From Polk County to Colorado, an arrest for obscenity

BARTOW – It’s not common for sheriff’s deputies in Polk County, Florida to arrest someone in Pueblo, Colorado. But that’s exactly what the Polk County Sheriff’s Office did when Phillip R. Greaves, 47, was booked into the Polk County Jail around 11 a.m.  today.

He was charged with Distribution of Obscene Material Depicting Minors Engaged in Conduct Harmful to Minors, a third degree felony under Florida Statute 847.011(1)(C).

His offense was selling a copy of his book, “The Pedophile’s Guide to Love and Pleasure; A Child-lover’s Code of Conduct” to an undercover Polk County deputy.

Why target someone living halfway across the country?

Does the U.S. Constitution protect offensive speech and written materials?

Undercover detectives from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office had contacted Greaves and asked to buy his book, following a flurry of national media reports about it.  Online retail giant Amazon.com had dropped the self-published e-book from its Kindle store in November, after public outrage that it got listed there to begin with. It had gone on sale Oct. 28 and cost $4.79 to download.

According to a news release by the sheriff’s office, “Greaves mailed what he referred to as his own personal copy of his book, signed, after being paid $50, to an address in Lakeland, Fla., within the jurisdiction of the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.  Detectives and attorneys reviewed the book, presented the material to Polk County Judge J. Michael McCarthy, who found probable cause that Greaves distributed obscene material depicting minors engaged in activities harmful to minors.”

McCarthy issued a Polk County warrant for Greaves’ arrest, with a bond of $15,000 pending his first appearance in the Florida 10th Judicial Circuit jurisdiction.  Detectives flew to Pueblo and worked with the Pueblo Police Department to bring Greaves into custody.

Scott H. Wilder, director of communications for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, said the book is “all written material” and does not contain sexually explicit photographs of minors. So how can the book not be protected under constitutionally protected free speech rights?

“You might be conflating with two different legal theories,” Wilder said. “One theory is child pornography, and there is a clear ruling for the state by the (U.S.) Supreme Court that child pornography has to be images. We are not charging him under child pornography statutes. This is obscenity, and it is a third degree felony, not a first degree felony as child pornography would be.”

The sheriff’s office cited two “graphic stories” in the book that depict an adult engaged in sexual acts with children, and which describe “adult genital contact and oral penetration with a 9-year-old boy and with a 13-year-old boy.”

The book also “defends, advocates, and trains adults regarding illegal sex acts between adults and children,” the sheriff’s office wrote in its official press statement following the arrest.

The sheriff’s office also quoted passages in the book, such as “Pedophiles, we must remember, care for and befriend their young lovers.  They are concerned for the wellbeing and pleasure of their little friends, always putting the juvenile’s pleasure and happiness first.”  According to the sheriff’s office, the context here is that “Greaves attempts to differentiate between pedophiles who ‘care for’ children and pedophiles who ‘rape’ children.”

Material like this, Wilder said, violates Florida’s obscenity law because it encourages dangerous sexual behavior against children.

“This is clearly written in Florida statutes that we can make an arrest on this,” he said. “The best kind of argument is local standards — what may be considered obscene in Polk County may not be obscene in New York City. Certainly in our opinion it’s not a free speech right. There are not unlimited free speech rights. You can’t yell fire in a crowded theater.”

Wilder said the book could be viewed as encouraging obscene, harmful contact with children.

“Woven throughout these stories are hints for predators on how they should teat the child, and those sorts of things,” Wilder said. “It’s a clear kind of guidebook for pedophiles and it kind of gives them grooming, on how to groom a child and stay on a first name basis. The book, taken as a whole, specifically is covered by Florida statutes. It specifically addresses that this is obscene material that depicts a minor engaged in any act or conduct that is harmful to minors. Remember, something can be obscene even when we’re not talking about the definition of pornography.”

Florida Statute 847.011: Prohibition of certain acts in connection with obscene, lewd, etc., materials; penalty, states that any person who sells or distributes materials “that depict a minor engaged in any act or conduct that is harmful to minors commits a felony of the third degree … A person’s ignorance of a minor’s age, a minor’s misrepresentation of his or her age, a bona fide belief of a minor’s age, or a minor’s consent may not be raised as a defense in a prosecution for one or more violations ….”

While the Polk County Sheriff’s Office was targeting Greaves, the Lake County Sheriff’s Office’s Cyber Crimes detectives completed a three day long undercover operation on Dec. 15 that resulted in three very different kinds of arrests.

During the operation, the three suspects contacted undercover detectives both online and by telephone. According to Lake County deputies, the men thought they were communicating with the parent/guardian of a teenage child between 13 and 14 years old, and made arrangements to meet with the parents so they could perform a sex act on the child.

As the men – later identified as James Poland, 61, Travis Morton, 24, and Steven Austin, 33 – got to the pre-arranged meeting locations, they were taken into custody without incident. 

Contact us at FreelineOrlando@Gmail.com.

 

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