The Hardman Report
August 17, 2017, at approximately 6:05 a.m. three F.B.I. agents, along with 2 officers from the Melbourne, Florida Police Department, rang the bell and knocked on the front door of a private home located at 4097 Mount Carmel Lane, in the town of Melbourne. It was 16 minutes before sunrise and the door pounding was powerful and direct to clearly notify the sole resident of the 3-bedroom home that law enforcement officers had arrived to search for evidence of a crime.
That resident was David Bruce Hardman, former proprietor of ModelingDVDs.com, and the crime being investigated was the "attempted production of child pornography" as defined in the Federal Law at Title 18 of the United States Code in Sub-Sections 2251 through 2256.
Hearing the loud noises in his just awoken state Hardman jumped from his bed and rushed to the adjoining bathroom, pulling open the top right drawer under the sink to grab his Ruger model LC9s 9mm firearm, while opening the left drawer to retrieve the 10 shot ammunition magazine for that gun. Footsteps and door slamming from within the home alerted the officers and they chose to breach both the front and back doors.
Three officers entered the home, with two others waiting, hand on gun, in the front and back yards. Two F.B.I. agents notice a hallway door locked and noise coming from the other side. They busted it open to find Hardman crouched in the open bathroom holding the gun and "attempting to chamber a round". The first agent tackled Hardman, Hardman fought back, and it required help from the second agent to subdue Hardman and apply handcuffs.
Once in full custody, and advised of his Miranda Rights, Hardman waved those rights, and "stated that he did not want to go to jail for child pornography and that his intent was to shoot the officers".
At the conclusion of that interview the agents carried away the Ruger firearm, an Apple 21.5" iMac computer, a Sony DCR-TRV480 camcorder (SD), two eMachine computers and dozens of video tapes, DVDs and CDs. Later they seized a Western Digital external hard drive from a storage locker located a couple of miles down the road.
September 17, 2017 Hardman was indicted on one count of Assaulting a Federal Officer under 18 U.S.C. 111(a)(1) and (b) and one count of possession of child pornography under 18 U.S.C. 2252A(a)(5)(B) and (b)(2) (possessing visual depictions of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct).
January 10, 2018 the original indictment was withdrawn and a Superseding Indictment filed raising the case to 4 counts of child pornography, both production and possession, while continuing the Assaulting a Federal Officer charge, for a total of 5 counts of violating Federal law. The case was set for trial in May 2019.
April 20, 2018 Hardman signed a Plea Agreement that would see him admit guilt to one count of production of child pornography 18 U.S.C. 2251(a) and one count of Assaulting a Federal Officer 18 U.S.C. 111(a)(1) and (b).
September 19, 2018 Hardman was sentenced to spend a combined 360 months (30 years) in the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons for the two counts contained within the Plea Agreement.
October 2, 2018 Hardman filed a handwritten notice to the court that he wished to appeal.
October 3, 2018 Hardman file a second handwritten notice to the court that he wished to appeal. This second notice was not a duplicate of previous days; it was an entirely new notice, stating the exact same information.
David Bruce Hardman in now 57 years old, seems to be deteriorating mentally, and will very, very likely spend the rest of his life in Georgia's Federal Correctional Institution Jesup (FCI Jesup).
David Hardman enlisted in the Marines in 1981 at the age of 19. While there he saw himself stationed in Denmark, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and back home in the USA. He attained the rank of Sergeant and received an Honorable Discharge after six years of service.
From 1988 through the time of his arrest Hardman worked for a series of companies associated with the defense industry, first in the Carolinas and later in Florida. Much of that time he looked to stay busy and create extra income with one or more side jobs, hobbies or business ventures. These undertakings include photography, videography and custom handmade beach cruiser bicycles and adult tricycles.
In the 1990s video imagery featuring good looking females in swimwear was very popular. The Baywatch TV show with former Playboy models Erika Eleniak and Pam Anderson ran from 1989 to 1999. MTV started broadcasting from Spring Break events, including sponsoring of beach front bikini contests, and later producing entire shows around them. Playboy also started participating in Spring Break events, including swimwear contests and model searches. Girls Gone Wild invaded our drowsiness with loud late night TV infomercials in 1998, and much of their footage circled around spring break and bar scene bikini or wet t-shirt events.
