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First Amendment

Banning parolee from strip clubs and porn could violate First Amendment, says appellate court

Posted Sep 9, 2013 4:50 PM CDT
By Stephanie Francis Ward

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A restriction on viewing pornography and visiting strip clubs as a condition for parole infringed on an Alaska man’s constitutional rights, the Alaska Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday.

The matter involves Wassillie Johnston, 21, who pled guilty to third-degree sexual abuse of a minor. The incident happened in 2010, according to the Anchorage Daily News, and involved the then-18-year-old Johnston having "consensual" sex with a girl who was 14 years old. He is currently serving a two-year prison sentence.

Prosecutors argued during sentencing that avoiding pornography would help rehabilitate Johnston when he’s eligible for parole. For his conditions of parole, a trial judge ruled that Johnston must not visit "any establishment whose primary purpose is the sale of sexually explicit materials.” According to the newspaper, that includes strip clubs, adult bookstores, massage parlors and websites.

Johnston maintains that sexual materials or locations have nothing to do with his crime. The appellate court found that the ban could infringe on Johnston’s First Amendment rights. The opinion (PDF) notes that the trial judge gave no reason for imposing the ban.

There were "no findings supporting the imposition of these restrictions,” Judge Marjorie Allard wrote for the appellate court, “and no clarification of what these restrictions mean."

The appellate court ordered that the lower court issue a new decision on Johnson's parole conditions within 90 days, with clearer justification for the pornography restrictions if they remain.

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