The eyes of the comics, publishing, and Free Expression communities are focused on Rome, GA as the trial of Gordon Lee begins this morning.
Mr. Lee will stand trial for two misdemeanor counts of distributing harmful to minors material, and faces penalties of up to a year and prison and $1,000 in fines for each count if convicted. Lee's day in court comes after nearly three years of legal proceedings arising from the Halloween 2004 distribution of Alternative Comics #2, a Free Comic Book Day sampler which featured an excerpt from the critically acclaimed graphic novel The Salon that depicted Pablo Picasso in the nude, and was allegedly handed to a minor. The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has spent $80,000 on Lee's defense since taking the case in early 2005, and anticipates this week's trial to cost another $20,000.
Lee's case is also being closely watched by the mainstream media for its implications on Free Expression. In the past week, stories have appeared on NPR's Morning Edition, CourtTV, and New York Magazine, joining profiles from venues including The New York Times, The Book Standard, and Publishers Weekly.
"This case has broad consequences for all retailers of First Amendment protected material," says CBLDF Executive Director Charles Brownstein. "If Gordon is found guilty, it would establish a precedent that makes the seller of any book, magazine, or film depicting non-sexual nudity vulnerable to a similar prosecution in the State of Georgia." He adds, " We're confident that Gordon is not guilty of the charges he's accused of, and that the work in question comes nowhere near the threshold the law requires to deem a work harmful to minors."
"It's appalling that these charges were brought in the first place," Brownstein says. "It's outrageous that it's taken nearly three years, a complete change of facts by the prosecution midstream, and tens of thousands of dollars for Gordon to get his day in court. Now that we're here, we have every confidence in our legal team of Alan Begner, Cory Begner, and Paul Cadle to wage the best defense on Gordon's behalf. We couldn't have done it without the overwhelming support of the comics community, whose contributions have ensured that we are able to fight back."
For a detailed summary of the case and its developments, please visit the CBLDF's website -- Gordon Lee: The Road to Trial
To make a tax-deductible contribution to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, please visit our donations page HELP THEM!! HELP FREE EXPRESSION