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Iowa Man Faces 15 Years in Prison for Owning Comics

A 39-year-old Iowa man named Christopher Handley pleaded guilty yesterday to the possession of “obscene visual representations of the sexual abuse of children and mailing obscene material.” A child pornographer, you say? Nope. A collector of Japanese comics.

But no real children were involved and no sexual abuse occurred — Handley’s crime was owning explicit cartoons, and he now faces the same punishment as someone with actual child porn. That means he could get up to 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for owning drawings. Gross drawings, for sure, but drawings nonetheless.

Despite the fact that the Supreme Court ruled this sort of thing is unconstitutional because it outlaws “speech that records no crime and creates no victims by its production,” the PROTECT Act of 2003 — another gift from George W. Bush — says pretty much the opposite, and now the law can no longer tell the difference between buying videos of children getting raped and ordering a dirty book. As Comic Book Legal Defense President Charles Brownstein said recently, “Mr. Handley now faces the loss of his freedom and his property, all for owning a handful of comic books. It’s chilling.”

And by the way, if you’d drawn (or downloaded) a slash picture of Hayden Panettiere two years ago, the government could have come for you, too.

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