4.3 The Role of Organized Crime

Part: 
Two
Chapter: 
4

We have spent a considerable amount of our time attempting to determine whether there is a connection between the pornography industry and what is commonly taken to be "organized crime." After hearing from a large number of witnesses, mostly law enforcement personnel, after reading a number of reports prepared by various law enforcement agencies, and after consulting sources such as trial transcripts, published descriptions, and the like, we believe that such a connection does exist.

We recognize that the statement that there is a connection between the pornography industry and organized crime is contrary to the conclusion reached by the President's Commission on Obscenity and Pornography in 1970. That Commission concluded that:

Although many persons have alleged that organized crime works hand-in-glove with the distributors of adult materials, there is at present no concrete evidence to support these statements. The hypothesis that organized criminal elements either control or are "moving in" on the distribution of sexually oriented materials will doubtless continue to be speculated upon. The panel finds that there is insufficient evidence at present to warrant any conclusion in this regard.

Caution about jumping too easily to conclusions about organized crime involvement in the pornography industry was further induced by the evidence offered to us by Director William H. Webster of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Director Webster surveyed the FBI field offices throughout the country, and reported to us that "about three quarters of those [fifty-nine] offices indicated that they have no verifiable information that organized crime was involved either directly or through extortion in the manufacture of pornography. Several offices, did, however, report some involvement by members and associates of organized crime."[43] We reach our conclusions in the face of a negative conclusion by the 1970 Commission, evidence by the FBI, not so much because we disagree, but because we feel that more careful analysis will reveal that the discrepancies are less than they may at first appear.

One leading cause of conflicting views about organized crime involvement in pornography is that there are conflicting views about what organized crime is. To many people organized crime consists of that organization or network of related organizations commonly referred to by law enforcement personnel and others as La Cosa Nostra. This organization, which we describe in much more detail later in our Report specifically addressing on organized crime, is a highly structured and elaborately subdivided organization in some way involved in an enormous range of criminal activities. It has its own hierarchy, its own formalized system of ranks and methods of advancement, and its own procedures for settling disputes. Commonly, although in our view erroneously, La Cosa Nostra and "organized crime" are synonymous.

To other people organized crime consists of any large and organized enterprise engaged in criminal activity, regardless of any connection with La Cosa Nostra. To the extent that enterprises have continuity and a defined membership and engage in crime, then this is considered to be organized crime.

Finally, to still others the "best" definition of organized crime lies somewhere in between. For them organized crime consists of a large and organized enterprise engaged in criminal activity, with a continuity, a structure, and a defined membership, and that is likely to use other crimes and methods of corruption, such as extortion, assault, murder, or bribery, in the service of its primary criminal enterprise.

These differences in definition are especially important with respect to identifying the connection between the pornography industry and organized crime, because much of the evidence supports the conclusion that major parts of the industry are controlled by organizations that fit the second or third but not the first of the foregoing definitions. In particular, there is strong evidence that a great deal of the pornographic film and video tape distribution, is controlled by one Reuben Sturman, operating out of the Cleveland area, but with operations and controlled organizations throughout the country. Although we inevitably must rely on secondary evidence, it appears to us that Sturman's enterprise is highly organized and predominantly devoted to the vertically integrated production, distribution, and sale of materials that would most likely be determined to be legally obscene in most parts of the country. Of this we are certain, and to that extent we could say that significant parts of the pornography industry are controlled by organized crime. We also have some but less clear evidence that organizations like Sturman's, but not quite as large, play similar roles, and that all of these various organizations at times have employed other activities that themselves violate the law in order to further the production, distribution, and sale of pornographic materials. In this sense these organizations would fit the third as well as the second definition of organized crime.

We also have strong reason to believe, however, that neither Sturman's organization, nor some substantially smaller ones, are themselves part of La Cosa Nostra. In that sense this part of the industry would not fit the first of the above definitions of organized crime. We do not say that there are no connections with La Cosa Nostra. On the contrary, there seems to be evidence, frequently quite strong evidence, of working arrangements, accommodations, assistance, some sharing of funds, and the like, as well as evidence of control by La Cosa Nostra, but nothing that would justify saying that these organizations are La Cosa Nostra or are part of La Cosa Nostra.

Much the same could be said about the relationship between smaller pornography operators and La Cosa Nostra. Again there seems little evidence of direct ownership, operation, or control, but there does seem to be a significant amount of evidence that "protection" of these smaller operators by La Cosa Nostra is both available and required. This applies in some areas to distribution, in some to production, and in some to retail outlets themselves, in much the same way that it applies frequently to many more legitimate businesses. But we are not reluctant to conclude that in many aspects of the pornography business that La Cosa Nostra is getting a piece of the action.

This is not to say that La Cosa Nostra is not itself engaged in pornography. There also seems strong evidence that significant portions of the pornographic magazine industry, the peep show industry, and the pornographic film industry are either directly operated or closely controlled by La Cosa Nostra members or very close associates. Major portions of these industries seem to be as much a part of La Cosa Nostra as any other of their activities. At times there is direct involvement by La Cosa Nostra even with the day-to-day workings of business, and in many cases there is clear control even when the everyday management is left to others. In many of the reports and other documents we have received there has been evidence to the effect that members of the Columbo, DeCavalcante, Gambino, and Luchese "families" have been actively in as well as merely associated with the production, distribution, and sale of unquestionably pornographic materials. There is much evidence that alleged La Cosa Nostra members such as Robert " and others are or have in the recent past been major figures in the national distribution of such materials. Although we cannot say that every piece of evidence we have received to this effect is true, the possibility that none of this cumulative evidence is true is so remote that we do not take it seriously.

As was the case with many other topics within our mandate, our lack of investigative resources has made it impossible to investigate these matters directly. Moreover, the matters to be investigated with respect to organized crime are, as has been well known for decades, so clandestine that thorough investigation without conflicting information is virtually impossible to accomplish. Nevertheless, there has been much investigation by federal and state authorities, and we have found it important to rely on those investigations. We include as an appendix to the later specific discussion of organized crime a number of those reports prepared by other law enforcement agencies. We are indebted to all of those who have worked on these reports, for without them our investigation would have been much less complete. At times there is information in these reports that we are unsure of, but we have little doubt as to the general truth of the big picture painted by these reports, and we have little hesitancy in relying on them to the extent either of agreeing with the big picture, or of agreeing with specific facts where those facts recur in consistent form in information from a number of different sources. The general picture seems clear, and we invite recourse to those specific reports to fill out this general conclusion that seems most appropriate as a statement from us.

Notes

  1. We note, however, that a report prepared by the FBI in 1978, which is included in a later portion of this report, contains detailed information regarding various links between organized crime and the pornography industry.