U.S. Supreme Court declines to hear Utah obscenity case
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Washington • The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal of a Utah case centering on whether the high court should set a "benchmark precedent" on what material should be considered obscene or harmful to minors.

The case stems from an inmate in the San Juan County jail, Eric Butt, who while incarcerated in November 2008 mailed letters to his family, including one to his 5-year-old daughter with a hand-scrawled picture of himself naked. Court documents describe the drawing as "rough rather than realistic."

On another occasion, Butt sent a second letter depicting him holding his daughter's buttocks, according to court documents.

Jail authorities intercepted the letters and Butt was charged with, and convicted of, two counts of distributing harmful material to a minor.

The defendant argued that the first drawing was a request by his daughter to draw himself like a cave man would have, a move Butt testified was related to a documentary the two had seen about prehistoric human life. The second letter was a father-daughter joke, he said.

Butt's lawyers had argued that the high court should take up the case because of a split between the U.S. Supreme Court and circuit courts on what standard should apply to what is considered harmful to a minor. The nation's top court rejected the appeal without comment.

tburr@sltrib.com