War Porn and Silencing Soldiers

Featured on Crooks and Liars. everybody knows how the story began, but almost no one knows how it ended …

warporn.jpg

In this whole brouhaha over Col. Boylan, and the blog campaign to silence Scott Beauchamp and The New Republic magazine (hopefully, seemingly, by getting Franklin Foer, its editor FIRED), there is another, older case that we need to revisit.

The “War Porn” controversy of 2005.

That time, instead of using the Right Wing Blogosmear™ to shut up the offender, the Left Wing Blogosphere was used, just as effectively.

Why? Because the firestorm that was whipped up about it resulted in a very strange silencing of the soldiers involved, and of the disseminator of the information (no pun intended).

Here’s from an exchange with my friend Mac, a Vietnam vet, and Air Force aircraft mechanic. I’d found a funny “aircraft mechanics’ in jokes” posting on an old website, and sent it to him, and we were discussing his take on it:

On 10/3/07, Mac McFadden wrote:

I’ve run across many of those same write-ups in real life in the AF.
I particularly liked the “Auto land” one.

It’s amazing how many pilots think “AILAS” is the “automatic instrument landing system”.

It’s actually the “automatic instrument LOW APPROACH system”. Designed to get you within SIGHT of the runway in bad weather. Landing the aircraft using AILAS is VERY hard on the nose gear. It doesn’t flare the plane out just before touchdown, so you basically plow into the ground nose first.

My favorite was always: “AFCS inop.” (automatic flight control system – the autopilot)

To which I sometimes replied: “AFCS opped”.

By the way; all aircraft, military, commercial, and private civilian have forms that include the full maintainance history. By law, the forms must always be located in the aircraft and readily available to the pilot.

I also like the “removed evidence” one.

Mac

To which I replied (all links added for this article):

Mac:

Since you insist on discussing jokes*, I can now add the piece I thought was superfluous:

[* :-) ]

I found it while doing followup on Chris Wilson, the Florida kid who was accused by the clueless media of war porn for offering free access to his porn/amateur porn site (basically a BBS, like the old Ed Schultz board, with “MEMBERS ONLY” sections that you paid a subscription fee for), IF they posted photos proving they were in Iraq of Afghanistan.

Chris was a witty webmaster, and threw in lots of found humor, stuff that would appeal to his readership, and, following the brouhaha about the photos, a liberal blog prude attack ramped up, drove it into the overground media, who all sniffed their noses. The Pentagon responded by “blocking access” and Wilson was charged with 300 misdemeanors and one Obscenity felony by the local sheriff’s office.

This one requires a little bit of explanation: Wilson was, according to the article cited,

“arrested on charges of 100 counts of distribution or transmission of obscene materials, 100 counts of offering to distribute or transmit obscene materials, 100 counts of possession of obscene materials. All of those are misdemeanors. He faces one felony count of wholesale promotion of obscene materials.”

Why? Well, because there is a standard bail amount for a misdemeanor. By “stacking” the charges, the local yokel sheriff managed to get Wilson in jail, with an outrageously high automatic bail amount: “[Orlando attorney Lawrence] Walters criticized the number of misdemeanors filed, saying the Web site itself should have constituted one count only. ‘It smacks of charge stacking,’ [Walters] said. [Chris] Wilson was booked into the Polk County Jail on $151,000 bail.” [emphasis added]

This was done to make sure that the kid couldn’t make bail. (There’s a standard bail rate for misdemeanors). He stayed in a long time.* Got a first amendment attorney. When it was out of sight, they plea bargained: he’d plead guilty to 5 misdemeanors, GIVE UP THE WEBSITE (it ended up owned by the Sheriff’s Department) and 5 years probation/promise not to engage in any porn business for 5 years.

[* According to the local newspaper, The [Lakeland, FL] Ledger :

War Porn Site Owner Is Released From Jail
By Dana Willhoit
The [Lakeland, FL] Ledger
Wednesday, October 12, 2005

BARTOW — Chris Wilson, the operator of a controversial porn Web site, was released from the Polk County Jail after his parents put up $30,100 to arrange his bail.

