Obscenity trial halted as judge admits putting porn on his website

An obscenity trial judge who insisted it was "part of the job" to sit through five hours of hardcore pornography with the jury has been forced to halt proceedings after it emerged that his personal website contains sexually explicit material.

Alex Kozinski, chief judge on the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, suspended the trial of a porn film-maker when prosecutors complained that he owned a site containing dozens of explicit images. One showed naked women on all fours, painted to look like cows. Another portrayed a half-naked man cavorting with a farm animal. Mr Kozinski granted a 48-hour suspension in the trial of Ira Isaacs while the potential conflict of interest was investigated. But he insisted his site's adult content, which includes footage of masturbation, public sex and "contortionist sex" involving a transsexual, was "funny" rather than obscene.

Confronted by reporters about the adult photographs, which were publicly accessible and appear alongside his essays, legal writings and family snaps, Mr Kozinski, 57, conceded that some viewers might find them inappropriate but argued that such scenes were "part of life".

A photo of a man performing fellatio upon himself and a step-by-step gallery of a woman shaving her pubic hair were "a funny joke", he said. So was an image of two women in a cafeteria with their skirts hitched up, next to a sign saying "Bush for President".

"Is it prurient? I don't know what to tell you," he told the Los Angeles Times. "I think it's odd and interesting. It is part of life." But after the scandal broke, Mr Kozinski, a judicial conservative appointed by President Ronald Reagan, blocked public access to the site, www.alex.kozinski.com.

Having first admitted he was familiar with the pornography in question and had placed it on the Web, he yesterday tried to blame his adult son, Yale, for circulating at least some of the images. "Yale called and said he is pretty sure he uploaded a bunch of it," the judge said. "I had no idea but that sounds about right, because I sure don't remember putting some of that stuff there." He then changed his story, admitting uploading the image depicting women as cows.

He conceded that it was "degrading and plain gross" but claimed to have accidentally put it on his server while trying to upload something else.

Even before the judge's tastes became public, Mr Isaacs' trial for allegedly distributing and importing obscene material was being watched by the media and free-speech campaigners, who consider it a test case.

Mr Kozinski told jurors they would be required to sit through several hours of footage from Mr Isaacs' back catalogue to determine whether it was obscene. His films include Hollywood Scat Amateurs No.7 and Gang Bang Horse (Pony Sex Game). "I will be there watching with you," Mr Kozinski promised. "This is part of the job that we're doing."

Whether the judge will be able to continue his 26-year legal career, or the hearing, is uncertain.

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