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Case Basics
Docket No. 
United States
X-Citement Video
(Argued the cause for the respondents)
(Argued the cause for the United States)
Facts of the Case 

The Protection of Children Against Sexual Exploitation Act of 1977 prohibited the interstate transportation, shipping, receipt, distribution, or reproduction of visual materials containing children engaged in sexually explicit acts. Richard Gottesman, owner and manager of X-Citement Video, sold forty-nine tapes to undercover officers. Gottesman shipped the videos, containing pornographic acts by industry legend Traci Lords before she turned eighteen, to Hawaii. Although he claimed he did not know the tapes contained underage pornographic acts, Gottesman was arrested for violating the sexual exploitation act.


Did the Act's use of the term "knowingly" violate the First Amendment's Free Speech clause by not mandating a showing that the alleged offender knew which materials contained under-age performances?

Decision: 7 votes for United States, 2 vote(s) against
Legal provision: 18 U.S.C. 2252

No. The Court relied on an awkward grammatical construction as it held that the term "knowingly" applied to the entire passage of the law. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice William Rehnquist stated that other interpretations failed to make sense since Congress obviously did not envision people accidentally mailing underage pornographic materials. All the law required was a showing that alleged violators intentionally distributed illegal pornography, regardless of whether they knew it depicted underage performances.

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UNITED STATES v. X-CITEMENT VIDEO. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 26 August 2015. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1994/1994_93_723>.
UNITED STATES v. X-CITEMENT VIDEO, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1994/1994_93_723 (last visited August 26, 2015).
"UNITED STATES v. X-CITEMENT VIDEO," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 26, 2015, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1994/1994_93_723.