Brief Fact Summary.
X-Citement Video, Inc. was charged with the distribution of child pornography when she sold pornographic videos with an underage performer to undercover police officers.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
An individual is guilty of distributing child pornography if he knows that the material is sexually explicit and displays underage persons engaging in sexual activity.
Although this Court will often strain to construe legislation so as to save it against constitutional attack, it must not and will not carry this to the point of perverting the purpose of a statute or judicially rewriting it.View Full Point of Law
Gottesman, the owner of X-Citement Video, Inc., was charged with the distribution of child pornography after selling videos starring Traci Lords, who starred in pornographic films before turning 18, to undercover police officers. Gottesman confessed to knowing that Lords performed while she was underage, but did not know which films she was underage in. The district court convicted Gottesman for the distribution of child pornography and the court of appeals reversed. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.
Whether an individual is guilty of distributing child pornography if he knows that the material is sexually explicit and displays underage persons engaging in sexual activity?
Yes. The judgment of the court of appeals is reversed. The statute is constitutional because it requires that the vendor be aware of both the sexually explicit nature of the content and that one of the performers is underage.
(Scalia, J.) Gottesman’s conviction should remain vacated because the statute does not require the defendant to know both that the content of the video is sexually explicit and that the performers are underage. The statute is therefore unconstitutional.
(Stevens, J.) Gottesman’s conviction should be reinstated because the interpretation of the statute that requires the defendant only to know that the content of the video contained sexual activity, the statute would criminalize non-criminal activity.
To be convicted of the distribution of child pornography, an individual must know both that the film is sexually explicit and that one of the performers is underage.