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"Girls Gone Wild" Sentenced to Pay $1.6 Million
Headline News | 2006/12/13 12:49
Mantra Films, Inc., a Santa Monica, Calif. company operating as Girls Gone Wild, was sentenced today to pay $1.6 million in criminal fines for failing to create and maintain age and identity records for films it produced, Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher of the Criminal Division, and U.S. Attorney Gregory Miller for the Northern District of Florida announced today.

The sentence was imposed today by U.S. District Judge Richard Smoak at the federal court in Panama City, Fla.

Mantra pleaded guilty on Sept. 12, 2006 to three counts of failing to keep the required records and seven labeling violations in connection with Mantra's production of Girls Gone Wild films containing depictions of sexually explicit conduct. Each count refers to a different film produced or distributed by Mantra. Mantra admitted that it failed to create and maintain age and identity documents for performers in sexually explicit films produced and distributed by Girls Gone Wild and failed to label their DVDs and videotapes, as required by federal law.

Joseph Francis, founder and CEO of both Mantra Films and MRA Holdings, LLC, pleaded guilty to similar offenses in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles and is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 22, 2007. MRA also entered into an agreement that defers prosecution of criminal charges against the company for three years, if MRA abides by an agreement with the government. The package agreement with Mantra, MRA and Francis includes a public acknowledgment of criminal wrongdoing, a pledge of cooperation with the government in future investigations, full compliance with the record keeping laws, and payment of a total of $2.1 million in fines and restitution.

The charges in this case are the first to be filed under a law passed by Congress to prevent the sexual exploitation of children. The law protects against the use of minors in the production of pornography by requiring producers to create and maintain age and identity records for every performer in sexually explicit movies and other media. Producers and distributors must then label their products with the name of the custodian of the records and their location.

Girls Gone Wild has admitted to hiring performers, and producing and distributing sexually explicit video materials during 2002 and part of 2003 while systematically violating the record keeping and labeling laws. The companies also admitted that in at least two instances in 2002 in Panama City they filmed minors in sexually explicit scenes that were included in two commercially released DVDs.

The cases are being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Sheila Phillips of the Obscenity Prosecution Task Force of the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney Gregory Miller, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Dixie Morrow of the Northern District of Florida. The Justice Department's Obscenity Prosecution Task Force was formed to focus on the prosecution of adult obscenity nationwide. The Task Force is directed by Brent D. Ward. Investigation of the cases was conducted by Special Agent Denise Conrad of the Adult Obscenity Squad of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which is based in Washington, D.C.



Maryland high court considers same-sex marriage ban
Headline News | 2006/12/05 20:43

The Maryland Court of Appeals heard oral arguments on Monday in a case challenging a 1973 state law banning same-sex marriage. Plaintiffs, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), argued that marriage is a fundamental right which should not be denied according to the parties' genders. In response, Maryland Attorney General Robert Zarnoch argued that no court in the country has identified same-sex marriage as a fundamental right, and he urged the court to defer to the legislature. The state is appealing a January ruling by the Baltimore City Circuit Court in which the law was held to be discriminatory and unconstitutional.

Currently, Massachusetts is the only state to allow same-sex marriage, which was legalized when the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts ruled in 2003 that a ban on such marriages was unconstitutional. Several cases similar to the Maryland case have been decided or are pending in other states including California, New Jersey, Washington, Tennessee, Nebraska, and Connecticut.



US House to vote on Mexico offshore drilling bill
Headline News | 2006/12/03 00:49

Republicans in the US House of Representatives agreed Friday to vote on a compromise offshore drilling bill on Tuesday under special rules that limit amendments and generally speed up proceedings, but require a two-thirds majority for approval. If passed, the bill would allow oil and gas drilling in about 8.3 million acres of federal waters in the eastern-central Gulf and boost federal royalty shares from two percent to 37.5 percent in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. Environmental leaders, however, oppose the measure, especially in light of the GOP's pending loss of majority rule.

