Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Ira Reiner said Friday that his office is not planning to file criminal charges against sex film star Traci Lords, even though she was underage when she made many of her 75 movies and videos.
Reiner, however, said he would press charges against the pornographic film makers who employed Lords, if he could prove that they knew she was not yet 18 when she acted in the sexually explicit productions.
“The thrust of the investigation is directed toward the pornographic film industry that exploited her,” Reiner said. “There are no charges that we’re considering (against Lords).”
Explaining his position, Reiner told reporters:
“She may very well be a hard professional now, but she was 15 . . . when the pornographic film industry got a hold of her. She tells us that she was told, ‘Just get some kind of ID.’
“And it was, according to her, done with more of a wink and a nod than any serious effort to determine what her real age was.”
However, Lords, through her attorney, Leslie H. Abramson, denied late Friday that she ever made such statements.
Abramson said Reiner’s remarks must have come “off the top of his head--not out of her (Lords’) mouth.” Abramson would not allow reporters to interview Lords, who she said was secluded in an undisclosed location.
According to Reiner, the case first came to his attention two months ago, when an informant told the prosecutor’s office that Lords had been acting in pornographic films, even though she was underage. The matter, he said, was then turned over to juvenile investigators.
During the subsequent investigation, authorities determined that Lords had sought employment using identification stating that her name was Kristie Nussman and that her birth date was Nov. 17, 1962.
When investigators, using her birth certificate and state identification cards, located the real Kristie Nussman, she said her birth certificate had been stolen a couple years earlier and that an imposter had apparently forged her name on state forms.
Through the bogus ID card, investigators were able to locate Lords, who lives in Redondo Beach, and interviewed her early this week.
Reiner said Lords told the investigators that sex film producers had told her to “go out and get some kind of ID.”
“She did not, she tells us, take it all seriously, the manner of the request. That it was very clear to her that they were not interested in her age. They were interested in her just having something that could be shown. . . . They were using an attractive 15-year-old girl, and she was, I’m sure, grist for the mill, as far as they were concerned.”
Lords, whose real name is Nora Kuzma, was born in Steubenville, Ohio, on May 7, 1968, authorities confirmed.
In 1982, after her parents’ divorce, her mother took Nora and her three sisters to California and settled in Redondo Beach, The Times learned. Nora attended Redondo Union High School for two years, leaving school while a sophomore.
Two adults who knew Nora but who requested anonymity described her as “a cute and giggly sort of girl,” who began posing for adult magazines while still in high school.
Saw Her Picture
In July, 1984, they said, they saw her picture in the adult magazine Velvet, and they called the district attorney’s office to inform authorities that she was underage, but that an investigator told them, “There isn’t anything we can do about it.”
A Reiner spokesman said it is not known if there was any record of such a call.
Those who knowingly use a minor in sexually explicit films or publications or who sell or distribute such materials can be prosecuted under state or federal laws on either felony or misdemeanor charges.
When asked about the pictures in Velvet, the sources said Nora would only say that she had “modeling” jobs. Some of her jobs apparently were for commercial products, such as calendars, and did not involve nude poses, sources said.
Later, they said, Nora told friends that she had signed a contract to do “an aerobic scene” in a movie but would not talk about her role.
Apparently Nora had been carrying false identification as early as her freshman year at Redondo Union, the sources said. On one occasion, they said, she used a false state ID to buy a cocktail in a Redondo Beach restaurant.
When asked about it, they said, she commented, “It’s just something I have.”
In recent weeks, investigators executed search warrants at the actresses’ Redondo Beach residence; the Sun Valley offices of Vantage International Productions, a major producer of adult films, and the Sherman Oaks offices of modeling agent Jim Southe, who is credited with discovering the actress in 1984.
The investigators recovered video tapes of Lords’ movies, including “Traci Takes Tokyo,” “It’s My Body” and “Beverly Hills Copulator.”
They also found a birth certificate, a state identification card and U.S. passport in her apartment, all in Nussman’s name.
Carrying a false passport is a federal crime punishable by up to five years in prison, a $2,000 fine or both. A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office here declined to comment on whether the case was under investigation.
Reacting to comments by sex film makers that they were victimized by Lords using false identification, Reiner called such a defense “preposterous.”
“We’re all familiar with their high standards,” he said.
Reiner spokesman Schuyler Sprowles said the office’s continuing investigation has included interviews with several individuals “associated in the production of the early performances of Traci Lords.”
“At this point, it is not clear if ultimately there’ll be any prosecution,” Sprowles said. “It’s not an all-out assault on the porn industry that we’re engaged in. The investigation is focused very narrowly.”
Reiner said it is unclear how many pornographic film producers might be questioned. He added that he had no plans to bring before the county grand jury pornography industry personnel who refuse to answer investigators’ questions.
On Thursday, John Weston, attorney for the Adult Film and Video Assn. of America, said video rental shops should pull any film featuring Nora made before last May, when she turned 18.
A check of a dozen video rental shops around Los Angeles on Friday turned up only one store with a large selection of Traci Lords tapes still in stock.
“I don’t know anything about (a recall),” said sales clerk Jesse Castello at Video Movie Plaza on Vermont Avenue. “A lot of our customers like Traci Lords.”
Reiner’s office said it had not confiscated any Lords videos, but the district attorney said anyone selling them from this point on will be committing a crime, because “now they are on notice.”
Times staff writers Sandra Crockett, John Fung and Claudia Puig and City Desk Assistant Alma Cook contributed to this story.