At some point in time Hardman thought to himself that he could do what Joe Francis at Girls Gone Wild was doing - making lots of money from the good looking females sporting their skimpy bikinies or tight wet t-shirts, while acting a bit wild or sexual. To him, he had an advantage being based in Melbourne, Florida, only 90 miles from Daytona Beach, 160 miles from FT. Lauderdale, 176 miles from Miami Beach (South Beach) and 435 miles from Panama City Beach.
Joe Francis had taken college courses in television production and business administration, as well as working as a production assistant, and in other capacities, on two reality style TV productions before striking out on his own. Much of the videotaping done the first couple of years of Girls Gone Wild took place on weekends or late nights as he paid cash to some of the same cameramen he worked with on those shows.
Hardman had no such training, personal experience, or helpers with that experience. He simply decided one day it would be easy and he could do it as a weekend gig.
While local policies, college student trends and marketing promotions change over time, all those Florida beach areas, within an easy drive of his home, have been a popular spring break destination, on and off, over the past 20 years and Hardman clearly felt he could jump right in and make a highly profitable product.
He was wrong.
The type of spring break events held in those towns, often sponsored by bars or beer companies, are largely targeted at college students, and that usually means ages 18-22 or slightly above. Girls Gone Wild with their mass marketing and growing brand recognition had started just a year or two previous, but dozens of other small companies had been doing that style of "Party at Spring Break" or "Mardi Gras" video for years and selling them through ads in the back of magazines.
What is often not discussed is that, like modern reality TV, many of the scenes are scripted or at least loosely planned in advance. Another point is that many of the girls are slipped a few bucks to perform, and that connection is made by a person that is helping the cameraman.
Some might called him the "producer" to sound professional, but maybe the term "recruiter" would be more accurate. Often while the event about to start a recruiter working with that camera operator will chat with a girl and tell her that he'll give her $20 or some other minor amount if she plays to that camera guy, $40 if she flashes her boobs, and on like that. That would be why some production crews wear weird shirts or bright colors.
"Flash the camera guy in the pink shirt for ten seconds and I'll give you $25"
Repeat that with a few girls and you have a lot of camera ready boobs bouncing around.
Many of these small crews would also make quick deals with the club, bar or others staging the event. Maybe slip a guy $50 to get inside the ropes for a better angle, or to get a second camera guy up on stage or backstage.
David Hardman was at a huge disadvantage. Without that type of young ambitious recruiter making those tiny investments, or maybe a partner as a second cameraman, he was just another guy among many behind the ropes with a camcorder. And, the quality of initial VHS releases reflected that.
Notwithstanding the quality of the final product, Hardman also had other issues limiting his chance of duplicating the Girls Gone Wild success. He didn't have money for marketing and advertising, and what he could afford to spend from his day to day paychecks; he didn't know how to use effectively. No budget, no marketing experience, no helpers.
The late 1990s were the early days of internet advertising with few legitimate sites to place paid ads, and even fewer methods to narrow those banners to prospective buyers of the VHS tapes Hardman was producing in his early years or the DVDs he produced later.
One thing that many people, myself included, didn't catch on to for many years trying to do business on the internet can be summed up in one phrase: "Traffic is King".
It doesn't matter what you are trying to sell - website subscriptions, silk sheets, custom printed t-shirts, grandma's secret barbeque sauce or DVDs of college girls flashing their boobs - if nobody sees it, nobody can to buy it. You must have large volume of web traffic to succeed.
It would not have mattered if Hardman had the best video content ever produced at those events. If he can't get eyeballs on the product, he can't get payment card numbers typed into the checkout page.
His confidence that he was doing it better than anybody else was short sighted and egotistical. His idea that the lack of sales was the fault of soft-porn consumers for not searching out in forums, or deeper in search results, to find what he thought was his vastly superior product, wasn't a marketing attitude employed by more successful entrepreneurs.