His lawyer, Lawrence Walters of Orlando, said Wilson’s parents arranged their son’s release Monday but he wasn’t let out of jail until Tuesday afternoon because it took so long to process the 301 bonds — one for each of the 300 misdemeanor counts and one felony count filed against Wilson.

A Sheriff’s Office employee at the jail said that it took all day to process the 301 bonds.

Wilson’s bail had been set at a total of $151,000 for the charges. His parents made arrangements with a bail bond agency to put up the bail and paid the agency a fee of $30,100.

The family had struggled to make bail over the weekend, because Wilson was charged with so many individual obscenity counts.

His lawyer asked the State Attorney’s Office to combine all the charges for the purposes of posting bail, which would have meant his parents would have paid $15,100 — 10 percent of the total bail — to the bond company. The State Attorney’s Office refused, which required the parents to pay $30,100 because state law requires that the minimum paid for each charge be set at no less than $100. … ]

A legal defense website was even set up, freechris.org:

Chris Wilson, adult webmaster from Polk County, Florida was arrested for over 300 counts of obscenity once his website showing the reality of the War in Iraq came to light in the international media.

HE NEEDS YOUR HELP NOW TO PRESERVE FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS AND STOP THE CENSORSHIP MACHINE.

Wilson then moved out of the county (the website was always ON a European machine, but Polk County claimed jurisdiction since Wilson lived there):

Wilson was arrested by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office on Oct. 7 on 301 charges of obscenity, one of them a felony charge.

After he posted bail, he moved out of the county and continued running his Web site.

Then, on Dec. 16, his bail was revoked because he allegedly had allowed new, obscene pictures and video clips to be posted to his Web site.

This violated the law, which meant that his bail needed to be revoked, prosecutors argued.

His lawyer argued that until a jury legally determines that pictures are obscene, they are protected by the First Amendment. But Judge J. Dale Durrance reviewed the pictures and said there was probable cause to think they were obscene.

Wilson is being held in solitary confinement because he is a former police officer, and there are fears for his safety from the general inmate population, according to his lawyer.

And, Chris Wilson spent Christmas 2005 in jail, courtesy of the Colonel and his headline-grabbing minions:

Sunday, December 25, 2005
The [Lakeland, FL] Ledger

Owner of Porn Site Still in Jail

Former Lakeland resident Christopher Wilson was still in jail Christmas Eve on obscenity charges relating to his internet pornography Web site.

But late Saturday, he received a note of good news: The U.S. Supreme Court will consider whether Wilson should be granted bail.

Wilson’s lawyer, Lawrence Walters, said that the Supreme Court has made arrangements to receive a filing by e-mail and immediately start considering it. His firm planned to submit the filing Saturday night, Walters said.

The filing will ask that Wilson be released from the Polk County Jail immediately.

Finally, the appeals court freed Chris Wilson AFTER the US Supreme Court gave him a Christmas present:

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office began an investigation and arrested Wilson on Oct. 7 on 301 obscenity-related charges.

In November, Polk prosecutors requested that Wilson’s $151,000 bail be revoked because his Web site continued to operate.

After reviewing 30 pictures and three videos from Wilson’s site, Circuit Judge J. Dale Durrance revoked Wilson’s bail on Dec. 16, finding there was probable cause to think the pictures were obscene.

The judge ordered that Wilson, a former Eagle Lake police officer, be held without bail until his trial.

Since then, Wilson’s defense team has been trying to get him out of jail — even filing an emergency request via e-mail with the United States Supreme Court to reverse Durrance’s decision. The Supreme Court denied that request on Christmas Day.

But:

Friday, December 30, 2005
Appeals Court: Free Web Site Owner

By JASON GEARY
The [Lakeland, FL] Ledger

LAKELAND — A Lakeland-based appellate court Thursday ordered that alleged Internet pornographer Christopher Wilson be released immediately from the Polk County Jail.

