Back in 2006, avid manga collector Christopher Handley’s life changed dramatically. Expecting to receive a new shipment of manga direct from Japan, Handley was greeted by his local police. The traveling package was marked as suspicious by U.S. Customs agents and protocol required them to open and inspect the contents. What they found among the various manga were seven books containing cartoon representations of minors engaging in sexually explicit acts, read loli-hentai. Further search and seizure at his home revealed numerous anime related sites (animesuki, animenewsnetwork) and an extensive collection of animated DVDs, some being hentai as well. A lengthy court battle ensued with the prosecution portraying Handley as would-be pedophile; the defense highlighting the fact he is a “prolific collector”, not one who focuses on specific lolita type manga, but all manga.
Last week Handley pleaded guilty for lesser charges of possessing obscene visual representations of the sexual abuse of children and mailing obscene material, although many feel Handley was duped into taking the guilty plea rather than continuing the fight. Now comes the sentencing part, Christopher Handley faces up to a 15 year prison term along with $250,000 in fines and of course the loss of his manga. For a collector this can be a death sentence and if imprisoned, the real death rates in prison among pedophiles is higher than other convicted felons. While he is not charged with pedophilia, I doubt convicts will understand the nuances of acquiring and looking at drawings of characters who do not actually exist when the U.S. government doesn’t grasp this concept either.
The 2003 Protect Act under which Handley was charged outlaws cartoons, drawings, sculptures or paintings depicting minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct, and which lack “serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.” I am not advocating any type of exploitation of children, but I consider manga having artistic value. At no time during the search of his home or computer records did they find real child pornography nor advocacy of it. Drilled down to the core arguments, this was a guy, who likes reading manga, who has a smaller collection of loli-themed manga engaging in sex acts, in his own home, who is now being punished for a crime, with a max sentence of 15 years. Once again manga are comic books, he is not abusing children and somehow this translates to justice.
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