His business working with inebriated bikini clad college girls quickly became not much more than a hobby. Comments by Hardman since the arrest in 2017 and in email going back as far as 2005, postings in old forums and Yahoo groups, notes from family and friends, and other records indicate that from 1999-2003 it was more of a passtime or weekend adventure, than it was a profitable business. Nothing indicates he ever had monthly gross sales above $700, with the average being closer to $450. At that rate he was clearly dipping into his normal employment income to pay for travels around Florida to various events.
During this time he also managed to produce some videos with models he hired specifically for the shoots but the footage wasn't turned into a major product. No records indicate sales of more than a handful of each product produced - likely because the timing was not advantageous.
In the early 2000s numerous websites came online featuring that same type of wild, drunken college girl content that he tried to produce at spring break events. Many of them, including popular sites such as CollegeRules and DareDorm, had a steady flow of materials even more sexual. The internet was making access to sexy college girl content easier for those seeking it.
In roughly that same 2000-2003 time frame smaller, often non-nude, websites began to appear featuring females that had been hired as models, not just those girls found randomly at alcohol fueled events or parties. Many of these smaller websites, such as StephiModel and ChristinaModel featured girls under the age of 18 and did so in direct video downloads. Many of the videos included silly gyrating and dancing; certainly not anything photographically complicated or costly to produce.
Again, like he felt with Joe Francis and Girls Gone Wild, Hardman was confident he could do it better and that what he envisioned was his superior quality would earn him, as he stated at the time a "sizeable income".
Most of the Hardman personal and business details from 2003 into 2010 are a bit unclear, and both he and others associated with him, seem to be intentionally vague when asked about simple matters such as products produced, total customers, USA versus foreign customers, and overall sales numbers.
One question that has been posed multiple times over the years, and answered in multiple ways over the years, is this;
Why when you had already been working with college age girls, and had at least a small customer based for those products, did you decide to start working with those under 18, and rebrand your products as "teen" materials?
In a recent discussion by mail he indicated it was for competitive reasons as there was far fewer websites, and DVD producers, in the marketplace of models 14-17, compared to the marketplace that included large websites such as DareDorm and CollegeRules.
A Yahoo Group discussion from 2005 seems to back up that stance, somewhat egotistically, when he claims he was creating DVDs with models under-18 because nobody else could do it better than him.
A separate Yahoo Group discussion, this time from 2006, seems to indicate he favored that age range as a matter of personal taste.
His known history and participation in the old Yahoo Groups and Clubs, as well as domain based forums at the time, centered on discussions of models under-18 and the websites that featured them, and he was active there at least 2 years before starting to produce DVDs with models in that range. He had also subscribed, more than once, to non-nude websites featuring models under-18 before he began working with models in that age range.
In a legal document he signed in 2018, but now wishes to withdraw in the case that sent him to prison, he indicates he was using models under-18 as a matter of personal preference.
A quick side note... The 2006 Yahoo Group discussion I mentioned was very odd and in some ways he was sort of baited into giving an answer the questioner wanted. The phrasing was nearly the same as TrueTeenBabes fans experienced in a live chat a few days later, which turned out to be an employee of the TV show Inside Edition searching for quotes. Hardman was always very short tempered in both private emails and public discussions and he may have simply typed what he typed to bring the thread to a conclusion.
A second question that has been posed multiple times over the years, and answered in multiple ways over the years, is this;
Why start a DVD only business as compared to a membership website that also had a DVD store?
In one Yahoo Group discussion he states he just wanted "to get going" and since he was a "DVD expert" that's what he would do. Later in the same discussion he mentions he doesn't want a website because it calls for attention daily for customer service (passwords, log-in issues and more), compared to letting orders pile up and shipping a few DVDs each Monday.
An email discussion around 2005 seemed to indicate he couldn't do a membership website because he didn't have a proper company or business bank accounts, which meant no proper payment system in place and the person providing his DVD billing would only allow products that could be shown to have been shipped or delivered.
In a 2006 email to the mother of a model that had asked the question he stated it was better for the models because the imagery on DVDs was less likely to be shared widely, and thus less likely to be seen by high school classmates, and that would mean less likely to cause drama among jealous girls at school.
The most basic answer may be that he just didn't have the time.