The 2nd District Court of Appeal did not state in its brief order why Wilson should be released, but said a written opinion would follow on the matter.

Wilson was freed from the jail at 9 p.m. Thursday.

And here’s an important little bit, lost in all of this:

The defense has argued that Wilson’s “case illustrates one of the clearest and most egregious examples of how the obscenity statute can be misused by law enforcement seeking to interfere with First Amendment rights.”

Yes. But was it to stop “porn” or was it to silence soldiers, and suppress the photos of REAL WAR coming from Iraq?

back to my letter:

Get it?

And the website vanished, with those actual photos from the actual war that were the REAL source of the embarrassment for the Army, and the kid was kept on ice until the “scrubbing” could take place.

The kid took a big hit for taking on Big Brother, and nobody ever heard what happened. Elegant. Chilling.

So, as I’m checking to follow up, I find big chunks of the website STILL up on the Internet, which only points out the fallacy of the Totalitarian mind: in the information age, whether you’re the KGB or the US Army, or the Burmese (Myanmarian?) Junta, YOU CAN’T CONTROL information!

So, who won? The Army or the Truth?

Here’s the résumé of “Colonel Grady C Judd, Jr.” — the Sheriff in question. Weirdly, there’s no explanation of the appellation “Colonel” in said résumé. One is led to to believe that Judd got his “Colonelcy” in the grand Southern tradition of getting it from a fried chicken restaurant, or to manage a former truck driver turned rock ‘n roller. No: that’s actually a Polk County Sheriff’s Department RANK. But, Judd has no military experience. Just a crapload of FBI, Homeland Security, DEA, etc. ties to the feds. Back channel influence is difficult to document, but equally difficult to dismiss. The timing, as has happened repeatedly, is just too good to be true — for the Army, that is.

And there’s an old axiom of journalism that says: When something seems too good to be true, it almost always is.

It also appears that Judd’s Sheriff’s Department loves the “piling on” tactic of legal bullying and headling grabbing:

Jet Magazine, Feb 10, 2003
R. Kelly arrested on new child porn charges – Celebrities

R&B singer R. Kelly, already facing child pornography charges in Illinois, was arrested in Florida recently on additional child pornography charges after investigators said they found photos of him having sex with a female minor.

Kelly, known for hits ranging from the Grammy-winning inspirational tune I Believe I Can Fly to racy songs such as Bump `n’ Grind and Feelin’ on Yo Booty, was in Miami on a court-approved visit to film a music video for his new single, Ignition. He was arrested at a Miami hotel and charged with 12 counts of possession of child pornography. The 36-year-old was released from jail on $12,000 bond about three hours after his arrest.

A statement issued by Kelly’s representative, Allan Mayer, called the arrest “a classic case of piling on, in which a local jurisdiction tries to make headlines by attaching itself to a celebrity case.”

“As far as we can tell, the charges all relate to R. Kelly’s arrest last summer. In other words, there is nothing new here,” he said in a statement.

Kelly, whose first name is Robert, has been out on bond and awaiting trial on 21 counts of child pornography in Chicago (JET, June 24, 2002). Those charges stem from a videotape authorities say shows him having sex with a 13-year-old girl. Kelly has denied that charge.

Col. Grady Judd of the Polk County (FL) Sheriffs Office said the latest charges were filed after pornographic digital images were found stored in Kelly’s camera equipment, which had been seized last June during a search of Kelly’s Davenport, FL, home after his arrest there on the Illinois warrant… Judd said it took seven months to issue the Polk County warrant because the State Attorney’s Office needed time to investigate….

Funny thing, though: “Colonel” Grady Judd’s case was dropped a few months later:

Mar 17 2004 2:57 PM EST

R. Kelly’s Florida Child Porn Charges Dropped

Prosecutors in Polk County, Florida, have dropped their charges against R. Kelly after deciding not to appeal a judge’s decision to suppress evidence in the singer’s child pornography case there.

