Lawrence Brose is a well regarded gay artist based in Buffalo who has also made videos dealing with gay male sexuality. He has long scoured the Internet to download images for future use in his art. His work is not pornographic and we know of no evidence showing that child pornography has ever been incorporated into his art. Nevertheless, Immigration and Customs Enforcement of Homeland Security has seized his computer and they allege that he downloaded child-porn images from a site in Germany. (Images that are perfectly legal in Germany may be considered child-pornography in the United States.) Brose disputes this. Having not seen these images, assuming they exist, we can offer no informed opinion as to whether they meet the American definition of child pornography — which is broad, vague and confusing, even to legal experts. Even if Brose unknowingly downloaded images that the government considers child pornography, he may face excessively harsh penalties: lengthy incarceration and having to live the rest of his life as a registered sex offender.
At present, we don’t have sufficient information to determine whether this is a false accusation. But sponsoring cases of the falsely accused is not the sole purpose of the NCRJ. According to our charter, we may also act for “charitable, scientific, educational, or literary purposes.”
This means supporting laws and practices that protect children from all forms of abuse — and opposing those that do not, but rather use the guise of child protection to chase people who have “deviant” fantasies, vastly over-punish people for minor infractions, and treat former sex offenders who have served their time as pariahs for life.
Most people assume that child-pornography laws protect children, and when they criminalize the production of images of children coerced into engaging in sexual behavior, they do. But these laws go far beyond their original intent. They impose harsh penalties for mere possession – regardless of whether the possession was intentional, whether the materials were legal or produced for profit or whether they possess artistic, literary or scientific value; indeed, the law does not even require that the model be nude or doing anything sexual.
We believe that the case of Lawrence Brose is an instance of child pornography laws destroying an innocent person’s life without the remotest possibility of protecting any child. Supporting him affords the NCRJ an opportunity to educate the public about the irrationality and injustice written into existing child-pornography law.
For more information, visit the Lawrence Brose Legal Defense Fund.
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