The popular teen model membership websites that also sold DVDs, in the years 2003-2010, all had become full-time businesses with the owners working at least 60 hours a week, and some even employing part-time helpers. Considering he didn't want to give up the traditional job, or the health care and retirement pension that came with it, he likely knew he wouldn't be able to do a membership website and DVDs simultaneously.
The third lingering question that lacks a true and concise answer is;
Why start working with models below the teen age range?
As with so many other questions finding the real answer to this one has proven to be a difficult task.
When a company named Webe closed way back in late 2006 he posted in a Yahoo Group that he wished he could capture their customers. Maybe he was only thinking about profit.
By email to a fan several years ago he mentioned he would never jump into that age range because, no matter how much he thought he would enjoy working with younger models, it wouldn't be worth the hassle or attention from those in his area. By those in his area it is unclear if he meant local law enforcement or the local neighborhood watch group that had been complaining about him for years.
A different email to a different person reads as if he, like other ego driven decisions discussed above, was going to get in that age range because he could do it better than anybody else.
A person that knew Hardman at the time once explained that he started working with girls under age 13 as a matter of convenience. As a hobby business, working from home without a business registration, business phone, or business location, he seems to have had a bit of a tough time finding models. When the opportunity came up to work with younger sisters of teen models, even when those sisters may have been a few years below the "teen" range, he took it.
In a legal document he signed, on a page he further initialed as having fully read and understood, after paragraphs discussing what Hardman produced himself, Hardman admits "that he was sexually attracted to children and had collected sexually explicit images of children for years" and it appears that law enforcement officials in the case believe that is why he ventured into business with models below the teens years.
The answer to these questions, and so many more, are likely a combination of many factors.
David Bruce Hardman is a tough, stubborn and egotistical middle-age guy. His reputation at his place of employment, in his Florida neighborhood, online as a citizen in Yahoo Groups and other forums, online as a content producer in the DVD business, in private email or phone conversations with persons in the teen model business, all add up to a person who felt he had all the correct answers and that he didn't feel he needed the rest of the world.
Having read his public postings over the years and all documents in this case it is very easy to see him saying to himself; "these people don't know what the fuck they are doing and I'm going to show them how it should be done".
He clearly displayed, at least back in the 1990s, adoration for Florida girls in tiny bikinies. He paid around $2000 for his first camcorder to videotape them on local beaches for fun. It was later, after just a few weeks of experience taping girls playing volleyball and other beach activities, that he came to the conclusion that he could make that personal hobby into a business.
It is a common entrepreneurial goal to combine a hobby that a person enjoys with a profit motive to become a small business. The overall success of those business ventures varies. Some remain small and generate just enough revenue to sustain the business, thereby keeping the hobby alive. Others grow much larger and become a full time million dollar business. Craigslist was started as a dial-in message board by a guy working at Charles Schwab. Yankee Candle has sales topping $1 billion annually, but was started by a 16 year old that melted a few Crayons while messing around in his parent's garage.
Hardman had worked a small local job or two in his teen years, then at 19 was off to the Marines until age 25. He never enjoyed the normal post high school or college party years most of his peers had survived. It is not a stretch to imagine Hardman at about age 32-33 in the mid-90s, having moved from South Carolina to Florida, to seek ways to turn that beach babe voyeur style videotaping hobby into a business. Then, as both business conditions and his personal interests change, he transitions the business to first under-18 models, and further to under-teen models.
The laws that regulate photography and videography with minors in the United States are both clear and complicated at the same time.
Each of the 50 states has their own codes, laws or statues. Many of them are vague, older, and not even fully understood by those who enforce them. Some state level laws contain text or terms that have been ruled unconstitutional in other states or by Federal courts. One state, at least in the law books, still allows 16 year olds to sexually participate in porn videos, but that could never happen because it would violate the current Federal Law.
That Federal law, and the interpretations of it by the United States Courts of Appeal and the United States Supreme Court that have become binding precedents, is generally controlling over the states and state laws under Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution.
Simply put in terms of photography; under the First Amendment no state law can ban something that the constitution allows, or that the Federal Courts have stated the constitution allows. That said - it is a good idea to be aware of the state laws and respect them appropriately.
