Cambria has been there before
Story by Chris Graham
He has represented Larry Flynt – which says most of what you need to know about the legal background of Paul Cambria.
Let’s just say that he’s done this – defending someone standing accused on obscenity charges dealing with the production or sale of pornography – before.
Which could explain why Staunton Commonwealth’s attorney Ray Robertson tried to have the Buffalo, N.Y.,-based Cambria removed from the obscenity case against After Hours Video owner Rick Krial last fall.
“We’re talking about a guy who has done literally hundreds of these cases going up against a guy who’s on number two?” one adult-industry lawyer told me of the matchup of Cambria and Robertson that is to come in Staunton sometime this year.
“This is a nuanced area of the law,” the attorney said. “You don’t want to go into one of these cases not knowing the nuances.”
Cambria, clearly, knows the nuances. I was talking with him about bench law on obscenity cases when he launched into a monologue about part two of the three-part test that the Supreme Court handed down in the 1973 case Miller v. California.
“The second part of the test – which talks about, does it depict or deprive, describe in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct defined by law, all that means is, and the way that’s interpreted, and the way the jury is informed as to what that means, does it depict or describe sexual conduct in a way that substantially exceeds the level of acceptance in the community?” Cambria said.
“I always discuss this with jurors – and say, Well, think about your level of acceptance. We clearly draw the line at children. We wouldn’t accept that. But if you look at a discrete store that tells you what its content is, you know what’s in there, you know why you’re going in there, and it’s adult movies about adult subjects, about sexual activities that happen every day all over the world, and you make that choice, that’s acceptable. Just like it’s acceptable to have country music or the ability to hunt animals and so on. It’s not for everybody – but it’s an acceptable adult choice. It’s an acceptable area of conduct that if you’re an adult you should the ability to engage in it,” Cambria said.
Cambria clearly isn’t at a loss for words regarding Robertson’s efforts in the Krial case.
“The prosecutor here has a personal issue with this kind of material, and has a personal opinion that it shouldn’t be available in his community. And I think that that underestimates the level of sophistication in the community in these times. Especially with cable, satellite and other things where you can in your own living room or on your own computer can access this kind of material all day long, and actually material that is far more extreme in their depictions than this material, all day long,” Cambria said.
“I tried one of these in Manassas a few years back when things weren’t as wide open and sophisticated as they are now, and even then the people in the community there, in finding the client not guilty and the films not to be obscene, it was clear that they were drawing the line of acceptance at the child level. As long as it’s adult for adult, and it’s not conduct that’s way off the meter, you know, where there are people simulating rape and torture and death and all the other stuff that is out there, then they felt that was within the level of acceptance of the average adult as a possible choice to make,” Cambria said.
“When it comes to expressive material in a form of adult entertainment, why should a prosecutor be able to set himself up as an overall censor and project his own personal opinions into the community to the point where he pre-empts an adult making their own decision about this issue?” Cambria said.
Give Cambria credit as well for knowing the PR side of the legal business. To borrow from the adult-entertainment industry, he gave us the ultimate money shot in the form of a quote explaining how times have changed from the days when the porn business was still something that mainly drew the interest of dirty old men in raincoats.
“What’s the difference if you’re getting it off your television, or you’re getting it off your computer, or you’re getting it out of one of these stores? I have five children – they’re all girls, 4 to 18. I would rather have the material be available in an adults-only store than I would on a general-access computer – because I can control it better when it’s in a store, and they’re checking proof when somebody walks in the door. As opposed to when I’m in court, or my wife’s at the supermarket, and they can access the Internet. I wouldn’t ban it from the Internet for that reason – but it just makes it a little bit more difficult for me to police it,” Cambria said.
“It’s like how we police tobacco, we police alcohol, we police cars – I mean, we do a lot of those things. Those are adult items, and adult entertainment is an adult item. We do what we can under the circumstances to protect our children. We don’t outlaw the product. That’s not how we do it. Otherwise the whole world would be relegated to only that which is fit for children. It would be a Disney world – and it’s not simply a Disney world. It’s a Disney world that’s also a Vivid Video world or a Hustler world,” Cambria said.
Chris Graham is the executive editor of The Augusta Free Press and The New Dominion.