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Paul Reubens pleads guilty to obscenity charge

Prosecutors drop child pornography charge in plea deal
/ Source: The Associated Press

“Pee-wee Herman” actor Paul Reubens was sentenced to three years probation Friday after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor obscenity charge involving photographs seized from his erotica collection.

The former star of the “Pee-wee’s Playhouse” children’s TV show and two “Pee-wee” movies won’t be allowed unsupervised contact with minors during the probation period.

Under terms of a plea agreement that Superior Court Judge Carol H. Rehm approved, Reubens also agreed to pay a $100 fine and enter a counseling program for one year.

Prosecutors dismissed a misdemeanor charge of child pornography that had carried a maximum sentence of a year in jail and a $2,500 fine.

However, the 51-year-old Reubens agreed to register as a sex offender for the duration of his probation.

“We view both of these counts equally in terms of serious nature of child pornography,” said Eric Moses, a spokesman for the city attorney’s office.

The charge resulted from a search of Reubens’ home in November 2001. Police seized about 30,000 images from his photography collection and personal computers.

Reubens, who didn’t appear in court Friday, pleaded guilty through his attorney to possession of obscene materials with the intent to distribute, and in a Thursday court hearing he acknowledged possessing 170 images of minors engaged in sexual conduct, Moses said.

Evidence seized included images of minors with their genitals exposed, Moses contended.

“That mischaracterizes the art collection seized,” Reubens’ lawyer, Blair Berk said Friday. “If that means a black-and-white tintype from 1901 with a young man of indeterminate, 17- to 19-year-old age, laying on the beach after having gone skinny-dipping ... then they got it.”

“It was clear from the start that we, along with the many distinguished art experts supporting Paul’s art photography collection, vehemently disagreed with the city prosecutor’s view of what constitutes art,” Berk said.

In a statement, Reubens said he was glad that the child pornography charge had been dismissed without “a costly circus-like trial.”

“Taking responsibility by calling a few images in this collection ’obscene’ and paying a $100 fine seemed like the sanest way to make it end,” he said.

Once Reubens completes probation, the conviction can be expunged from his record, Berk said.

In 1991, Reubens pleaded no contest to an indecent exposure charge after his arrest in Sarasota, Fla., for allegedly exposing himself in a movie theater.