Judge won't suppress statements by suspect in obscenity case

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A federal judge yesterday denied a motion to suppress statements made by a Donora woman charged with transmitting obscene materials.

Karen Fletcher, 56, is charged with six counts of sending lewd stories, depicting the rape and killing of children, on the Internet.

Ms. Fletcher ran what was known as the "Red Rose" Web site, where she posted her fictional stories.

She charged subscribers -- there were only 29 -- $10 per month to belong to the site.

At a hearing yesterday before U.S. District Judge Joy Flowers Conti, Ms. Fletcher's defense attorney tried to argue that when his client was interviewed by FBI agents in February 2005, she should have been read her Miranda rights, warning her that what she said could be used against her.

But the two FBI agents who interviewed her said at the time that they weren't even sure what Ms. Fletcher was doing was a crime.

"She did ask as we were leaving if she was in trouble and about her First Amendment rights," testified Special Agent Christopher Cantrell. "I told her I didn't know, because I didn't."

Ms. Fletcher is the first person charged in this district in decades with obscenity related strictly to written materials.

Another obscenity case related to violent and graphic pornography is currently pending before U.S. District Judge Gary L. Lancaster. In that case, the owners of a company known as Extreme Associates Inc., which makes films that depict the rape and murder of women, are charged with conspiracy, mailing obscene materials and transportation of obscene matter for sale.

Though the indictment in that case was handed up in August 2003, no trial date has been set.

During her interview with FBI agents, Ms. Fletcher, who was cooperative and friendly, said she had been abused as a child and she wrote the stories as a type of therapy.

Judge Conti, in ruling from the bench, found that Ms. Fletcher had no reason to believe she was in custody during the interview, which was conducted at her home, and therefore, a Miranda warning was not necessary.

Defense attorneys also filed a motion seeking to suppress evidence seized during a search of Ms. Fletcher's home, arguing that the warrant authorizing the search was too broad.

The judge has not yet ruled on that motion.

Paula Reed Ward can be reached at pward@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2620.


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