Pittsburgh Obscenity Case: ‘I Didn’t Know Horror Porn Would Destroy My Life’
Federal Prosecution Of Zicari, Romano, Extreme Associates Spanned Several Years
PITTSBURGH — The married owners of a California company that distributed pornographic videos depicting simulated rape and murder were each ordered by a federal judge in Pittsburgh to spend one year and one day in prison.
Robert Zicari, 35, and Janet Romano, 32, both of Northridge, Calif., pleaded guilty on behalf of Extreme Associates Inc. to conspiracy to distribute obscene materials.
Prosecutors originally charged them in 2003 with distributing videos through the mail and images over the Internet to western Pennsylvania.
“This material is the most violent and disgusting portrayal of women that has been produced. That is what they wanted to do,” said U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan, whose office spent several years pursuing the case.
For sentencing purposes, the couple’s attorneys asked for probation and challenged the government’s claim that the material was “sadistic or masochistic,” but U.S. District Judge Gary Lancaster denied that argument.
Zicari did not speak during the sentencing hearing at the federal courthouse downtown. Romano sobbed and said, “I didn’t know making a horror porn was going to destroy my life.”
WTAE Channel 4’s news exchange partners at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported that Lancaster noted there were no victims in this case and the movies were available through a members-only Web site, not in store windows.
One of the movies that Lancaster described in court depicts a woman who is suffocated with a plastic bag during a home invasion and sexual assault. Romano said she wrote and directed it, adding, “Everybody that was in that movie was friends of mine.”
Zicari — also known as “Rob Black” — and Romano — who used the stage name “Lizzie Borden” — got two years of supervised release, in addition to their prison time.
Lancaster dismissed the charges against the couple in January 2005, finding that the prosecutors improperly applied obscenity statutes. Later, the charges were reinstated by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The couple decided to plead guilty because prosecutors agreed not to calculate how much they earned from the porn business, which could have affected their potential sentence, attorney H. Louis Sirkin said.
Federal prosecutors used the U.S. Supreme Court’s Miller v. California ruling from 1973 to argue their case against Extreme Associates in Pittsburgh.
The ruling says that materials are obscene if they pass a three-part test:
The average person, applying contemporary community standards (not national standards, as some prior tests required), must find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest.
The work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct or excretory functions specifically defined by applicable state law.
The work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.