“I just found out,” R. Kelly’s Florida attorney Ron Toward said on Wednesday (March 17). “I can only say that we’re happy, and it’s the only sound legal decision in this case.”

Kelly had faced 12 counts of child pornography in Florida.

Judge Dennis Maloney ruled on Thursday that the prosecution could not introduce as evidence photos found on a digital camera, which police say show the singer having sex with an underage girl, due to a lack of probable cause for the search warrants (see “Judge Rules R. Kelly Photos Seized In Florida Can’t Be Used To Try Him”). The camera was found during a June 2002 raid of Kelly’s rented Davenport, Florida, home.

Prosecutors decided not to pursue an appeal, Assistant State Attorney Chip Thulberry said, because they felt they did not have a “reasonable likelihood of success” of overturning Maloney’s decision based on constitutional case law.

You get that? The case (which seems to be grandstanding for the local media) was tossed out because of a QUESTIONABLE SEARCH. (I’m trying to be polite.)

They basically ADMIT that, in lawyerese, any appeal “did not have a ‘reasonable likelihood of success’.” Yeah. Grandstanding “piling on” and a police raid without reasonable cause.

Oh, and PORN, or, rather, that beloved bugaboo of the Media and Moralists everywhere: CHILD PORN. [Note: four years later, the Chicago trial has yet to be held, and R. Kelly is readying a Christmas tour. This is NOT about military porn. It's about silencing documentation of the war. Like hiding returning caskets.]

We can reasonably conclude that the “Colonel” is just a tad OUT OF CONTROL. Here’s what the Polk County Sheriff’s Dept. blabbed to the media about the “war porn” jackbooting:

[Chris] Wilson, a former Eagle Lake police officer, was arrested on charges of obscenity, but not for the pictures of the war dead.

However, according to Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, “We have notified the Army’s criminal investigation division. We will forward to them any investigative documents they deem appropriate if they open an investigation.

The Army opened an investigation into the site in September, but then quickly dropped it. Investigators said they did not have sufficient evidence to prove that American military personnel had sent in the gruesome pictures. … As Walters said, “I’m not surprised (by the arrest), but disappointed. This is clearly retaliation for disseminating graphic news accounts and footage from Iraq and Afghanistan. There are hundreds of thousands of adult Web sites, including in Central Florida and Polk County, and my client is singled out. It smacks of selective enforcement.” … Judd said his office began to investigate the site after it became aware of it through news reports.

“In my 33 years of law enforcement, this was one of the more horrific examples of obscene materials that the Sheriff’s Office has ever encountered,” Judd said. [Note: BULLSHIT!! -- HW]

After reviewing and downloading pictures from the Web site, the State Attorney’s Office presented the pictures to County Judge Angela Cowden, Judd said. [emphasis added]

Yeah. Funny, the vehemence and the timing of the arrest and charges.

Rolling Stone commented:

To many, this case, which some liken to 2003’s “flag-draped coffin” controversy, raises serious questions about the public’s perception of war and the future of free speech on the Internet. “It creates the possibility for censorship . . . based on the standards of the least tolerant community,” says Kurt Opsahl of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit digital-rights group.

For Wilson, the saga started with credit-card problems. After launching the site, he began getting e-mails from soldiers who couldn’t join because of bank-verification issues. So Wilson told them that if they could provide photographic proof that they were in Iraq, he’d let them on for free.

At first the photos he received were benign, such as soldiers posing by their tanks and barracks. But then came the gore. One picture shows a severed head floating in a bowl of blood. Another, a dismembered arm. A particularly gruesome photo shows a child with bloody pulp where his face used to be.

Though Wilson says he was shocked when he first saw the photos, he empathized with the soldiers’ desire to show the realities of service. Rather than censoring the images, he created a separate forum for them, quoting a line from Life, when the magazine published war-dead photos during the Spanish Civil War: “Dead men have indeed died in vain if live men refuse to look at them.”

