japanese manga drawings of minor females being sexually abused by adult males and animals.” The US Postal Service later conducted a search of his domicile and found the rest of his collection.
The circumstances surrounding Handley’s guilty plea are distinctly unclear (see the forum), but the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, a pro-freedom of expression group closely involved in the case, condemns the wretched coward for caving in and so potentially introducing a precedent which could be used in further prosecutions, though they are hopeful this can be mitigated:
“Naturally, we are very disappointed by this result, but understand that in a criminal case, every defendant must make the decision that they believe serves their best interest. Because the set of facts specific to this case were so unique, we hope that its importance as precedent will be minimal. However, we must also continue to be prepared for the possibility that other cases could arise in the future as a result.”
The case is legally complex, but the core issue is that loli manga remains Constitutionally protected free speech, as judges have ruled the laws banning it contravene the First Amendment right to freedom of expression.
However, a legal loophole allows the charges of possession to stand due to the material having been “moved in interstate commerce,” even though it would otherwise be Constitutionally protected art.
Those looking for more speculative details, including supposed comments from those familiar with Mr Handley alleging he was a victim of exceedingly bad legal counsel, can read more on the forums.
Strangely, the vigour with which the US has been defending the rights of fictional children has not changed the fact that the USA remains one of the least safe places to be a child in the developed world according to the UN, despite having a legislature which seems obsessed with child protection…