“The Feds Dump All Over the First Amendment”

Is the U.S. government defecating all over our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of crappiness?

by Dan Kapelovitz

In January 2003, Thomas W. Svitek purchased three fecal-fetish videos from the Web site www.GirlsPooping.com. Less than a year later, four people–Michael Corbett and his wife, Sharon Corbett, of Lewisburg, West Virginia; and Joseph Tanner and Randall Rogers of Quitman, Georgia–were convicted on federal obscenity charges.

Svitek, it turns out, is a United States postal inspector in Charleston, West Virginia. Svitek’s affidavit does for scatological erotica what the Starr Report did for cigar-sex fanatics. Svitek “personally viewed” the videos, and this is what he learned: The film Outdoor Pooping Paradise features “extreme close-up views of the anus and vaginal areas of women as feces were expelled from the anus and as women urinated.”

A video entitled Mandy 2 depicts a completely nude woman, shot from behind, defecating onto a newspaper. The awkwardly named Simone’s Daddy’s Little Girl, meanwhile, shows a porn actor administering an enema to his fictional daughter. “The father then videotapes the subsequent violent expulsion of feces from the anus of the ‘daughter’ onto his naked body while he is seated in a bathtub,” reads Svitek’s report. “The father ‘plays’ with the feces throughout and eventually masturbates with feces in his hand and feces covering his penis and genitals.”

About a week later, Postal Inspector Michael O’Shaughnessy assisted Svitek by making an “undercover purchase” of three more videos from GirlsPooping.com, presumably to gather more evidence. O’Shaughnessy sent $62.50 of taxpayer money to Michael and Sharon Corbett’s address with a check payable to MJ–Michael’s initials.

O’Shaughnessy had the tapes sent to an “undercover post office box” in Goshen, Kentucky, but was kind enough to forward the movies to Svitek. According to Svitek’s descriptions, these videos featured more shitting–into a toilet, onto a plate and into a bathtub, along with extreme close-up shots of the anus of a person who is defecating and urinating.

O’Shaughnessy ordered three more videos from GirlsPooping.com and forwarded them to Svitek. One of them, Pottytime With Brittanie 2, features a woman who, according to Svitek, “appears to be Sharon Corbett, based on surveillance of Sharon Corbett and a comparison of her West Virginia driver’s license photograph. She lifts up her legs as she defecates so the feces are [sic] visible to the camera as it leaves her anus. In several scenes, a man is laying underneath the woman who appears to be Sharon Corbett while she defecates into his opened mouth.”

Svitek’s extensive scatological viewing wasn’t in vain; it secured a warrant to arrest the Corbetts, search their home and seize their property. On March 26, 2003, Michael Corbett was driving home after helping his friend build a house. He was greeted by numerous officers on his property. At first, he thought someone had been murdered. “I had no reason to believe that there was any violation of any law,” says the GirlsPooping.com mastermind. “The next thing you know, you have 20-plus federal agents in your front yard, breaking windows to get into your house, taking things out of your closets, throwing your personal records all over the place, throwing you into jail for almost a week, telling you not to make any telephone calls. I’m cut off from the outside world, and they’ve taken all of my money so I can’t properly defend myself.”

Former GirlsPooping.com webmaster Michael Corbett–photo by Faria
The majority of Americans are most likely not aroused by watching defecation and may even find such a pastime repulsive. (Though, obviously, there is a substantial market for such material; according to the government, the Corbetts earned approximately $70,000 in three months.) Even so, should fecal flicks be deemed legally obscene? If shitting is not illegal in the U.S. (at least, not yet), why is it suddenly, under Attorney General John Ashcroft, against the law to depict the completely natural act?

Obscene works are not protected by the First Amendment, but the Supreme Court has never offered an exact definition of what constitutes obscenity. In effect, local communities in the form of juries are responsible for determining what material is against the law. “We were easy prey for the government because we were a small operation, and we lived in a very conservative area,” asserts Corbett.

