JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The man and woman accused of videotaping themselves in a sex act outside a Duval County courtroom earlier this month pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a charge of unnatural and lascivious act.
Brittney Jones is accused of performing a sex act on Jeremiah Robinson on the bench in a hallway on the fourth-floor of the courthouse, then posting a video of the act on social media.
A request for Jones, 26, to waive her arraignment was denied by the judge. During the hearing Jones was also charged with distribution of obscene material.
"What I see is that the state trying to do any and everything they possibly can," said Jones' attorney Jerry Sessions. "I don't know the validity of that charge. I'll have to review that statute. I know that obscenity laws have been litigated in this country and they were somewhat resolved, I believe."
Sessions had called the unnatural and lascivious act charge Jones is facing archaic and requested a waiver of her appearance Tuesday. The judge denied the request and Jones arrived at the courthouse later in the morning.
“I am unhappy with the amount of force the state seems to be moving with against Brittney,” Sessions said. “I think there is a retaliatory aspect to this. However, if there is a legitimate basis for the prosecution, we will determine that.”
The new charge has a maximum sentence of one year in jail -- the highest sentence of her three charges. She is also facing a drug possession charge.
Gene Nichols, an attorney not connected to the case, said the new charge is an old law that was used decades ago and opens the door to defining obscene.
“There has been a tremendous amount of case law all the way to the Supreme Court decades ago defining what is obscene and that is why no one gets prosecuted for that magazine on the counter in the local store or what you can easily find on your phone or what people are sending back and forth to each other via text, because no one is really sure if what we are talking about is obscene,” Nichols said.
According to Nichols, anyone who has the video on their phone right now could be violating the Florida law. It is that broad scope of the law that makes Nichols believe Jones' attorney could win in court if this case goes to trial.
“They are going to be making that argument -- what is the difference between someone at home who scrolls through their TV, buys a movie, pays for it and watches it. Are they committing the same crime? And according to this statute they probably are,” Nichols said.
Nichols said the video is the evidence, so the judge and/or jury would have to watch the controversial video to decide whether it's obscene.
Jones is back in court on March 14.
Robinson, 35, did not appear Tuesday. His attorney, Vernon Jackson, entered a not guilty plea on his behalf.
Jackson said he was able convince a judge to allow his client to not appear in court, saying this a stressful time for Robinson.
“Clearly he wants some privacy, and he doesn't want to be out in the spotlight because of this, and so I also filed a waiver of all his future pretrial appearances,” Jackson said.
The case has led to security changes at the courthouse. More security is visible, and when Jones left court, officers escorted her out from the courtroom to the front steps.