Filmmaker Lawrence Brose’ Guilty Plea: What it Means

By William C. Altreuter

The case against my friend Lawrence Brose now moves into the sentencing
phase, which means that it is far from over. This, in turn, means that
Brose is still not really able to comment-- but I still can, and have, and

What is the take-away from the plea? This is a complicated question, but
anyone who thinks to ask it should know several things. Six years of a
legal battle is nothing like an ordinary plea bargain scenario.  From the
outset this case was different from nearly every child pornography
prosecution I’ve researched, simply because it wasn’t plead out at the
first opportunity.  The defense was pitched, and expensive. My estimate is
that there was at least another year of expensive legal knife fighting to
go before trial. What changed was that the US Attorney's office proposed a
plea. This is rare. Typically DOJ will accept guilty pleas to the top
count of the indictment-- the most serious charge. In this instance the
charge was reduced, from 18 USC § 1466A Obscene visual representations of
the sexual abuse of children, to 18 USC § 1462- Obscenity. The superseding
instrument referenced "viewing" a single image, instead 'possessing" over
a thousand referenced in the original indictment. What happened? It seems
pretty clear to me that the US Attorney's office acknowledged the weakness
of its case, and that Lawrence has elected to move forward with his life,
putting the crippling legal fees and toxic accusations behind him and
returning to making art and being a positive force in the Western New York
arts community.

Trial lawyers all know that litigation is something that you do until the
escalation reaches the point of irrationality. When a rational choice
presents itself, rational persons accept it. This plea means that Lawrence
will not be tagged as a sex offender (anyone who knows him will realize
what a grotesque thing that would have been). The downside risk of
sentencing is substantially mitigated, and as part of the agreement the
prosecution has agreed that it will not oppose a "non-guidelines"
sentence-- something that is even more unusual than an agreement to accept
a plea to a reduced charge.

Finally, a thought about the process. One of the things that I've noticed
as this matter ground on was how surprised many of Lawrence's friends were
by the grueling quality of a criminal prosecution. The right against
self-incrimination means that a defendant has to expect that anything he
says to anyone turns that person into a potential witness in the case
against him, and as a result the very people one might turn to for
emotional support are effectively pushed away at the exact moment when
sharing a confidence in exchange for emotional support is the most
important thing in the life of the accused. It is alienating, and
exhausting, and isolating; and the prosecution knows this and exploits it.
The people who have stood with Lawrence have my respect-- it isn't easy to
take a thing like this on faith. It is particularly difficult, I think,
when the process is so unfamiliar. We think we know about how the criminal
justice system works, but a case like this takes a lot longer than 43
minutes with time out for commercials. The prosecution of Lawrence Brose
is being carried out in our name-- it is literally The United States of
America vs. Lawrence Brose. The most powerful nation in the world against
a solitary artist, possessed of pretty much all of the resources that
you'd expect an experimental filmmaker would have. We should, as a
community, be better aware of the other things that are being done in our
name, and we ought to be calling for greater accountability and

In the coming weeks Lawrence will be reaching out to you for letters of
support to be submitted to the court by his attorneys, who will present
them in their sentencing memorandum.  Your letters will go a long way in
supporting him by speaking to his character, his importance as an artist,
his contributions to the community and the art world.

Yours truly,

William C. Altreuter
Altreuter Berlin
Attorneys for The Lawrence Brose Legal Defense Fund


Two links to current press reports:



We still need to remind everyone that freedom from this prosecution has
cost Lawrence dearly, financially and otherwise, and we need to continue
to raise significant funds for Lawrence’s mounting debt. To make tax
deductible donations toward Lawrence’s defense please log on to and donate to the Artist Defense Fund for
Lawrence Brose.

We want to encourage everyone to visit Lawrence’s defense fund website to
catch up on what is new, view the artwork that has been donated for sale
and read the compelling letters of support from notable people who have
voiced their outrage and concern for what is happening to Lawrence.

Thank you for your continued support.

The Lawrence Brose Legal Defense Fund Team

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