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Mistrial declared in L.A. fetish film producer's obscenity case

March 6, 2012 |  2:55 pm

Ira Isaacs with attorney Roger Diamond in 2008.

A mistrial has been declared in the federal obscenity trial of Los Angeles fetish film producer and distributor Ira Isaacs after jurors deadlocked on charges that he produced, sold and transported obscene material.

The panel deliberated for about a day after watching four films created or distributed by Isaacs, whose Internet-based business specialized in a niche of the pornography industry that included scatology and bestiality. The films, two of which Isaacs directed and appeared in, made up the bulk of the three-day trial last week.

Jurors were deadlocked 10-2 in favor of finding him guilty, Isaacs said. Both of the jurors who voted against conviction were women, including a 75-year-old who in court last week wore a Christmas-themed sweater with snowmen, according to the filmmaker.

That juror, number nine, told him after the trial that her late husband was a maker of horror films and that she found artistic value in the movies, Isaacs said. During the screening of one of the films last week, a Japanese movie involving bestiality, that juror appeared focused on the screen even as others looked away or shaded their eyes.

For material to be found criminally obscene, it must lack serious artistic, scientific or political value in addition to appealing to prurient interests and being patently offensive. Isaacs took the stand last week to testify that he was a “shock artist,” drawing inspiration from artists such as Marcel Duchamp and Robert Rauschenberg.

Prosecutors, two Department of Justice attorneys dispatched from Washington, contended the claim to art was a pretense and that Isaacs was only seeking to profit from exceeding the limits of what is legally allowed. Neither the attorneys nor representatives with the Justice Department immediately responded to requests for comment.

“I’m a little disappointed because I have to go through this limbo again,” said Isaacs, whose first trial in 2008 was halted when the judge recused himself after a Times report that he maintained sexually explicit material on a personal website. “It’s like some kind of Ferris wheel and I can’t get off.”


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--Victoria Kim


Photo: Ira Isaacs with attorney Roger Diamond in 2008. Credit: Ric Francis / Associated Press