The defendants never got the chance to find out if their product warranted First Amendment protection in the eyes of a jury. The Corbetts eventually accepted a plea bargain of one count of mailing obscene material. “If we had taken it to trial, I was looking at 20 years and up to a million dollars in fines,” says Corbett. “We were pretty much forced into a situation where we had to plead guilty or risk losing our home and spending up to half a million dollars in legal fees we couldn’t afford.”

Even so, Kasey Warner, United States attorney for the southern district of West Virginia, believes that the venue was irrelevant. “I am very confident that a jury in any federal district would have convicted the Corbetts on the charged offenses under existing standards,” contends Warner, who wants to emphasize that all of his quotes represent his own “strictly personal views” and not necessarily those of his agency.

When asked to respond to the belief that, assuming all participants are consenting adults, poop-fetish films, if indeed a crime, would be a victimless one, Warner responds that society is the victim because “[obscene material] leads directly to the coarsening of society, which the law arguably can and should make illegal.”

He continues: “Pornography/obscenity destroys people, relationships and normal societal functioning….In my mind, then, pornography/obscenity becomes a lot like cancer, a highly contagious disease, a rabid dog, terrorism, or a weapon of mass destruction. Pornography has proven itself so dangerous to society that society may rightfully stop it at the outset…even by outlawing its production before ‘use’ or misuse.

When you wait until pornography is produced and then misused, it is too late and the consequences too dire.” Although Warner’s views are his own (and who else besides him would be insane enough to equate an adult video with weapons of mass destruction?), the government vows that this is not the end of pornography prosecutions.

According to a Department of Justice press release issued on the day the Corbetts pleaded guilty, “Today’s convictions are another important step in the Justice Department’s strategy attacking the proliferation of adult obscenity. In the coming months, several more significant prosecutions are expected against major producers and purveyors of obscenity.”

“This is the wave of the future, unfortunately,” says Lawrence G. Walters, Michael Corbett’s defense attorney. “Through the course of this case, it was made pretty clear to me that the government is not stopping here by any means, and is actively conducting investigations into other Webmasters’ content and making additional obscenity cases.”

In December 2003, U.S. District Judge David Faber sentenced Michael Corbett to 18 months in federal prison, a $30,000 fine and three years of supervised release. Sharon Corbett received 13 months prison time, a $10,000 fine and three years probation. The couple further agreed to pay $60,000 in lieu of forfeiting their home.

The judge also sentenced Joseph Tanner and Randall Rogers, of Tdigital Services Inc., who maintained GirlsPooping.com and shared in the profits. Tanner received 13 months in prison and a $20,000 fine, while Rogers received three years probation. (While giving Rogers a lighter sentence, Judge Faber cited his lesser role in the activities and the fact that he is confined to a wheelchair.)

Tanner also agreed to forfeit $80,000, the offending material and the equipment used to produce said material. The Corbetts had previously forfeited $15,010, which was seized from their bank accounts.In addition, Corbett had to relinquish his Web site.

GirlsPooping.com is currently owned and operated by the federal government. The site now features seals of the Department of Justice and the United States Postal Inspection Service, along with the word FORFEITED stamped across the screen in big, red, intimidating letters.

“Before this happened, I was very happy to live in this country,” says Michael Corbett. “I definitely felt I was living the American dream, being able to live in my own home that was paid for by my own hard work. I ran an honest business and felt that the First Amendment would protect those things because I wasn’t employing underage women, I wasn’t exploiting anyone, I wasn’t marketing my videos to underage individuals, and they were all consenting adults who requested and viewed this material and purchased it from me.”

Corbett says that he is extremely disillusioned with the government, and may even move to another country after he serves his prison stint and supervised release. “Even if the prosecution was to call me tomorrow and say, ‘We’re dropping our case. We’re giving you back all of your videos. Go ahead and get back in the business as you were.’ I’d say, ‘Screw it.’ We’d just get another crappy President with some religious whacko attorney general, and the whole thing would happen again.” In other words, same shit, different day.

(This article first appeared in the June 2004 issue of Hustler Magazine)