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Extreme Associates to stand trial on obscenity charges

Jason Cato
| Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2008

A California couple accused of violating the nation's obscenity laws for running a company that made and distributed pornographic films depicting rape and murder will finally stand trial in Pittsburgh -- more than five years after being charged.

A federal grand jury indicted Robert Zicari and his wife, Janet Romano, in August 2003 and charged the couple with 10 counts of obscenity-related crimes. U.S. District Judge Gary L. Lancaster today scheduled a trial for March 16. Also charged is the couple's Los Angeles-based company, Extreme Associates.

In January 2005, Lancaster dismissed the charges against the company, Zicari and Romano, also known by the aliases "Rob Black" and "Lizzie Borden." The judge rejected the government's assertion that it has the right to restrict distribution of obscene materials to protect minors and those who do not want to be exposed to it.

U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan took the case to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which overturned Lancaster's decision in December 2005.

The case sat idle until Lancaster scheduled a status conference in August.

In 2002, an undercover U.S. Postal Service inspector bought pornographic videos through Extreme Associates' members-only Web site. Lancaster said technological devices can restrict access to Web sites and shield those who do not want to be exposed to such material.

The circuit court said the U.S. Supreme Court has decided that federal statutes regulating the distribution of obscene materials do not violate constitutional rights to privacy.

If convicted, Zicari and Romano could face up to 50 years in prison and a $2.5 million fine. Extreme Associates could be fined up to $5 million.

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