Columbia -- Prosecutors attempting to convict Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alvin Greene on rarely leveled obscenity charges would have to clear a number of constitutional hurdles to win a conviction, attorneys and legal scholars said.
Richland County prosecutors indicted Greene last week on two obscenity-related charges, after Greene was accused of showing a pornographic image to a University of South Carolina student from Summerville last November.
Greene faces up to five years in prison on a felony charge and up to three years in prison on a misdemeanor charge. Both charges carry a maximum fine of $10,000.
State solicitors said they charge only a handful of people with the crime each year. The victim's mother has publicly pledged to pursue prosecution, which attorneys said made it more likely that prosecutors pushed to indict Greene.
The 32-year-old has become a national political celebrity since his surprise primary win June 8. He has refused calls to end his candidacy in light of his legal issues.
Prosecutors will have to convince a jury that Greene's actions meet a complex three-part standard defining obscenity, established in a landmark 1973 U.S. Supreme Court case, Charleston School of Law professor John Simpkins said:
--The average person, applying community standards, would find the work as a whole appeals to prurient interests.
--The work is patently offensive.
--And the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.
Fail to prove one part of the standard, said Simpkins, a constitutional law instructor, and the entire case would fail.
"I don't think by any means this is a clear-cut case," Simpkins said. "That's not unusual in these cases."
Fifth Circuit Solicitor Barney Giese declined to comment on the case, as did Greene's attorney, Eleazer Carter.
"He doesn't want me (to) talk about that at this time," Carter said.
According to university police reports, Greene approached a female student in a campus computer lab and asked for her phone and room numbers. She declined. A few minutes later Greene showed her what she said was a pornographic image on his computer screen.
As the female student left the lab located in a residence hall, Greene asked if he could go up to her room.