Handley Pleads Guilty in Manga Case

CBLDF Serves as Consultant in Manga Case

On Wednesday, Christopher Handley pleaded guilty to one count each of Possession of Obscene Visual Representation of the Sexual Abuse of Children, and of Mailing Obscene Matter in the case related to his importation and possession of manga. The plea was part of an agreement Handley negotiated with the Department of Justice, and as such, three additional counts were dismissed.

As previously reported, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund signed on to the case as a consultant to the defense.

Combined, the two charges carry a maximum term of 15 years in prison, $250,000 in fines, and a three years of supervised release. Thre is no minimum sentence for the charges, and accepting responsibility (pleading guilty) allows for a decrease in the level of offense. The negotiation did not include any guarantees of term reduction.

As part of the plea, Handley agreed to forfeit his computer and manga with the "obscene visual depictions" to the government. A sentencing status conference where Handley may learn the term of his sentnce is currentlys scheduled for August 18th.

The Department of Justice Press Release reads:

Christopher Handley, 39, of Glenwood, Iowa, pleaded guilty today in Des Moines, Iowa, to possessing obscene visual representations of the sexual abuse of children and mailing obscene material.

According to court documents, in May 2006, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) intercepted a mail package coming into the United States from Japan that was addressed to Handley. Inside the package was obscene material, including books containing visual representations of the sexual abuse of children, specifically Japanese manga drawings of minor females being sexually abused by adult males and animals. Pursuant to a search warrant, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) searched and seized additional obscene drawings of the sexual abuse of children at Handley’s residence in Glenwood. Handley was indicted by a grand jury sitting in the Southern District of Iowa in May 2007.

Pursuant to his plea agreement, Handley today pleaded guilty to one count of possessing obscene visual representations of the sexual abuse of children in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1466A(b)(1), which prohibits the possession of any type of visual depiction, including a drawing, cartoon, sculpture, or painting, that depicts a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct that is obscene.

Handley also agreed to plead guilty to one count of mailing obscene material and to forfeit all seized property. Handley faces a maximum of 15 years in prison, a maximum fine of $250,000, and a three-year term of supervised release.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Peyton Gaumer and Elizabeth M. Yusi of the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section. The case is being investigated by USPIS, ICE and the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation. In addition, the FBI’s Language Services Section has provided significant assistance in the prosecution.

The CBLDF Press Release Reads:

According to a press release issued by the Department of Justice, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has learned that Christopher Handley, the Iowa manga collector, has pleaded guilty “to possessing obscene visual representations of the sexual abuse of children and mailing obscene material.” CBLDF had served as a special consultant to Mr. Handley’s defense. The government’s press release states, “Handley faces a maximum of 15 years in prison, a maximum fine of $250,000, and a three-year term of supervised release.” Additionally, he forfeits all property seized in his prosecution.

The CBLDF became special consultant to Mr. Handley's defense team last October. In this limited role, the Fund facilitated access to First Amendment experts; recommended expert witnesses on manga; and funded expert research pursuant to an eventual jury trial. The CBLDF spent $2,400 on that research, and had allocated up to $15,000 for expert witness expenses.

“Naturally, we are very disappointed by this result, but understand that in a criminal case, every defendant must make the decision that they believe serves their best interest," CBLDF Executive Director Charles Brownstein said. “Because the set of facts specific to this case were so unique, we hope that its importance as precedent will be minimal. However, we must also continue to be prepared for the possibility that other cases could arise in the future as a result.”

Brownstein adds, “Mr. Handley now faces the loss of his freedom and his property, all for owning a handful of comic books. It’s chilling. The Fund remains unwavering in our commitment to be prepared to manage future threats of this nature wherever they arise. This is the unfortunate conclusion of Mr. Handley’s case, but it is not the end of this sort of prosecution. For that reason, the Fund stands steadfast in our commitment to defending the First Amendment rights of the comics art form.”

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