In Tulsa, Okla., it's not easy to find X-rated videos. Even at the all-night Whittier Newsstand on North Lewis Avenue, which is known for its selection of nudie magazines, the sexiest movies for sale are the soft-core sort that appear on cable TV. But next month, Tulsa will become the battlefield in a major new Federal war against pornography. The first courtroom trial in a nationwide campaign to prosecute video pornographers is scheduled to begin Jan. 22 in the U.S. District Court in Tulsa.
The Tulsa case culminated a year of quiet work by the FBI and the Justice Department, which are launching the most aggressive attack against X-rated cassettes in the 14-year history of video porn. The opening shot was fired last January when FBI agents, posing as video store owners from Broken Arrow, Okla., just outside Tulsa, ordered copies of the X-rated Sorority Pink, Sorority Pink II,Backdoor Lust, and Awesome at a Las Vegas video convention. Once the cassettes were delivered to Broken Arrow, the California-based distributor, Cal Vista Ltd., and two of its officers, Jack Gallagher and Sidney Niekerk, were slapped with a five-count felony indictment, including interstate transportation of obscene material and conspiracy. And lest anyone mistake the legal action for an isolated instance, U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh issued a statement saying, ''This indictment stakes out our commitment to aggressively pursue large-scale producers of illegal hard-core pornography...in every state in the nation.''
Over the past year, the FBI has been warming up for such a pursuit. The Bureau has conducted nearly 30 searches against hard-core video producers, and undercover agents have ordered tapes from addresses in Arkansas, Alabama, Oklahoma, and other states with large conservative populations. Most legal authorities agree that obscenity convictions are far easier to come by in the Bible Belt than in Los Angeles, where most porn companies are based, and the firms involved could face the added handicap of being indicted in several different districts at once. Department of Justice spokesman Douglas Tillett denies that these actions mean that the feds are ''venue shopping'' for hospitable places to prosecute. ''We have cases pending in Washington, D.C., and Las Vegas, too,'' he says.