Sunday, September 21, 2003

Man freed from prison in child pornography case

Prosecuted for writing stories of molestation

By Liz Sidoti
The Associated Press

COLUMBUS - A man imprisoned for writing fictitious stories of child torture and molestation returned home Friday, two months after a state appeals court threw out his child pornography conviction.

Brian Dalton - believed to be the first person in the United States successfully prosecuted for child pornography for writings instead of images - remains on house arrest at his parents' home and can have no contact with minors, under terms of his release.

The stories, which prosecutors say were made up and never acted on, were about three children - ages 10 and 11 - being caged in a basement, molested and tortured. The journal was so disturbing that grand jurors asked a detective to stop reading after about two pages.

"He's happy to be home. He obviously hopes ultimately to be free," said Benson Wolman, one of Dalton's attorneys. Dalton declined interview requests through Wolman.

Wolman said Dalton will remain on house arrest until his case ends.

Prosecutors have asked the Ohio Supreme Court to hear an appeal of the 10th Ohio District Court of Appeals' July dismissal of Dalton's guilty plea to obscenity charges. The appeals court agreed with Dalton that he initially received poor legal assistance. The case was sent back to Franklin County Common Pleas Court for a retrial.

"We will be asking the Supreme Court not to exercise that discretion," Wolman said. "We believe the court of appeals got it right."

Judge David Cain of Franklin County ordered Dalton's release Wednesday.

Wolman and a team of American Civil Liberties Union lawyers have argued that Dalton, 24, was wrongfully imprisoned for what should have been constitutionally protected free speech or, in this case, writings.

Dalton, of Columbus, pleaded guilty in July 2001 to pandering obscenity involving a minor, which falls under Ohio's pornography law. He later asked to withdraw the plea so he could fight the constitutionality of the law, but Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Nodine Miller refused. ACLU attorneys then appealed.

Dalton had argued that his former trial lawyer didn't inform him of the legal implications of a guilty plea or ask for an immediate dismissal on First Amendment grounds.

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