An obscenity trial in San Francisco had to be put on hold after it was discovered that the presiding judge's website contained sexually explicit and offensive images.
Material found on judge Alex Kozinski's site, which has now been blocked, included a video of a half-naked man cavorting with a sexually aroused farm animal and a photo of naked women on all fours painted to look like cows, along with images of masturbation and contortionist sex.
Koziniski is the chief judge of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, the largest in the country. It has jurisdiction over nine western states
Prosecutors requested stay to explore the obvious conflict of interest that could be created by the presiding judge having a sexually explicit website with similar material to what is on trial. The filmmaker, Ira Isaacs, is accused of distributing criminally obscene sexual fetish videos.
Isaacs faces up to 20 years in jail and a huge fine if convicted of selling criminally obscene fetish videos depicting bestiality and defecation.
But his trial at the Los Angeles Federal Court was put on hold just hours after it opened a few days ago after an LA Times report about obscene material posted online by Judge Alex Kozinski. The judge agreed to the prosecution's request for a 48-hour delay so that the Justice Department could look into possible issues of prejudice in the case.
According to the LA Times, the material on Kozinski's website could only be accessed by those who knew to type in the name of a subdirectory to which there was no visible link. Apart from family documents and photographs there were also images of masturbation and public sex as well as a "slide show striptease featuring a transsexual and a folder that contained a series of photos of women's crotches in snug-fitting clothing or underwear".
Kozinski's defence was that he was unaware that photographs posted on his personal site could be viewed by the public and that he had removed the pictures. He was also quoted as saying that he did not believe any of the images on the site qualified as obscene.
"Is it prurient? I don't know what to tell you," he said. "I think it's odd and interesting. It's part of life."
He also defended as humorous a picture showing two women sitting in a cafe with their skirts hiked up to reveal their pubic hair. Behind them is a sign reading "Bush for President".
"That is a funny joke," Kozinski said.
A judge for nearly three decades, 57-year-old Kozinski was appointed to the federal bench by Ronald Reagan in 1985. A few years later the first President Bush seriously considered nominating him for Supreme Court openings in 1990 and 1991. In 2001 the judge led a successful campaign to stop court officials in Washington D.C. from monitoring the internet use of federal judges and court employees.
There were also said to be more than a dozen copyrighted music tracks listed on the site in MP3 format from artists including Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan and Weird Al Yankovic.
Kozinski was born in Romania, the son of Holocaust survivors, and came to America at the age of 12. Six years later, in 1968, he won a date on an episode of the TV show "The Dating Game" after greeting the contestant with "good afternoon, flower of my heart".
He builds his own computers, describes himself as an authority on snowboarding and has written video game reviews for the Wall Street Journal.
He told San Francisco Chronicle that he and his family have had the Web site since 2002 and used it to store a variety of material, including family photos, articles and other pictures. Until recently, he said, he had believed it was a private site that outsiders could see only with his permission.
"I don't pay much attention to what's on there," Kozinski said. "There's lots of stuff I see (on the site) and I don't remember. I haven't gone through and looked at it. Some of it, I should have. ... I had no intention of making these files public."
He said one of his sons called him after the newspaper article appeared and told him he had uploaded some of the sexually explicit images.
"Judges have a private life," Kozinski said. "We just need to be a little more careful to keep it private. Sometimes it's hard to know where to draw the line."
Jean Rosenbluth, a law professor at the University of Southern California and a former federal prosecutor, said Kozinski should probably step down from the case if the prosecutor requests it.
"Justice is concerned not just with actual conflicts but with the appearance of impartiality," Rosenbluth said.