Wilson never requested photos of the dead, but news of the site soon broke with the “bodies-for-porn” sound bite. Likely fearing another Abu Ghraib, the Army launched an inquiry into whether the images constituted a felony. But the photos couldn’t be verified, and Wilson fell outside military jurisdiction. Though the postings from soldiers could be a violation, says Army spokesman Paul Boyce, “we can’t enforce the Uniform Code of Military Justice on civilians.” The military inquiry was done. But then the cops showed up.

Polk County has a history of being tough on porn, and local officials insist the pictures of war dead were not the reason for the arrest.

And consider the chain of events that Rolling Stone chronicles:

… his attorney Lawrence Walters finds the dissociation hard to believe. “There may be a political undercurrent here,” he says. “To what extent was this mandated by the military using the local state attorney as a pawn?”

He’s not the only one raising this question. When news of the photos first broke, Arsalan Iftikhar of the Council on American-Islamic Relations sent a letter to Donald Rumsfeld demanding an investigation. Iftikhar now believes Wilson’s arrest was a “politically motivated” solution. “It wouldn’t surprise me,” he says, “if the charges were there to deflect from the issue at hand: the violence suffered by the Iraqi people.”

An anonymous source, claiming Pentagon access, went further: “Once the deputy chief of staff got word, a call was made to the Florida prosecutor and the governor, who of course is related to the president. A day later, [Wilson was] arrested.”

Well, of course, no one followed up. Wilson was effectively silenced by the 300 misdemeanor counts (and one felony) and kept incommunicado by the Sheriff’s manipulation of the law. Chris Wilson never had a chance to defend himself on the “obscenity” charges. Instead, he was offered an absurdly “light” plea bargain in return for becoming a member of The Disappeared.

Published: Saturday, January 14, 2006
INTERNET PORNOGRAPHER
Wilson Will Avoid Jail In Plea Deal
Christopher Wilson must close his site and not work on any other adult site for 5 years.
By Dana Willhoit
The Ledger

BARTOW — Internet pornographer Christopher Wilson is now out of business, and may not work on any adult Web sites for the next five years.

TIMELINE
• september 2005: Chris Wilson’s war/pornography Web site grabs international attention and criticism.

• october 7, 2005: Polk sheriff’s deputies arrest Wilson on obscenity charges, including one felony.

• october 11, 2005: Wilson is released on $151,000 bail.

• December 16, 2005: Judge Dale Durrance revokes Wilson’s bail and orders him jailed because Wilson continued to operate the Web site while out of jail.

• january 13, 2006: Wilson pleads no contest to 5 misdemeanors. He must close the site and not work on another for 5 years, but he avoids jail.

Nobody notes that, when his absurdly inflated bail was revoked, his family LOST every cent that they’d paid the bail bondsman. $30,000 +. You notice how Chris Wilson, former policeman, lost his rights, his money and his freedom for exercising his First Amendment rights vis-à-vis a “porn” site hosted on a DUTCH web server?

Come on: this was an INCREDIBLY dodgy porn prosecution. Worse, the revocation of bail over Christmas was even loonier. The Sheriff was stretching, but the intimidation factor is completely out of proportion. So: do you wonder WHY Wilson caved? (No doubt his First Amendment attorney pointed out that he would undoubtedly win, IF he was willing to spend the thousands of dollars and years it would take.)

It’s called using the law to abuse the law, and it happens all the time. (The American legal system DOES NOT recognize the validity of the first sentence of the Constitution.)

So, what was his “sentence”?

From Tampa Bay channel 10:

War Pictures For Porn: Plea agreement reached, web site shut down

Bartow, Florida — The operator of a website that offered GIs free nude photos in exchange for pictures of war casualties in Iraq entered a no contest plea in court on Friday. Chris Wilson of Lakeland did not challenge five counts of misdemeanor possession of obscene material before Circuit Court Judge J. Dale Durrance. In exchange, the remaining 295 counts against him will be dropped. Also as part of the plea agreement, Wilson will receive five years probation, must shut down his website, and must reimburse the state $3,785 in investigative costs. He must also pay a $500 fine, and court costs. Wilson, a former Eagle Lake police officer, was arrested Oct 7th.

