A comic collector in Iowa has been sentenced to six months in jail for importing and possessing hentai books from Japan that depict child sex and bestiality.
Christopher Handley was slapped with the sentence last week after pleading guilty in May 2009 to charges of "possession of obscene visual representations of the sexual abuse of children" and "mailing obscene matter." The charges stemmed from a U.S. Post Office seizure of materials that Handley had shipped to him from Japan back in 2006, which eventually led to a search of his home and the discovery of seven books that were deemed contrary to the law. In no particular order:
Mikansei Seifuku Shōjo (Unfinished School Girl) by Yuki Tamachi (LE Comics)
I [Heart] Doll by Makafusigi (Seraphim Comics)
Kemono for ESSENTIAL 3 (THE ANIMAL SEX ANTHOLOGY Vol.3) by Masato Tsukimori et al (Izumi Comics)
Otonari Kazoku (Neighboring House Family) by Nekogen (MD Comics)
Eromon by Makafusigi (Seraphim Comics)
Kono Man_ ga Sugoi! (This Man_ is Awesome!) by Makafusigi (Seraphim Comics)
Hina Meikyū (Doll Labyrinth) by Makafusigi (Seraphim Comics)
Handley, a computer programmer who according to defense documents spends his free time playing online games, reading comics and attending a bible study group, became interested in anime while in college in the mid-90s. He claimed he was aware of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down a law against the possession of "virtual" child pornography and didn't realize that the material in question was illegal; if he had, he said, he would "never had ordered it and would have destroyed any of it" that he owned.
The prosecution in the case admitted that Handley did not have a criminal history and wasn't in possession of any actual child pornography, but argued that the material had no "arguable scientific, literary, artistic or political value" and was "clearly obscene."
Handley chose to accept the plea bargain after being advised by his lawyer, Eric Chase, that he would probably be convicted once the jury saw the images in his collection. Although Chase declined to get into details, he said, "If they can imagine it, they drew it. Use your imagination. It was there." And the penalty he faced if he had fought the case and lost was far more punitive: Up to 15 years in the slammer and a fine of $250,000.
Handley will also be required to serve three years of supervised release and undergo a "treatment program" that will include psychological testing and polygraph examinations to "reveal possible new criminal behavior," which he will have to help pay for, and five years of probation.
I don't know much about hentai but I do know that being sent to jail for possessing the wrong kind of drawings in the wrong part of the country is simply wrong. Handley was sentenced under the Protect Act of 2003, which prohibits vaguely-defined "obscene" material involving minors, but as Charles Brownstein of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund noted, "The drawings are not obscene and are not tantamount to pornography. They are lines on paper." Which is enough, it seems, to send a man to jail and irrevocably destroy his life.