In 2007, the U.S. Attorney in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, brought obscenity charges against Karen Fletcher, because of stories, which Fletcher had written and posted on the Internet under the pseudonym Red Rose. The stories involved torture and sex with children. In an effort to make them inaccessible to minors, Fletcher charged a subscription fee of $10. There were twenty-nine subscribers. Fletcher, an agoraphobe with severe emotional difficulties, claimed that writing the stories provided some therapeutic relief for her with regard to her own history of child and sexual abuse. Fearing a public trial, she took a plea bargain in May 2008 – pleading guilty and accepting a sentence of house arrest for one year. If found guilty at trial, she could have been sentenced for up to thirty years in prison.
If the case had gone to trial, it would have been the first time since the 1970’s that the courts would have to decide whether written text could be obscene. Ms. Fletcher’s attorneys planned to argue that her stories did have literary and scientific merit, and, therefore, could not be obscene. Some familiar with the case are of the opinion that the U.S. Attorney’s office specifically targeted Ms. Fletcher to bring these kinds of charges, instead of pursuing a website with more reach, because they knew Ms. Fletcher’s emotional problems would make her reticent to go to trial.