Related Stories:

Gee. After all that, nobody ever actually “tried” the “porn” case (a case that was “iffy” at best). No: Chris Wilson was intimidated and bullied into silence, and made to pay for the privilege.

He does have a web site/blog, where he talks about politics, at theliberalblogger.com.

And, of course, the Army tightened their internet policy, cutting out as many “porn” sites as they could, as well as other, political, sites. The record overtly of silencing soldiers is well established. But, as with the “war porn” and the “Baghdad Diarist,” we don’t have any clear idea of how many like incidents have occurred. Is the same hand behind silencing of both Beauchamp and Wilson? What do YOU think?

Back to my letter to Mac:

Google “Iraq” and “war” — Just the bare two words: Google. Iraq war
(you may have to have your adult content filter turned OFF)

Hit the “images” icon or search images on the pulldown menu.

And there is the horror we’re being sanitized against.

And that’s how I found the Aircraft Mechanic jokes. …

Bests,

Hart

So, what happened to Chris Wilson?

The same thing that’ll happen to YOU, if you piss off the Army by telling the truth.

Courage.*

(See 2011 UPDATE below)

==================

* Oh, and the “aircraft mechanics’ jokes”?

Here they are, as I resurrected them from the cyber-remains of Chris Wilson’s old website (now a cyber orphan. The Polk County Sheriff’s Department never renewed the domain):

Date: Wed, 3 Oct 2007 02:12:24 -0700
From: Hart
To: Mac
Subject: Aircraft Mechanic Humour

“Humour” because it’s Australian
======================

After every Qantas Airlines flight, pilots complete a gripe sheet which conveys to the mechanical problems encountered with the aircraft during the flight that need repair or correction. The form used is a piece of paper on which the pilot completes the top part listing the problem, which the mechanics read and then respond in writing on the lower half of the form what remedial action was taken, so the pilot on the next flight of that plane can review the form before taking off.

Never let it be said that ground crews and engineers lack a sense of humour.

Here are some actual logged maintenance complaints and responses with P= the problem logged by the pilot, S = the solution and action taken by engineers. Qantas, by the way, is the only major airline that has never had an accident.

P: Left inside main tire almost needs replacement.
S: Almost replaced left inside main tire.

P: Test flight OK, except auto-land very rough.
S: Auto-land not installed on this aircraft.

P: Something loose in cockpit.
S: Something tightened in cockpit.

P: Dead bugs on windshield.
S: Live bugs on back-order.

P: Autopilot in altitude-hold mode produces a 200 feet per minute descent.
S: Cannot reproduce problem on ground.

P: Evidence of leak on right main landing gear.
S: Evidence removed.

P: DME volume unbelievably loud.
S: DME volume set to more believable level.

P: Friction locks cause throttle levers to stick.
S: That’s what they’re there for.

P: IFF inoperative.
S: IFF always inoperative in OFF mode.

P: Suspected crack in windshield.
S: Suspect you’re right.

P: Number 3 engine missing.
S: Engine found on right wing after brief search.

P: Aircraft handles funny.
S: Aircraft warned to straighten up, fly right and be serious.

P: Target radar hums.
S: Reprogrammed target radar with lyrics.

P: Mouse in cockpit.
S: Cat installed

2011 UPDATE: Wikipedia:

It took more than six years for the case to go to trial. Jury selection began on May 9, 2008, and the trial officially started on May 20 with opening statements from the prosecution and defense. After two weeks, the prosecution’s case wrapped on June 3 while the defense’s wrapped six days later, on June 9. After less than a day of deliberations, on June 13, 2008, a Chicago jury found Kelly not guilty of all 14 counts.[42]

.

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