The San Fernando Valley's thriving sex industry landed two local residents in court within the last week, one in federal court in Kentucky and the other in Municipal Court here in Los Angeles.
Mark C. Carriere of Encino, considered one of the nation's largest producers and distributors of sexually explicit material, was fined $850,000 by a federal judge last week in Louisville, Ky., where last year he pleaded guilty to four counts of obscenity for shipping his company's videos and magazines through the mail.
The 40-year-old pornographer, who has a history of convictions for obscenity and tax evasion, was also ordered to donate an additional $250,000 to three Louisville-area children's charities by U.S. District Court Judge John Heyburn, who placed him on three years' probation instead of sending him to prison as federal prosecutors had requested. Heyburn also ordered Carriere to perform a total of 2,400 hours of community service, or 800 hours during each year of his probation term.
Carriere's company, Leisure Time Entertainment, is based in his hometown of Merrillville, Ind., and in Van Nuys.
Carriere's lawyer said Wednesday that Leisure Time's tapes and magazines--which he described as hard-core depictions of mainstream sex involving no violence, animals or children--were no different from those found in neighborhood video stores and adult shops throughout much of the nation.
"But within our country there are little enclaves of conservative thinking" that consider such material obscene, said defense lawyer Arthur Schwartz of Denver, Colo.
Schwartz noted that Carriere had been caught in an undercover investigation conducted by the Louisville postal inspector, who ordered the materials from Leisure Time's Indiana headquarters between 1992 and 1993.
Rather than risk the possibility of being convicted by a Louisville jury and facing as much as 42 months in prison and $2.5 million in fines, Schwartz said, Carriere struck a plea bargain that assured him no more than six months in prison. Ultimately, he received no prison time but was ordered to pay an additional $600,000 in fines.
Although the fines levied against Carriere and his company were undoubtedly large, Schwartz said, they were not the biggest ever paid by the pair. In 1992, Carriere and his firm agreed to pay $3.5 million in fines, which his lawyer called a record, after an obscenity conviction in Tallahassee, Fla.
On a far lesser scale, Mitchell Weston of Woodland Hills was fined $1,350 in Los Angeles Municipal Court on Wednesday after he pleaded no contest to filming sex acts at a rented house in the 4900 block of Kelvin Avenue. His company--P.W. Productions, which is also known as Plum Productions--pleaded no contest to stealing city electricity by illegally tapping into a power box and was ordered to reimburse $1,000 to the Department of Water and Power.
Weston, 37, was charged after a neighbor on the quiet Woodland Hills street complained to Councilman Marvin Braude's office about seeing sex acts filmed there. When Los Angeles police arrived last May 4 to investigate, they not only found power cables illegally attached to a DWP power box, but a man and a woman being filmed as they engaged in a sex act on a second-floor balcony.
But unlike Carriere, Weston wasn't convicted of obscenity. His crime--other than stealing the city electricity--was failing to obtain a city filming permit.