Flynt expects more tolerant Cincinnati this time
Jury selection under way in Hustler publisher's obscenity trial
May 11, 1999
CINCINNATI (CNN) -- The questioning of prospective jurors began Tuesday in the obscenity trial of publisher Larry Flynt, who says he expects the birthplace of Hustler magazine to be more tolerant the second time around.
Flynt, who was convicted of pandering obscenity in Cincinnati 22 years ago, thinks a contemporary jury will be less inclined to convict him again.
"I'm not saying Cincinnati's a dramatically different city than it was in 1977," Flynt said. "I'm just saying two new generations have come along and they're more tolerant, and I think that's probably a key."
This time, Flynt, 56, and his brother, Jimmy, 52, face 15 charges stemming from the alleged sale in 1997 of an explicit video to a 14-year-old boy at the Hustler Magazine & Gifts store, which Jimmy Flynt manages.
Larry Flynt, who now lives in Los Angeles, had challenged Cincinnati authorities to arrest him again. Each brother could get 24 years in prison and be fined $65,000.
Potential jurors filled out questionnaires Monday to identify possible biases. Jury selection is expected to continue for most of the week.
The actual trial is not likely to start until the end of the week, at the earliest. Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Patrick Dinkelacker said the proceeding could take four or five weeks.
Jurors will have to determine whether videos sold at Flynt's downtown store meet the community standards test set by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973.
In 1990, Cincinnati officials prosecuted a local art gallery and its director for displaying Robert Mapplethorpe photographs picturing homosexual acts. The gallery and its director were acquitted.
Still, Hamilton County Prosecutor Mike Allen disagrees with Flynt that values in Cincinnati have changed over the years. "He is miscalculating what people here are all about," Allen said recently.
As part of the screening procedure, prospective panelists were asked whether they rent videos, what news shows they like and how often they watch Jerry Springer, a popular talk show host and former Cincinnati mayor.
The defense said Springer fans on the jury would be open-minded and comfortable with frank discussion of sex issues.
The trial, originally set for January 19, has been rescheduled twice.
Flynt, paralyzed by a would-be assassin's bullet in 1978, needed surgery for a urological problem and also developed pneumonia.
He made no comment in court on Monday as he watched the proceedings from his gold-plated wheelchair.
He told reporters later that no decision had been made on whether he would testify during the trial. "We'll see what my attorneys think as the trial goes along," he said.
Following his 1977 conviction, Flynt served six days of a 7- to 25-year sentence before being released pending appeal. The conviction was overturned in 1979.
Asked in 1977 why Cincinnati authorities went after him, Flynt said, "They felt very much threatened by me and Hustler magazine because it's the one thing they can't control."
Now, 22 years later, he'll find out if a jury of his current peers feels the same way.
Correspondent Ed Garsten contributed to this report.
Larry's watching, but keeping for now
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