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Alexander v. United States

United States Supreme Court
509 U.S. 544 (1993)

Alexander v. United States


Alexander (defendant) was in the adult entertainment business for over thirty years. He worked with pornographic magazines and sexual paraphernalia, sexually explicit movies, and sold and rented sexually explicit videotapes. He received shipments of these materials at a warehouse in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where they were wrapped in plastic, priced, and boxed. Alexander then sold his products through thirteen retail stores in several different Minnesota cities, generating millions of dollars in annual revenues. Alexander was convicted in a full criminal trial in district court of seventeen obscenity counts and three counts of violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). The obscenity convictions and three RICO convictions were based on the jury’s findings that four magazines and three videotapes sold at several of Alexander’s stores were obscene. Alexander was sentenced to six years in prison and fined over $100,000. Additionally, the district court ordered Alexander to forfeit to the United States government (plaintiff) certain assets that were directly related to his racketeering activity as punishment for his RICO violations. The court ultimately ordered Alexander to forfeit his wholesale and retail businesses (including all the assets of those businesses) and almost $9 million acquired through racketeering activity. The government decided that it would be better to destroy the forfeited expressive materials than sell them to members of the public. Alexander argued that this forfeiture violated the First and Eighth Amendments to the Constitution. The court of appeals affirmed the district court’s order, and the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

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