Hardman's case is a Federal case involving only Federal Law.
In the middle 1970s the Federal law allowed persons age 16 and 17 to be in pornographic books, magazines and movies as long as those items didn't reach the level of obscenity as defined in the 1973 case of Miller v. California.
Here is the relevant Federal law text as signed into law in 1978.
Protection of Children Against Sexual Exploitation Act of 1977 - Prohibits the sexual exploitation of minors by making it unlawful for any person to knowingly: (1) cause a minor to be filmed, photographed or recorded in any sexual act prohibited by this Act; (2) transport or mail any film or recording of such act; (3) photograph, film or record such act; or (4) coerce, transport, or cause the transport of any minor in interstate or foreign commerce for immoral purposes.
"2253. Definitions for chapter:
"For the purposes of this chapter, the term-
"(1) 'minor' means any person under the age of sixteen years;
"(2) 'sexually explicit conduct' means actual or simulated
"(A) sexual intercourse, including genital-genital, oral-genital, anal-genital, or oral-anal, whether between persons of the same or opposite sex;
"(D) sado-masochistic abuse (for the purpose of sexual stimulation); or
"(E) lewd exhibition of the genitals or pubic area of any person;"
Take note of two things: the terms "nude", or closely related "nudity", are not to be found in the text of the law, and in part (E) we see the word "lewd".
The lack of the terms "nude" or "nudity" indicates two things; Congress did not intend an outright ban on the filming, photographing or recording of nude minors, but also that the minor being "nude" is not required to violate the law.
The word "lewd" in part (E) is a descriptor or qualifier for the rest of that line, meaning it is stating a definition for the following words. The term "lewd" in that spot indicates that you can have an "exhibition of the genitals or pubic area" but it can't be done in a manner that would be considered "lewd".
But what is "lewd"?
Long before this law the Federal Courts had decided that statues can be voided if they are vague or unclear under what became known as the Void for Vagueness Doctrine. Under that doctrine a law or statute is void for vagueness and unenforceable if it is too vague for the average citizen to understand or if a term cannot be strictly defined and is not defined anywhere in such law.
Justice Sutherland in Connally v. General Construction Co., 269 U.S. 385, 391 (1926):
The terms of a penal statute must be sufficiently explicit to inform those who are subject to it what conduct on their part will render them liable to it's penalties... and a statute which either forbids or requires the doing of an act in terms so vague that men of common intelligence must necessarily guess at it's meaning and differ as to it's application violates the first essential of due process of law.
Versions of Justice Sutherland's thinking have been upheld hundreds of times over the years and it is well established that courts can, on motion from a defendant in criminal cases or plaintiffs in a civil case, rule a law, or portion thereof, unconstitutional until clarified or rewritten by Congress.
Imagine a road sign that reads Speed Limit 55 MPH. It's clear and easy to understand. We all know that the top speed we can drive, without violating the law, is 55 miles per hour.
Now imagine if the sign said simply "Don't Drive Too Fast". We would all be confused. Too fast for the road conditions? Too fast for the traffic level? Too fast for the weather conditions? If one of us received a traffic violation we could ask the court to declare the law unconstitutionally void for being vague and for our case to be tossed out. And, the court would certainly do so.
The terms "immoral purposes" and "lewd" in the Protection of Children Against Sexual Exploitation Act of 1977 had been subject to constitutional challenges a few times between 1978 and 1982, but none of those challenging the law carried the case very far in the system, either because their case was dropped by the government or due to the cost of a long court battle against the government.
The law stood at age 16 and with those exact words for a bit over 5 years.
In 1982 the case of New York v. Ferber reached the United States Supreme Court. Paul Ferber was a New York City adult bookstore owner that had sold 2 films that depicted boys under age 16 masturbating, when the law in New York at the time didn't allow persons under age 16 to be in pornographic films.
Paul Ferber lost the appeal but the case set a standard for child pornography legislation and enforcement that, for the most part, remains in place today. The entire Supreme Court decision is about 35 pages with the footnotes. I'll just hit the main parts today.
