Finally, a sudden outbreak of common sense?
John B. Thompson, Attorney at Law
5721 Riviera Drive
Coral Gables, Florida 33146
April 16, 2008
Sheriff Kevin Beary
Orange County Sheriff's Department
2500 W. Colonial Drive
Orlando, FL 32804
Re: Sale of Sexual Material Harmful to Minors in Orange County, Florida
Dear Sheriff Beary:
On April 29, video game retailers will begin selling around the country, and in Orange County, Florida, the video game Grand Theft Auto IV. Previous versions of this game are basically "cop-killing simulators." I have appeared on CBS' 60 Minutes because of my representation of the families of three Alabama police officers killed by a teen who literally trained to kill them on Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.
It appears that this latest version, GTA IV, contains "sexual material harmful to minors," as defined by Florida Statute 847.012, and it appears sale of it to anyone under 18 will thus be a felony criminal act. As you may know, major retailers often violate their own age-ID policies by selling "Mature-rated" games to kids under 17, roughly half the time. But even if the retailers were to adhere to this policy, a game sold to someone 17, if it contains "sexual material harmful to minors," would constitute a criminal act, given the hiatus between the "17 and over" industry rating and the more stringent "18 and over" standard pertaining to sexual material. Game makers and retailers foolishly ignore the various states' and the federal government's laws that define a minor as someone 18, and that someone under that age cannot be sold this sexual material.
Best Buy, Target, Wal-Mart and other major retailers in your area routinely ignore the video game industry's "17 and over" policy and sell "Mature" games to anyone of any age, even kids in their early teens. Repeated studies by the Federal Trade Commission have found this. Thus, you can be sure that many, many copies of GTA IV, marked "strong sexual content" like earlier versions of this "cop-killing game" will be sold to kids of all ages in Orange County starting April 29.
This particular game, GTA IV, has been edited for sale in Australia, and here is a news story suggesting some of the level of sexual content that is in the unedited American version that was taken out of the Australian version:
"In regards to what Rockstar has removed for the Australian release, as far as we're aware there was only one sexually violent cut-scene which Rockstar felt would cause the game to be Refused Classification [in Australia].
Unfortunately we're not able to go into specifics until after the game has been released but I can tell you that the scene involves a weapon being inserted into an enemies private area during a mission where Niko is taking revenge after one of his close friends was forced into sexual intercourse during his stay in prison."
In other words, it appears that the above-described scene may be in the unedited American version, along with other sexual content, of course, likely inappropriate for minors.
What we do know is that Rockstar Games, the maker of the GTA games, has put incredible amounts of sexual material in their earlier versions of the game, and in fact they placed a very graphic, sexually explicit mini-game in the Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas game which forced the worldwide recall of the game when the hidden content was discovered. I am a Republican, but I worked with Senator Clinton in effectuating that recall in July 2005. Rockstar lied to the public in that scandalous episode known as "Hot Coffee."
Regardless of the above information as to what may have been removed for Australian consumers, it is clear that GTA IV should not be sold to minors anywhere. Here is the Entertainment Software Rating Board "descriptor" that is on the GTA IV game:
"Intense Violence, Blood, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content,
Partial Nudity, Use of Drugs and Alcohol."
I would strongly urge your Sheriff's Department to issue a warning now to all video game retailers in your County that your Department may proceed against them if it is found that a) GTA IV contains sexual material harmful to minors as defined by Florida Statute 847.012, and b) if these retailers are caught selling this game to minors. They will do so unless warned not to. That is certain. The Federal Trade Commission, as I indicated, has proven that fact over and over and over again.
I am more than happy to assist your Sheriff's Department in this regard, as the sale of this game to minors poses a significant public health and safety problem, as it truly is a murder simulator that has resulted in the deaths of law enforcement officers.
Regards, Jack Thompson