from www.azcentral.com The pornography scheme alleged by police was simple: Lure a girl into a house, videotape her engaging in sex acts, then post the video online for viewing by those willing to pay.
A Maricopa County grand jury last month indicted Jacob David Deakins, 26, in connection with the scheme. Police allege Deakins tried to entice what he thought was a 17-year-old girl to his Mesa home in November 2010. In reality, the “girl” was an undercover Phoenix police officer.
Deakins, accused of luring a minor for sexual exploitation and identity theft, pleaded not guilty this month. Neither he nor his attorney responded to messages seeking comment.
Deakins was snared in an annual nationwide investigation conducted by the FBI and local authorities. These operations typically result in dozens of arrests nationwide related to child prostitution and human trafficking. The local arrests rarely make headlines in the Valley because those taken into custody are usually small-time offenders rather than part of major human-trafficking organizations.
But Valley law-enforcement agencies are shifting focus to online sites that showcase underage victims and others engaged in illegal sex acts. Two factors weigh into growing local concern:
Several local cases have already been brought alleging sexual abuse and misconduct relating to the production of amateur pornography in the Valley.
Los Angeles County voters earlier this month approved a measure requiring the use of condoms in the making of adult films, which some fear will drive more porn producers out of Los Angeles and into Arizona.
A string of federal copyright-infringement lawsuits brought by adult-entertainment companies reveal a cottage porn industry has a foothold in the Valley. Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery [pictured] nonetheless believes that Arizona has laws on the books to stop the industry from operating in the state.
Deakins’ alleged intent was to post video of a minor engaged in sex acts to a website called Amateur Allure, according to court documents. The site is affiliated with Phoenix-based Hard Drive Productions and is among a handful of Valley companies that provide pornography online, according to court documents.
The companies operate in the shadows, but they do not try to hide their activity in federal court. In hundreds of lawsuits filed around the country, companies that feature online pornography have targeted Internet users whom they accuse of illegally downloading the adult content without paying.
These types of suits typically target “John Does” — users known only by their Internet Protocol addresses — and seek compensation for unpaid use of content. In one case, court documents show, attorneys told a woman they believed was pirating pornography that she could be liable for $150,000 in damages, but offered to settle for $3,400.
The court documents state the companies’ location and business.
For example, court documents filed earlier this year in Texas say: “Plaintiff Hard Drive Productions, Inc. is a corporation organized and existing under the laws of the State of Arizona … Plaintiff is a producer of adult entertainment content. Plaintiff invests significant capital in producing the content associated with its brand and has produced substantial numbers of videos and photographs. The copyrighted work at issue here is one of these adult videos, ‘Amateur Allure-Lola Foxx.’ ”
A website associated with CP Productions, another such company, states the nature of the business in a section on frequently asked questions. To star in one of its videos, users are told they “just have to be in the Phoenix area” and message the site’s administrator for more information.
The site offers this written reassurance to those skeptical about who is involved in the recorded sex acts: “These are … adult stores in Phoenix, AZ. The guys you see in the videos are random guys who show up to get … (explicit sex acts) and then go home. There’s no shortage of hotties here in Phoenix that are willing to (expletive) random dudes.”
“I can’t give out the exact location because it’s against the law,” the site states.
Addresses listed for companies operating in the Valley are connected to nondescript houses — a stucco home in north Phoenix, a tidy condo in Scottsdale, an estate on Camelback Mountain — that blend in with their neighbors.
While the effects of pornography on communities have long been debated, police warn of the potential risk of amateur porn leading to sexual exploitation.
Chandler police accused Antonio Adrian Gonzalez of luring a 17-year-old girl to his house for modeling photos in April 2010. After the girl was in his home, Gonzalez is alleged to have untied her bikini and forced her hand onto his genitals. When the girl protested, police allege, Gonzalez opened computer files to show her that other women had engaged in sex acts with him. The girl identified one of Gonzalez’s sex partners as a 16-year-old acquaintance.
Police said Gonzalez admitted to both crimes and “to using social-networking sites to locate and identify young girls to photograph for his websites and recruit them to affiliated web sites named Backroom Casting Couch and Exploited College Girls.com.”
Early next year, a Phoenix man will go on trial on 130 felony counts of child prostitution, sexual misconduct and pandering. Among the allegations described in court documents: recording his 15-year-old niece and another man in pornographic movies that were shared with a local producer.
The porn industry in Arizona — with many videos being shot on “casting couches” and in the back of adult arcades — lends itself to the kinds of abuses highlighted by these cases, said Dominique Roe-Sepowitz, a professor at Arizona State University’s School of Social Work who works weekly with prostitutes trying to get out of the business.
“I think there’s a tremendous amount of pornography being shot here anyway because of the lack of monitoring,” Roe-Sepowitz said. She noted that industry regulations exist in other states to ensure performers are at least 18 years old and disease-free.
“You’re still not allowed to sell or buy sex in this state, period,” she said. “Regulating or legalizing it, technically, would be legalizing prostitution.”
That leaves Arizona law enforcement facing legal questions about how to respond to such activities, particularly when it comes to deciding where prostitution ends and pornography begins.
Phoenix police generally take a victims-first approach to prostitution enforcement: treating prostitutes as victims of human trafficking and seeking from them information about pimps, clients and trafficking networks that could lead to higher-level prosecutions.
Phoenix police work cases involving pornography when they are accompanied by allegations involving minors, drugs or other circumstances such as surreptitious taping, said Sgt. Trent Crump, a department spokesman.
“There are circumstances where you could have the porn industry cross the line, depending on who was working and how they were chosen,” Crump said.
“If you were using young girls, illegal drugs or intimidation, that’s the sort of organization that begins to cross the line in our opinion.”
Montgomery said last week that he will prosecute any cases law-enforcement agencies bring to his office involving Valley pornographers, as long as there is a reasonable likelihood of conviction. Montgomery cited anti-prostitution statutes as his primary tool.
“Where citizens make law enforcement aware of criminal activity, I expect appropriate follow-up to be done,” he said. “Prosecutions will then follow.”
Mark Kernes, senior editor at Adult Video News, said fears of the porn industry relocating to Arizona are probably premature. There are plans to fight Los Angeles County’s new regulations in court, he said, and industry options include moving to other California locales or to Nevada before Arizona.
Those preferences are due in part to a California court ruling that made adult-film production legal, Kernes said, and an understanding that courts in Nevada would accept that ruling. The ruling essentially held that people having sex as a performance to be shown on video are not considered prostitutes.
“I don’t know if that same view would be taken in Arizona,” Kernes said.
Arizona law prohibits the production and sale of obscene material, but proving a violation of obscenity statutes typically requires proof that someone ran afoul of community standards with material that had no legal, artistic or scientific value, Kernes said.
“Generally speaking, movies that have sexual content, until they are proved obscene, are protected under the First Amendment,” he said. “Adult movies are generally considered to be protected until a prosecutor brings it in front of a jury.”