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War porn Webmaster charged with obscenity. A coincidence?

When officials with the Department of Defense learned that soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan were e-mailing pictures of mutilated corpses in return for free pornography ("War Pornography," 9/21), they claimed the law was ambiguous about the practice. But one thing seemed clear: the Web site's administrator, entrepreneur Chris Wilson, had done nothing illegal. Sheriff's deputies in Polk County, Florida, apparently disagree.

On October 8, deputies arrested Wilson at his Lakeland apartment and seized several computers, digital recording equipment, a nun's outfit, and a maid's fetish costume. Wilson, a former police officer, was released on $101,000 bail but was unavailable for comment before press time. His supporters have created a new Web site, FreeChris.org, where they solicit donations to his legal defense fund and call on his fans to "help preserve First Amendment rights and stop the censorship machine."

Officials charged Wilson with one felony count and three hundred misdemeanor counts of indecency. The felony charge carries a possible sentence of five years in prison, and each misdemeanor count could result in a jail sentence of one year. County officials claimed the charges pertain solely to Wilson's nude photographs. But his attorney, Lawrence Walters, told the Associated Press that the timing could hardly be an accident. "Of all the hundreds of thousands of Webmasters in the country, and even in Central Florida, why would Chris Wilson be arrested a week after his national spotlight news on the Iraqi war photos?" Walters said.

At his porn Web site, NowThatsFuckedUp.com, Wilson has created a new section about his legal problems and posted a manifesto about the First Amendment. "America isn't easy," he wrote. "America is advanced citizenship. You've gotta want it bad, 'cause it's gonna put up a fight. It's gonna say, 'You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who's standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.'" Wilson's stirring words may sound familiar, but none of our republic's founders wrote them. Rather, they're from a soliloquy in the early-'90s movie The American President.

Members of Wilson's site have posted messages offering moral support and denouncing the government. "I served my country hard and proud and took bullets for Bush, but I'm still not convinced we're totally free in this country," one person wrote. Another member, who was apparently a soldier stationed overseas, wrote, "Big wigs send us off to war but cannot handle the images we bring back to them." Wilson later replied: "Thank you guys so much for your support. When I get feeling down I come over here and read these."

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