Most importantly the case established that the new category of materials known as "child pornography" and/or "sexually explicit conduct by minors", like obscenity, is one of the few categories that falls outside the normal protections of the First Amendment.
Next it established that the reason porn produced with minors is not protected by the First Amendment is the harm done to the minors during the production of the materials, and further that states, and Congress, have a legitimate interest in protecting the welfare of minors, who often are unable to protect themselves. This is a very important point because it means that the laws written must be designed only to safeguard the physical and psychological well-being of minors, and that any laws written to control the thoughts or fantasies of adults or other minors that may view the materials would be invalid.
It also stated that "depictions of nudity, without more, constitute protected expression". The "more" they reference is something sexual, which in legal terms has come to mean "sexually explicit conduct".
The case set forth that for materials to be considered child pornography the materials do not have to meet the Miller test for obscenity as set forth in the 1973 case know as Miller v. California, but could meet a lower standard.
And, it clarified that if the states, or Congress, wished to write laws to describe that lower than Miller standard, "the sexual conduct proscribed must also be suitably limited and described". This is also very important because it puts a limit on government as the phrase "suitably limited and described" means that Congress can't just call anything they want "sexually explicit conduct" and that they have to give citizens a fair description (warning) of what can and cannot be done.
At the time of the Ferber case not all states had their own laws concerning child pornography and Ferber became the guideline many, but not all, used in crafting or updating their own statues.
As a result of the Ferber decision, Congress passed the Child Protection Act of 1984. The amendment to the then current law made several changes to comply with Ferber and to modernize the law on the advice of the Department of Justice.
The Act removed the word "obscene" each place it appeared because under Ferber the materials no longer need to meet the obscenity standard to be illegal.
In paragraph (1) it amended by striking out "sixteen" and inserting "eighteen" in lieu thereof; in (2) by striking out "sado-masochistic" and inserting "sadistic or masochistic" in lieu thereof; in (3) by striking out "(for the purpose of sexual stimulation)"; and in (4) by striking out "lewd" and inserting "lascivious" in lieu thereof;
That Act, signed into law May 21, 1984, is the first time Congress started defining a "minor" as under age 18. Congressional records related to the Act show that they raised the age at the request of the F.B.I and the Department of Justice, who claimed it was hard to enforce the law because a female age 14 or 15, who would be illegal in porn materials, looked and was physically developed in a similar manner to a 16 year old that would be legal in the materials.
Basically they claimed they couldn't tell the difference between a 14 year old and a 16 year old, but thought they could an 18 year old and that same 14 or 15 year old. Curiously, they don't explain at that time how they anticipate they'll be able to tell the difference between a legal 18 year old and what would be an illegal 17 year old once the age is raised.
This age change is also curious because in Ferber it was made clear that the only reason for child porn laws was "the harm done to the minors during the production of the materials". At no point did the Supreme Court in Ferber indicate they felt that the age 16 limit in the New York law was too low or that the definition of minor should be a higher age.
Along with the raise of age to 18, changing the term "lewd" to "lascivious" is also curious. That exact word "lewd" was found by the Supreme Court to be fine in Ferber. It takes a bit of digging in the Congressional record, but the answer is provided by then Senator Arlen Spector:
This amendment would replace the current law's prohibition of the "lewd exhibition of the genitals" with a prohibition against the "lascivious exhibition of the genitals."Lewd" has in the past been equated with "obscene"; this change is thus intended to make it clear that an exhibition of a child's genitals does not have to meet the obscenity standard to be unlawful.
From that date forward defining the term "lascivious" has been the toughest part of the law to understand. Yes, we have dictionary definitions, but because they use imprecise terms, how do we really know if what is captured in the four corners of a photo or video fits that meaning?
Most courts tend to work within the framework of "words mean what words mean" and that it's best to stick as close to the original meanings as possible. To do that they usually rely on The Black's Law Dictionary, and that source provides this definition:
Lascivious: Tending to excite lust; lewd ; Indecent; obscene; relating to sexual impurity; tending to deprave the morals in respect to sexual relations.
