Opening an e-mail with the computer-generated image of two women in string bikinis preparing to give a lap dance to a video-game character was the breaking point for Senate President Michael Waddoups.
The image from the video game Grand Theft Auto IV was at the top of an e-mail sent by conservative crusader Jack Thompson on Easter Sunday. It was part of his dogged campaign pressing Utah politicians to override the veto of a bill that would have increased penalties for retailers falsely advertising they would not sell mature video games to underage buyers.
"I asked you before to remove me from your mailing list," Waddoups wrote Thompson. "I supported your bill but because of the harassment will not again. If I am not removed, I will turn you over to the AG for legal action."
Thompson said that in 20 years of fighting against violent, sexually explicit video games, he has never had a politician demand Thompson stop contacting him.
"The notion that I can't write the state's Senate president and encourage him to override a veto, that somehow this is criminally actionable, I just don't understand. He wants to prosecute me for redress of grievances," Thompson said, referring to a right guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
Waddoups, on Tuesday, confirmed he would attempt to pursue legal action under the federal CAN-SPAM Act of 2003.
While that law carries a punishment of up to $11,000 in fines, it covers "e-mail whose primary purpose is advertising or promoting a commercial product or service," according to the Federal Trade Commission.
The Attorney General's Office has not looked into the validity of using that or any other law to prosecute Thompson because Waddoups has not yet filed a complaint.
"When we receive complaints, we will look at them," said Paul Murphy, spokesman for the AG's Office. "It's not always our office that handles it. If legislators receive harassing e-mails, well, the troopers are here at the Capitol for a reason."
Thompson acknowledges that he has sent a number of e-mails to Waddoups and other conservative Utah politicians about overriding the veto on HB353, but he says they did not constitute harassment.
"As disturbing as the image is, it's something an adult ought to be able to handle looking at. There are two women who are clad and a guy's looking at them," Thompson said. "I would love to be being tried criminally for writing a state senator an e-mail with something he thinks is pornographic but who is not offended by the fact that children can buy this."
This story has been corrected to clarify the extent of e-mails sent by Thompson