B ased on an article from The Ledger
Chris Wilson, the owner of an
amateur porn Web site that stirred international controversy with its pictures allegedly portraying dead Iraqi insurgents, is being prevented from making bail.
Wilson has been held at the Polk County Jail since Friday night. His lawyer said Polk
authorities piled on charges, 300 misdemeanors and one felony, and that has made it more difficult for Wilson to arrange his release from jail.
I think it's inappropriate. It's an additional, pre-conviction punishment, said Larry Walters, a
First Amendment lawyer based in Orlando.
The charges against Wilson all are related to allegedly obscene content on the Web site he operates out of his Lakeland apartment.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said filing so many misdemeanor
charges is standard procedure. [yeah yeah] . The law is quite clear that each photograph or each video or each image is a count. And certainly, had we gone through his entire Web page, we probably could have made several
thousand more charges.
Therein lies the problem for Wilson. Because of the large number of charges, Wilson's family is having a hard time finding a bail bondsman who will write that number of bonds, according to Walters. Also, it makes
bailing him out considerably more expensive. Bail for each misdemeanor charge is set at $500 each, and the felony charge is $1,000. His total bail is $151,000.
Normally, a defendant can post one bail for 10 percent of the total amount -- about
$15,000 in Wilson's case. But state law requires that the minimum bail paid by a defendant for each charge be set at no less then $100, according to Bartow bail bondsman Bill Kidwell.
Between the misdemeanors and the felony charge, Kidwell said,
Wilson's family would have to pay $30,100 to get him out, money that the bail bondsman does not repay the family. They would also have to pledge collateral to cover the entire $151,000, which would be forfeited if Wilson did not show up for trial.
Walters said Wilson's family had asked the State Attorney's Office in Bartow to combine all the counts into one charge for the purposes of the bail, but the State Attorney's Office refused.
Chip Thullbery, administrative assistant state
attorney, acknowledged that. We felt the original charges as filed were appropriate. Certainly, it was not done for harassment. It was done because he possessed that amount of material. [yeah yeah]
Walters, Wilson's family is continuing to try to post bail. Walters has set up a section on his Web site, www.firstamendment.com where people can send in donations to assist Wilson.
Walters said Monday that he had gotten dozens of e-mails and
hundreds of telephone calls from around the country from people offering their support of Wilson and expressing outrage that he was arrested in the first place.
Luke Lirot, a well-known First Amendment lawyer fromTampa who has represented clients
on obscenity charges in Polk County, said that filing numerous charges against a defendant has been a typical tactic for Assistant State Attorney Brad Copley. Brad Copley's chosen method of persecution is to heap on as many charges as possible, to
increase the expense of mounting a defense, Lirot said.
Lirot said Polk County's aggressive approach to prosecuting materials viewed as obscene is inconsistent with virtually every area in the United States and most of the decisions coming
from the Supreme Court. There's a huge void of First Amendment rights between Tampa and Orlando.
Wilson's Internet business initially began as a Web site where people could send in pictures of their wives or girlfriends engaged in sexual
activity. He stirred international controversy because of his practice of allowing military personnel serving overseas free access to his site in exchange for pictures proving they really were serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.
For the past seven
or eight months, Wilson has been posting pictures that show burned and mutilated bodies, allegedly of Iraqi and Afghan insurgents. The Army investigated, but could not confirm whether military personnel really were posting those images.
Update 13th October:
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.