Twenty five years ago today, Charlie Freeman, the owner of E-C Records in Fort Lauderdale is charged with illegally selling the rap album “As Nasty As They Wanna Be.” Two days before the arrest, U.S. District Judge Jose Gonzalez had ruled that “2 Live Crew’s” recording was legally obscene.
The record store owner had 25 copies of the album and a line outside the store to buy them. He had sold 23 of the copies and sold the 24th to an undercover officer. Six deputies rushed into the store, handcuffed Charlie Freeman and charged him with distributing obscene material.
Quoting Judge Gonzalez- he said, “the album was an appeal to dirty thoughts and the loins” and it aimed to “lure listeners into sexual activity.” He also stated that the album’s “borrowed riffs was wholly lacking in artistic value.”
That last judicial comment got the judge’s ruling overturned by a court of appeals which called out the judge for basing his ruling strictly on his own opinion and feelings.
The only problem was the ruling came too late to help Charlie Freeman. He was convicted earlier and fined $1000. Judge Gonzalez would not allow the defense to present evidence the album was not patently offensive.
2 Live Crew went to trial (before the overturned ruling) but they walked because the prosecution screwed up royally. They had recorded the live “obscene” performance on cassette and it was completely unintelligible at the trial. Judge dismissed the charges.
SO…cute story so far. Charlie Freeman and 2 Live Crew were finally vindicated.
But Charlie Freeman couldn’t pay his legal bills or his rent on his record store. He was deep in debt.
One year after he should have been celebrating his overturned conviction, Charlie Freeman was busted selling crack cocaine in Tallahassee. He received an 18 year prison term.
Speak from the grave Mr. Paul Harvey….
“And Now You Know The Rest Of the Story.”