With these changes, and with the legal age of a minor now being under age 18, as Hardman moved into first working with teens 13-17, then those under age 13, this would be his legal, Federal Court approve, guide:
At the relevant time the statute proclaimed that minors are persons below 18 years of age, that they cannot participate in "sexually explicit conduct", and it defines "sexually explicit conduct" as actual or simulated:
(A) sexual intercourse, including genital-genital, oral-genital, anal-genital, or oral-anal, whether between persons of the same or opposite sex;
(D) sadistic or masochistic abuse; or
(E) lascivious exhibition of the genitals or pubic area of any person.
That sums it up. Avoid producing any sort of materials that include any of those five elements and you are not violating the law.
Repeating what I mentioned above... the terms "nude" or "nudity" are not in the statue and that again indicates two things;
• Congress did not intend to an outright ban on the filming, photographing or recording of nude minors, because to do so would violate the First Amendment, and as the Supreme Court stated in Ferber and others, "depictions of nudity, without more, constitute protected expression". That is what allows a mother to take snapshots or her kid in the bathtub without fear of jail, and for artsy books featuring nude minors such as The Age of Innocence (David Hamilton), Radiant Identities (Jock Sturges), Reanna's Diaries (Richard Murrian) and Immediate Family (Sally Mann) to be available on Amazon.com
• As the Federal courts have concluded many times, that the minor being "nude" is not required to violate the law, which has often been a very confusing point for the general public.
Nudity isn't an automatic violation of the law, but you can violate the law without nudity.
After the 1984 amendments the law was fairly well understood with only the term "lascivious" getting much attention in the courts.
While we can read definitions such as "Tending to excite lust; lewd ; Indecent; obscene; relating to sexual impurity; tending to deprave the morals in respect to sexual relation" from the law dictionary or "designed or intending to arouse" from other sources, how do real world judges and juries actually look at a photo, video or magazine to determine if it fits that description?
In June of 1984, shortly after those amendments took place, Robert Dost and Edwin Wiegand of San Diego, California posed two girls, ages 10 and 14, for photographs around the Dost residence and a nearby beach. A mail-order photo lab reported the film to Federal authorities, and after the negatives and photographs arrived back at the Dost address, both men were arrested.
The photographs did not meet the definitions contained in subsections (A), (B), (C), or (D), which meant that they would only depict "sexually explicit conduct", and thus be illegal, if they contained a "lascivious exhibition of the genitals or pubic area" under subsection (E).
Dost select to have a trial directly to the Court, without a jury, hoping to keep emotions out of the case and rely strictly on the law as written. United States District Court Chief Judge Gordan Thompson Jr. struggled a bit finding the line between legal nudity and a "lascivious exhibition of the genitals or pubic area" in the Dost / Wiegand photos before eventually coming up with some factors he would use to guide himself in deliberating the case. He is the relevant text from the case file:
...this Court feels that, in determining whether a visual depiction of a minor constitutes a "lascivious exhibition of the genitals or pubic area" under 2255(2) (E), the trier of fact should look to the following factors, among any others that may be relevant in the particular case:
1) whether the focal point of the visual depiction is on the child's genitalia or pubic area;
2) whether the setting of the visual depiction is sexually suggestive, i.e., in a place or pose generally associated with sexual activity;
3) whether the child is depicted in an unnatural pose, or in inappropriate attire, considering the age of the child;
4) whether the child is fully or partially clothed, or nude;
5) whether the visual depiction suggests sexual coyness or a willingness to engage in sexual activity;
6) whether the visual depiction is intended or designed to elicit a sexual response in the viewer.
Of course, a visual depiction need not involve all of these factors to be a "lascivious exhibition of the genitals or pubic area." The determination will have to be made based on the overall content of the visual depiction, taking into account the age of the minor.
For example, consider a photograph depicting a young girl reclining or sitting on a bed, with a portion of her genitals exposed. Whether this visual depiction contains a "lascivious exhibition of the genitals" will depend on other aspects of the photograph. If, for example, she is dressed in a sexually seductive manner, with her open legs in the foreground, the photograph would most likely constitute a lascivious exhibition of the genitals. The combined effect of the setting, attire, pose, and emphasis on the genitals is designed to elicit a sexual response in the viewer, albeit perhaps not the "average viewer", but perhaps in the pedophile viewer. On the other hand, if the girl is wearing clothing appropriate for her age and is sitting in an ordinary way for her age, the visual depiction may not constitute a "lascivious exhibition" of the genitals, despite the fact that the genitals are visible.
