Florida jury acquits man of obscenity over topless nun T-shirt

Thursday, February 19, 1998

OCALA, Fla. (AP)—A man who faced obscenity charges for wearing a controversial T-shirt was acquitted.

Andrew Love, 22, was arrested after being spotted in a T-shirt promoting the English death-metal band Cradle of Filth. It happened Nov. 28 in the parking lot of the Paddock Mall.

When the words “not guilty” were announced Feb. 18 by a court clerk, Love jubilantly banged his fists on the defense table and exclaimed, “Yes!”

One of the Marion County jurors, who spoke with the Ocala Star-Banner on condition of anonymity, said the jury could not find Love guilty, “no matter how offended we were” by the shirt, because they did not believe it met the requirements of obscenity under the law.

The shirt depicts a topless woman in nun’s garb, apparently masturbating. All six jurors five of whom were women, said they were religious during jury selection Monday.

Under Florida law, obscene material is that which the average person, applying contemporary community standards, believes would appeal to a prurient, shameful or morbid interest. In order to be illegal, it must also depict sexual material in a patently offensive way and, when taken as a whole, it must be devoid of any serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.

Love, who wept openly after the verdict, said he was surprised because “this is a really conservative community.”

Assistant State Attorney Steve Rogers, who prosecuted the case, said he wasn’t surprised by the verdict because “obscenity cases are tough to prove.”

Jim Reich, one of Love’s defense attorneys, said afterwards: “Anytime (a verdict) is in favor of expression and not censorship, it’s a good thing.”

Love did not get his T-shirt back; it was kept as part of the trial record.

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