Woman sentenced for Web site with 'obscene' stories

A Pennsylvania woman has been sentenced to five years of probation, including six months of home detention, and forfeiture of her computer after pleading guilty Thursday to obscenity charges for running a Web site that featured text stories that were sexual and violent in nature.

Karen Fletcher, 56,of Donora, Pennsylvania, owned and operated the Web site, Red Rose Stories, which featured stories describing sexual molestation and violence against children. Other stories included torture, rape and murder of children, and Fletcher sold memberships to her site, where members could get full stories, the U.S. Department of Justice said.

Fletcher, using the pen name Red Rose, wrote most of the stories herself, the DOJ said. Some of the stories were available as audio files, but the site didn't include photos, according to press reports.

Fletcher reportedly was abused as a child and started the site as a form of therapy, according to news reports.

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation ordered the site closed in late 2005. Some constitutional lawyers have questioned the prosecution of Fletcher, saying many pieces of popular literature have contained similar descriptions of abuse or murder.

Fletcher pleaded guilty Thursday in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania in Pittsburgh to six counts of using an interactive computer service to distribute obscene materials. She must serve the first six months of her probation under home detention and pay a US$1,000 fine, Judge Joy Flowers Conti ruled.

Mary Beth Buchanan, the U.S. attorney in the Western District of Pennsylvania, has filed obscenity charges against several defendants.

Buchanan "has gone on a rampage trying to stamp out expression that doesn't meet her standards of morality," Marc John Randazza, a law professor at the Barry University School of Law in Orlando, wrote on his blog.

Randazza, who teaches about free speech rights and other legal issues, acknowledges that the content of Red Rose Stories was shocking, but he suggested the U.S. Constitution protects fictional stories. "If you believe in the Constitution, and you believe in what this country means, you can NOT believe that any American should ever face prison for writing fiction -- no matter what the subject matter of that fiction might be," he wrote in a blog post.

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