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Owners of extreme pornography company plead guilty

By Paula Reed Ward

The owners of the California company indicted for distributing pornographic movies more than five years ago pleaded guilty this morning in federal court to one count of conspiracy.

Robert Zicari, 35, and his wife, Janet Romano, 32, entered a plea to conspiracy to distribute obscene materials dating from September 2000 to July 30, 2003. Mr. Zicari also entered a plea on behalf of his North Hollywood company, Extreme Associates Inc.

All three defendants were scheduled to go to trial before U.S. District Judge Gary L. Lancaster on 10 counts against them next week.

They were indicted in Pittsburgh by U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan in August 2003 for selling videos and clips online and through the mail of graphic pornography that featured scenes of simulated rape and torture.

Sentencing for all three defendants has been set for July 1.

At issue at sentencing will be what set of advisory guidelines should be used -- dating from either 2002 or today -- as well as whether there should be an enhancement because the videos included sadistic or masochistic scenes.

The sentencing range could be as low as 10 to 16 months or as high as 27 to 33 months in prison.

H. Louis Sirkin, the defense attorney who represented Mr. Zicari, said that plea negotiations in the case began a month ago.

"Concessions from both sides made it in the best interests of all parties [to plead guilty,]" he said. "This has gone on for a very, very long time. Everybody wants to get on with their lives."

One of those concessions, Mr. Sirkin said, is that there will not be a battle to determine how much revenue the company received from the sale of the films. Depending on that number, it could have significantly increased the potential prison time.

Since this case began, Extreme Associates has gone out of business.

"They're doing whatever they can to earn a living," Mr. Sirkin said.

Ms. Buchanan said that today's plea will put other companies that make pornography on notice that they must comply with the law.

"We knew that this was the right case to bring from the day we brought it," she said. "The materials produced by Extreme Associates were so far across the line between pornography and obscenity, we believe any jurisdiction across the country would have found the materials obscene."

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