The recent arrest of Phillip Greaves by Florida authorities has constitutional advocates asking The Question.
Is free speech free?
CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin regarding Greaves controversial book:
"It's repulsive and awful. But I don't think they can go forward because the book is clearly protected by the First Amendment," Toobin said. "This book, as awful as it is, it is only words."Words on a page or over a computer screen gets a person arrested here in Florida. A conviction can result in sex offender registration.
Toobin pointed to a similar case that went to the Supreme Court in 2002 where cartoons depicting children in acts similar to ones in Greaves' book were deemed protected by the Constitution.
"Certainly the sheriff and I disagree about the constitutional issue, but I agree with him that the issue of child pornography is a very serious one and I'm certainly glad that law enforcement is taking an active stand against it," Toobin said.
Arresting officer Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd rebutted Toobin with the rationale behind the arrest.
"This has nothing to do with free speech and everything to do with obscenity," said Judd. "We had a law in Florida that applied. We only needed jurisdiction."
Judd said his detectives were able to establish jurisdiction by conducting an undercover operation and purchasing and receiving a copy of the book through the mail.
"He mailed this book to us. It was a how-to book of how to sexually abuse children," Judd said. "It clearly violated Florida law. "There's too much hand-wringing across the nation. When we can't stand together as a nation and say you can't write a book with real stories of children being sexually abused, then it's time to change the law."
The "mailed book" is the "opening of the door"method sting operations have utilized for years to obtain arrest warrants. Judd justified the Greaves arrest by citing "...a Florida obscenity law that says that it is illegal to portray children in an explicit sexual manner."
Ironically, the sheriff may have unwittingly opened his own door to inspection of best practices used by law enforcement.
With the high profile coverage this case will certainly receive by the press, the spotlight on police sting tactics and what some refer to as entrapment will likely prove intensive.