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Alan M. Dershowitz, professor of Law, will defend the male lead of "Deep Throat" against a federal conspiracy charge when his case comes up for appeal before the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati next spring.
Harry Reems and 16 co-defendants were convicted by a Memphis federal court April 30 of participation in a nationwide conspiracy to make and distribute the allegedly pornographic film.
Dershowitz yesterday called the "Deep Throat" appeal "a very serious and important civil liberties case."
"It's an easy case to make backroom jokes about," he said. "But this is the first time in American history a participant in a film, an actor, has been charged with federal conspiracy."
Reems, who is scheduled to stand trial in Memphis next October for his performance in "The Devil in Miss Jones," said yesterday the "Deep Throat" case involves precedents on the "constitutional and entertainment industry levels."
"I've become a catalyst for a cause," Reems, whose real name is Herbert Streicher, said. "I hope I don't become a martyr."
Dershowitz says he is concerned principally with what he calls the "retrospective aspects" of the case, rather than the obscenity question.
Reems's one-day acting stint in "Deep Throat" took place in 1972, when the U.S. Supreme Court required that a film, to be pornographic, had to be without redeeming social value.
In 1973, the court modified this ruling and made pornography convictions easier by considering obscene any film that offends "contemporary community standards."
"What Reems did was legal at the time he did it," Dershowitz said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Larry E. Parrish, who prosecuted the case, yesterday termed Dershowitz's contention that Reems could not have been convicted under the old court test "sheer speculation at the very best."
"The Supreme Court has said over and over again that the law has never changed," Parrish said.
Dershowitz is also claiming that it is unfair to convict Reems of conspiracy since he had no interest in the film's distribution.
Parrish claims, however, that Reems is liable for conspiracy because he knew the nature of the film before he acted in it and because, under federal law, "you remain a member of a conspiracy until you do an affirmative act to disavow or defeat the conspiracy."
"For him to say 'I did nothing but take my clothes off' is an oversimplification," Parrish said.
"What's he supposed to do now to stop the conspiracy, destroy the film?" Dershowitz said.
Reems, who says his performances have "probably sold more ticket to porno films than anyone else in the business," said he asked Dershowitz to represent him because "I went to find the best in the land and Alan Dershowitz is certainly up there among the top two or three, and he's certainly got some experience in obscenity."
Dershowitz previously participated in the successful defense of the Boston company of "Hair," which was charged with a similar conspiracy at the state level.
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