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April 4, 2006

Gordon Lee Case Back to Square One

In a generally insulting-sounding and bizarre turn of events during yesterday's calendar call in Floyd County Court, the case against Gordon Lee was dropped only for a new case to be entered according to new facts in evidence. Lee had originally been charged with multiple counts including felonies from an incident during Halloween 2004 when as part of a civic promotion in Rome targeting minors, Georgia Lee accidentally gave out a copy of Alternative Comics #2, a free giveaway that featured non-sexualized male nudity. The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund took Lee's case in early 2005 and through a series of smart motions and attention to the law by the team of Alan Begner and Paul Cadle had hacked the case down to two misdemeanors, with every expectation going in to defeat those charges during a trial by jury to be held this week.

However, with barely a half day of even hinted-at warning, the prosecutors dumped its remaining indictments and are refiling with two other misdemeanor charges. The facts in question alleged to have changed is that instead of giving the comic to one minor, the prosecutors assert it was given to one minor and his younger brother. By refiling charges, the entire process restarts, and it will be a while before a trial expected to go this week gets to this point again if things unfold in similar fashion. Deputy Clerk Brenda Perry at Floyd County Superior Court told CR yesterday that Lee's case could get back on the calendar as early as May, but the statement from the Fund seems to indicate they expect a longer wait.

You really should the CBLDF press release in its entirety, if nothing else than for the unstated feelings that seem to saturate the document, pulsing at each paragraph's edges. I think it strikes the right tone. Having charges dismissed is not only vindication, it exposes potential prosecutorial shortcomings (facts assumed in evidence changing 18 months later right before trial?) in a way that one imagines could change the way the case unfolds from here, and it suggests all sorts of ugly political impulses that may serve the CBLDF's greater cause to have exposed.

Having a new round of charges, though, puts more psychological strain on Gordon Lee, who probably thought this would all be done soon, and more financial pressure on the CBLDF, already $50,000 into this case. One of the more interesting sidebar staries has been that since the original incident involves a retailer's mistake has been a harder-than-usual sell in some corners of the comics community who seem to see the Fund as a merit award rather than as a resource to fight crappy laws. Ironically, as Charles Brownstein points out, the more money spent makes the CBLDF that much more obviously vital, as the financial pressure would certainly have been much harder for a single retailer to take had Lee been on his own. If not impossible.
posted 10:54 am PST | Permalink

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