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Christopher Handley Sentenced to 6 Months for 'Obscene' Manga (Updated)

posted on 2010-02-11 16:39 EST
Prison sentence followed by 3 years of supervised release, 5 years of probation

Christopher Handley, the Iowa man on trial for possessing manga "drawings of children being sexually abused," was sentenced on Thursday to six months in prison. Following this sentence, Handley must serve three years of supervised release and five years of probation. Both of these terms will start upon his release from prison and will run concurrently. Handley also agreed to forfeit all seized materials, including his computer. During Handley's supervised release and probation, Handley must also "participate in a treatment program, to include psychological testing and a polygraph examination, as directed by the U. S. Probation Officer." According to earlier court documents, this last provision is "intended to provide [Handley] with diagnosis and treatment for sexually and/or gender identity or other mental health issues."

Handley pleaded guilty to his charges in May 2009.

Items Seized

Included in the court documents is the list of the seven books that Handley had shipped to him and that U.S. Post Office officials seized in May 2006. The seizure led to a warrant to search Handley's home and eventually being charged for possession of obscene materials. The seven books are:

  • Mikansei Seifuku Shōjo (Unfinished School Girl) by Yuki Tamachi (LE Comics)
  • I [Heart] Doll by Makafusigi (Seraphim Comics)
  • Kemono for ESSENTIAL 3 (THE ANIMAL SEX ANTHOLOGY Vol.3) by Masato Tsukimori et al (Izumi Comics)
  • Otonari Kazoku (Neighboring House Family) by Nekogen (MD Comics)
  • Eromon by Makafusigi (Seraphim Comics)
  • Kono Man_ ga Sugoi! (This Man_ is Awesome!) by Makafusigi (Seraphim Comics)
  • Hina Meikyū (Doll Labyrinth) by Makafusigi (Seraphim Comics)

Each of these volumes of manga, according to court documents, contained minors engaged in sexual acts, sexual abuse on minors from adults, or minors engaged in bestiality. In addition, when law officials searched Handley's home, they seized more than 1,200 items, including manga and other documents. However, most were returned to Handley after they were determined to not "constitute or contain contraband." More than 80 books were retained. Court documents revealed that many of the books retained were from the anthology Comic LO (LO meaning "Lolita Only"). Handley admitted to buying the aforementioned seven books from a place called "cosplay café," and told officials he had ordered "similar materials earlier from 'Jlist' in Japan and 'Mand[a]rake.com.'"

Handley's Personal History

Included in the defense's documents is a brief biography of Handley's life. According to these documents, Handley was an introverted child with an interest in science fiction and fantasy. After graduating high school, he enrolled in the U.S. Navy, and was later discharged due to a preexisting medical condition. He received an Associate's Degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Programming in 1995, graduating with a grade point average of 4.0. He immediately started work as a computer programmer in 1995 for a company that he stayed with until 2007 — when his employer learned of his pending charges. The documents stated Handley returned to live in his mother's house so he could assist her due to her medical problems. The defense document stated that Handley spent his free time attending a Bible study group, playing online games, and reading comics.

Handley's Anime History

In a statement from Handley included in the documents, he described how he got into anime in 1992-1995 when he was in college. Handley specifically mentioned Record of Lodoss War as one of the anime he watched during this time period. Handley said he then explored materials of a more adult nature as the Internet became popular. His interests then "evolved" into a "fascination for images of young girls engaged in sexual activity." Handley added that he "didn't realize that this material fell under the banned paraphernalia within the US." Handley said if he had known the material was against the law he would "never have ordered it and would have destroyed any of it that I currently am in possession of." Defense documents also stated that Handley was aware of the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court had "recently held a statute outlawing 'virtual' child pornography to violate the Constitution."

According to the prosecution's documents, Handley "spent the past 17 years collecting over a thousand works of manga from Japan of a sexual nature, using images of young girls in such books as a substitute for sex. He reads as many as 35 manga books a week, and has thousands of DVDs of Japanese anime." According to the defense's documents, Handley's collection of "lolicon" was only a small portion of his entire collection, which "consisted of tens of thousands of manga and anime, representing all genre of the art form."

Prosecution's Argument on Obscene Material

As part of the prosecution's argument, although Handley did not have any criminal history nor did he possess any real child pornographic images, Handley admitted he searched the Internet for manga with stories involving the sexual abuse of minors. The prosecution also stated that "The works at issue do not even have arguable scientific, literary, artistic, or political value, such as Vladimir Nabokov's famed novel, Lolita, Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, or even Alan Moore's recent, but controversial, graphic novel, Lost Girls. By the defendant's own statements, the works for which he was convicted of receiving and possessing are clearly obscene."

Defense's Argument on Similar Cases

Part of the defense's strategy was to point out that there have been no other cases in the court's jurisdiction where a person had been prosecuted for possession of obscene materials depicting the sexual exploitation of children, if they only possessed "non-child pornographic pictures." The defense added that the only other defendants who were prosecuted on possession of material that did not contain photographic images of actual minors were prosecuted under a previous statute that was invalidated by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2002 in the case of Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition.

Reference Letters and Handley's Psychological Assessment

Included in court documents are scans of reference letters from family, friends and coworkers sent to the court on Handley's behalf. Also included is a letter from a certified psychologist explaining that there is currently "no risk assessment instruments developed to estimate risk for future sexual offending for individuals possessing sexual images in Manga or Anime." Handley's original psychological assessment determined that Handley, "although honest with what he reported, was not disclosing enough to gain a complete picture of the nature and extent of [his] sexual deviancy … The main finding from the testing results is that Mr. Handley produced a guarded, defensive, and evasive profile. His test taking behavior suggests there is likely more to know about him than he is willing to disclose at this time."

Proposed Changes to Handley's Supervised Release

In a memorandum attached to the sentencing, the defense has asked that the court make clear that Handley will not have to register as a sex offender, and has asked to change some of the conditions of his supervised release, including his access to a computer and Internet and having contact with minors.

Update: A censored selection of the seized books' cover images has been added above.


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