WASHINGTON–Probable cause does exist for pornography charges filed against a newsstand owner and the store manager for selling an adults-only magazine devoted to rape, a Skagit County superior court judge ruled in early-April.
A trial set to begin in late July will determine whether newsstand owner Ira Stohl and manager Kristina Hjelsand promoted pornography when they sold 10 copies of Answer Me!, which carries graphic articles and photographs concerning the rape, molestation, torture and murder of women and children.
Skagit County Superior Court Judge Michael Rickert of Mt. Vernon said that since Answer Me! was displayed and sold for profit by the newsstand, and community members had complained about the publication’s contents, prosecutors had probable cause to charge Stohl and Hjelsand with promoting pornography.
Stohl and Hjelsand said they refused to stop selling the magazine in fear that the restraint would infringe upon First Amendment freedoms of the press, as well as their own rights to free speech.
Whatcom County Prosecutor David McEachran said in a five- page affidavit that the material is pornographic in light of its rape themes, such as nude photographs and text such as, “If you’re a loyal ‘Answer Me!’ reader, you’ve probably wanted to rape someone at some point in your life.”
But Breean Beggs, attorney for the newsstand operators, told the Associated Press that McEachran’s allegations that the 131- page magazine promotes rape and violence against women is “missing the whole point, which is that it’s so bad, you want to do something to stop it.”
The magazine has been defended as a political statement designed to show the horror of rape, rather than an explicit invitation to harm women and children.
Promoting pornography is a Class C felony in Washington. Stohl and Hjelsand face a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. (Washington v. Stohl)
The Reporters Committee regularly files friend-of-the-court briefs and its attorneys represent journalists and news organizations pro bono in court cases that involve First Amendment freedoms, the newsgathering rights of journalists and access to public information. Stay up-to-date on our work by signing up for our monthly newsletter and following us on Twitter or Instagram.