Philip Greaves couldn't be a worse poster boy for the free-speech movement. After all, the Pueblo resident's book, The Pedophile's Guide to Love and Pleasure, promotes child molestation via "non-injurious rules" -- an oxymoronic (and vile) concept if ever there was one. But do his horrible thoughts, as opposed to proven crimes, justify a two-year probationary sentence in Florida?
As Alan Predergast reported last November, Amazon pulled Pedophile's Guide and other Greaves titles after the book was said to have made the site's list of top 100 best sellers -- a puzzlement given that Greaves, a former mental patient, claimed to have only sold one copy (a total dwarfed by the threats he says he received).
The controversy seemed to die down after that -- at least until December, when Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, reportedly frustrated that Greaves hadn't been jailed in Colorado for his despicable scribblings, decided to test Florida's anti-obscenity law by ordering Pedophile's Guide and then arresting Greaves for sending it.
Here's how Prendergast outlined the issues raised by this action:
The problem is that there's no proof Greaves ever molested anyone. Greaves has admitted being introduced to sex as a child himself but denied acting on any such urges as an adult. He has no criminal record in Colorado. And his book doesn't seem to fit the usual definitions of exploitation of a minor, since it contains no pictures of sexual contact between adult and child -- just words.
The thoughts expressed by those words are certainly repellent, but are they a crime? If depicting the psychology of a child molester is obscene, why isn't Judd going after Andrew Vachss or other novelists who have dared to do such things? If a blogger or newspaper reporter chooses to quote from Greaves' work in an attempt to explain what the controversy is about, is the sheriff going to get all Judd-and-jury on their ass, too?
Prendergast predicted that this "slippery slope" would come up as prosecution of Greaves moved forward -- but if it did, the dilemma didn't result in the case being dropped. In the end, Greaves pleaded no contest to distributing obscene material depicting minors engaged in harmful conduct.
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He'll be able to serve his two years' worth of probation in Colorado and isn't required to register as a sex offender -- which makes sense since, as Prendergast points out, there's no evidence at this point that he acted on his putrid impulses. That's usually a prerequisite to sentencing, but not in this case.
What say you, Mr. Owell?