The Senate passed the compromise bill, 71-25, in August, limiting offshore expansion to the Gulf of Mexico. The bill passed by the House in June, the Deep Ocean Energy Resources Act, would have ended the offshore drilling moratorium on 85 percent of the coastal waters surrounding the US.



U.S. Prison and Jail Population Increases in 2005
Headline News | 2006/11/30 20:35

The population of individuals in US prisons rose by 2.7 percent in 2005, according to an annual report released Wednesday by the US Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics. The report indicates that over 7 million people were either in jail, on probation, or on parole by the end of last year, with 2.2 million of them in prison.

The Justice Department statistics also show that the percentage of female prisoners is rising - the number of female inmates rose 2.6 percent in 2005 with the male population only increasing by 1.9 percent. Sentencing Project, an advocacy group that promotes criminal justice reform, has blamed the increase in women prisoners on harsh sentences handed down for nonviolent drug offenses.

The report also showed racial disparities among prisoners that are similar among men and women inmates. Among male prisoners ages 25-29, 8.1 percent of black men are in prison, while 2.6 percent of Hispanic men and 1.1 percent of white men are incarcerated. South Dakota accounted for the highest increase in inmate population with a rise of 11 percent, followed by Montana with 10.4 percent, and Kentucky with 7.9 percent. Georgia's prison population dropped the most with a decrease of 4.6 percent, followed by Maryland with a 2.4 percent drop, and Louisiana with a 2.3 percent decrease.



Spitzer cautions against easing corporate reforms
Headline News | 2006/11/27 03:12

Many of the efforts to soften the corporate accountability reforms of the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley Act are being pushed by the same corporations that employed questionable accounting and business practices before the Sarbanes-Oxley reforms, New York state attorney general and governor-elect Eliot Spitzer said in an interview with the Financial Times published Monday.

Last week, US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson  accused Sarbanes-Oxley of raising the cost of doing business in America, citing declining share sales since 2002 as one example of its impact, and recommended legislative tweaks to the Act, especially to the internal control structure requirements of Section 404. Spitzer said Monday that individual corporations are responsible for their own poor performances, and that corporate accountability and ethics will strengthen US markets in the long run.

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act has been an object of criticism since its passage in the wake of the Enron debacle and other high-profile corporate scandals. Rep. Michael Oxley, one of the law's co-sponsors, said last year that the legislation was "rushed" and included "excessive" corporate reforms. A GAO report earlier this year noted that an increasing number of small businesses are going private in order to avoid disproportionately higher costs of complying with the law, prompting several senators to urge regulators to find ways to make it less onerous for smaller companies to comply.



President of Hyundai's Insurance Arrested
Headline News | 2006/11/15 21:53

Ha Jong Sun, former attorney and president of Hyundai Marine & Fire Insurance Co. became the second suspect arrested in a week as a result of a probe into the 2003 sale of Korea Exchange Bank to Lone Star Funds.

Lee Kang Won, former Korea Exchange Bank head Lee Kang Won, was the first of the two suspects arrested in connection with the probe that has stalled Lone Star's efforts to sell Korea Exchange Bank for a profit of more than $4 billion.


Sun was apprehended by South Korean prosecutors and taken into custody on a warrant that was issued by the Seoul Central District Court, according to prosecutor, Chae Dong Wook. The court issued the warrant for Ha, a former attorney, because he tried to tamper with evidence.

The Seoul Central District Court refused to issue an arrest warrant for Byeon Yang Ho, the former government official. Byeon's warrant was rejected because prosecutors failed to prove he would destroy evidence or flee, the Korean-language news agency said. Chae, of the Supreme Prosecutors' Office, declined to comment on the court's reasons.

Prosecutors are investigatingt to find out whether the U.S. buyout firm bought the countries fifth-largest bank illegally.


Breaking Legal News.com
Neal Andrea
Staff Writer


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