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Local radio station airs controversial PSA about child porn

Posted at 3:36 PM, May 09, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-10 18:27:36-04

A public service announcement that references photos of naked juveniles has sparked controversy in Benson.

The PSA aired for 2 years on The Cave 97.7 FM, according to station manager Paul Lotsof. Lotsof said in an email to KGUN9 that the PSA has been taken off the air. 

A recording of the PSA surfaced on a Benson Facebook group over the weekend. It was originally recorded in 2015.

The PSA advises the public on ways to hide photos of naked juveniles so no one can find them.

In a news release sent Tuesday, Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels called the PSA "disdainful."

According to the release from Dannels, the announcer in the PSA advised that possession of child pornography should not be illegal. Below is part of the statement from Sheriff Dannels: 

This is a disgusting and unacceptable public service announcement and this type of propaganda encourages evil behavior. Freedom of speech does not include telling people to commit crimes and continuing to pass on this information could lead to judicial action being taken. The Cochise County Sheriff’s Office is now aware of this activity and will continue to seek legal advice on actions that can be taken for the content that has already been released and to ensure this kind of information in not released again.

KGUN9 asked Lotsof for a comment and he said the PSA aired for the following two reasons:

That Arizona has an extremely stringent law pertaining to possession of child pornography and it carries mandatory ten year prison sentences for each image a person possesses of a naked juvenile in a sexually suggestive pose. No other state has such a Draconian law.

The announcement suggests that anyone who possesses such material take measures to prevent being handed a life prison sentence and it suggests not storing such material on a computer drive.

Lotsof said the announcement did not advocate for or condone the production of child pornography. 

He said he wrote the announcement and did not receive compensation from anyone. 

"My purpose was to keep people out of prison by making them aware of this law. I feel that if my announcement kept one person out of prison it was very valuable and a public service. If I offended some conservative types so be it," Lotsof said in an email to KGUN9. 

The PSA sparked outrage among Benson residents. A few of them contacted KGUN9 with concerns over the message.

Marie Arnold has lived in Benson for 20 years and was appalled to hear the message. She did not hear it herself but saw the Facebook post. 

"Why was it even posted on the radio station? What was the reason?" Arnold said. "Anyone who has not heard this ad, it's very disturbing to hear someone tell other people how to hide juvenile, in my opinion, pornography."

An online petition was started to shut down the radio station. 

Cochise County Attorney Brian McIntyre says based on the evidence he has, it seems like the statements made in the PSA would be covered under First Amendment protections. 

It appears clear that what Lotsof is doing is expressing his opinion that laws in Arizona are too harsh, McIntyre said. McIntyre thinks Lotsof's opinion is "repugnant" and he doesn't agree with him personally or professionally, but it is protected under the First Amendment.

KGUN9 reached out to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for comment. A spokesperson said the FCC is aware of having received some consumer complaints. The FCC can not confirm or comment upon investigations. 

The Cave is a country station that operates out of Benson and broadcasts throughout Cochise County. The Cochise County Sheriff's Office says the PSA was airing mostly late at night and early in the morning.

It's unclear how many times the PSA aired, how many people heard it and if there were previous complaints filed.