A Donora woman who ran a subscription-based Web site where she published stories depicting the rape, torture and murder of children pleaded guilty this morning in federal court to violating obscenity law.
Karen Fletcher, 56, requested to be sentenced immediately following the plea and was ordered by U.S. District Judge Joy Flowers Conti to serve five years probation, with the first six months on home confinement with electronic monitoring. She also must pay a $1,000 fine.
The government, which charged Ms. Fletcher with six counts, agreed incarceration was not appropriate.
Ms. Fletcher has a history of sexual abuse in her youth, and her attorney, Warner Mariani, has said that she published the graphic stories online as a type of therapy. She has a variety of mental illnesses, including agoraphobia, which is a fear of public places. Today was only the second time she appeared in court since she was first charged about two years ago.
Ms. Fletcher initially planned to fight the obscenity charges against her, arguing that the purely written word cannot amount to obscenity, but her fear of going to trial -- and possibly losing and being sentenced to prison -- was too much for her.
The government charged Ms. Fletcher with transmission of obscene matters. In an attempt to keep children from accessing the stories, Mr. Mariani has said, Ms. Fletcher charged a $10 monthly fee for the "Red Rose" stories Web site, and she had 29 subscribers.