Senate kills bill aimed at obscene works - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Senate kills bill aimed at obscene works

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Posted: Thursday, April 10, 2008 11:13 pm | Updated: 11:30 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

State senators killed legislation aimed at obscene or dangerous materials Monday amid concerns it would infringe on the First Amendment rights of producers of more mainstream items.

The 2-4 vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee on HB2660 also came after lawmakers said the measure would not draw a sharp enough line between what would subject someone to civil action and what would be protected.

Foes also noted that the bill's the prime mover conceded that even those not the target of his measure might find themselves in court if the bill were to become law. Chandler attorney Keith Perkins said the line between what would be protected and what would not might have to be sorted out in court.

Despite Monday's vote, Rep. Warde Nichols, R-Chandler, said he still believes the effort was a victory.

He said it is necessary for lawmakers to debate - and eventually alter - the line between the First Amendment right of people to write, film and record what they want and the rights of crime victims to sue those who may be at least partly responsible.

The proposal was crafted by Perkins, who runs the Never Again Foundation that represents rape victims in civil lawsuits.

Perkins said under existing law, victims can sue their attackers. But the chances of collecting from people without money are minimal.

Current law allows lawsuits against anyone else who might be responsible. But juries weigh the relative responsibility and award damages accordingly.

HB2660 would have let victims collect 100 percent of their damages from anyone producing obscene or dangerous materials if the author, publisher or distributor knew the item would create a substantial risk that a person seeing the material would commit certain felonies or terrorism.

That would cover not just movies and videos but also books, music and video games.

Nichols read lawmakers descriptions of videos available on the Internet which are advertised as showing acts of actual rape. He said these items are designed to incite people to go out and try to duplicate those scenes.

Perkins conceded the sale of these items may be legal. But he said that does not mean they are protected by the First Amendment - or that those involved should be shielded from lawsuits to pay for all of the damages suffered by crime victims.

But several of the senators struggled to find a legal distinction between those items and others that could land their authors and others in court.

Sen. Ron Gould, R-Lake Havasu City, specifically cited "The Turner Diaries," a 1978 novel by a white supremacist about an Aryan revolution. A key segment includes blowing up an FBI building with a homemade bomb.

Timothy McVeigh, convicted of the 1995 bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City had clippings from the novel when he was arrested. Gould questioned whether HB2660 could be used by victims of that bombing to go after the author of a novel.

Nichols said he did not believe those involved in producing and distributing that book could be held responsible.

Others were not so sure.

"One is telling you how to blow up a building and kill hundreds of thousands of people," said Sen. Jim Waring, R-Phoenix. "The other is telling you how to rape women.''

And Sen. Ken Cheuvront, D-Phoenix, said the language could be used to go after those who have books or videos by those who show how to make bombs or even make date-rape drugs, publications which he said are protected by the First Amendment.

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