Dost was convicted and those six factors quickly became known as "The Dost Factors". They have been used for guidance in Federal and state level cases for over 30 years now. They have their own Wiki page.
It's interesting to note that Judge Thompson was a District Court Judge. Rulings and determinations he would make at the time have no binding precedential value and are not binding on any other judges or courts.
That said, likely as a manner of convenience, "The Dost Factors" have been adopted by judges and prosecutors and continue to be used nationwide. Defense lawyers complain about them, prosecutors try to expand on them, appeals are filed over the use of them, yet here they are all these years later.
Over the next few years the Supreme Court reviewed cases such as Massachusetts v. Oakes (1989) and Osborne v. Ohio (1990), vacating arguments for Oakes on slightly technical grounds, and reaching a decision in Osborne that upheld the basic principles of Ferber.
Sidebar - Massachusetts v. Oakes was not decided by the court, but contains good language that provides guidance to courts and others. The basics are that Massachusetts had changed their law to completely ban nude photos of minors, and later added "for lascivious intent" attempting to narrow it to comply with Ferber. Mr. Oakes was convicted, appealed and won because the law was ruled unconstitutional as written. The state appealed to the United States Supreme Court asking for a ruling that their law was not unconstitutional. The case was accepted for review in 1988 with oral arguments set for January 1989.
Before the case was argued Massachusetts legislators changed the law again, bringing it into compliance with the First Amendment and the Ferber precedent. That made the case scheduled before the Supreme Court mute, but Justice Brennan took the time to voice his opinion that they should have decided the case simply to settle the issue for precedential value. His writing is lengthy, not a precedent or binding, but is very supportive of those working with minors in non-lewd ways. Here is a tiny sample.
In my view, the First Amendment also blocks the prohibition of nude posing by minors in connection with the production of works of art not depicting lewd behavior... Many of the world's great artists-- Degas, Renoir, Donatello, to name but a few--have worked from models under 18 years of age, and many acclaimed photographs and films have included nude or partially clad minors. The First Amendment rights of models, actors, artists, photographers, and filmmakers are surely not overborne by the Commonwealth's interest in protecting minors from the risk of sexual abuse and exploitation, especially in view of the comprehensive set of laws targeted at those evils.
Fast forward to the important Stephen Knox cases.
In March of 1991, the U.S. Customs International Branch intercepted a mailing to France which contained a request that two videos be sent to State College, PA. The envelope also contained a check drawn on the account of Stephen Knox and bearing his signature. A second envelope addressed to the Knox address from the Netherlands also was confiscated that contained advertisements offering for sale videotapes depicting nude, semi-clothed and clothed minors. Having been watching Knox's mail, and aware that Knox previously had been convicted of receiving child pornography through the mail, the customs investigators obtained a search warrant and with the assistance of the Pennsylvania State Police searched his apartment.
The police officers seized three video cassettes produced by the Nather Company (hereafter "Nather Tapes"), a videotape distribution company based in Las Vegas, Nevada. The tapes contained numerous vignettes of teenage and preteen females, between the ages of ten and seventeen, striking provocative poses for the camera. The children were obviously being directed by someone off-camera. All of the children wore bikini bathing suits, leotards, underwear or other abbreviated attire while they were being filmed.
Knox was arrested and the United States prosecuted based exclusively on the three Nather tapes. He was indicted on two counts: (1) knowingly receiving through the mail visual depictions of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct and (2) knowingly possessing three or more videotapes that contain a visual depiction of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct in violation of 18 U.S.C. 2252(a) (2) and (4). The sexually explicit conduct for both of these offenses is defined to include a "lascivious exhibition of the genitals or pubic area." 18 U.S.C. 2256(2) (E).
During the proceedings the government conceded that no child in the films was nude, and that the genitalia and pubic areas of the young girls were always concealed by an abbreviated article of clothing. The photographer would zoom in on the children's pubic and genital area and display a close-up view for an extended period of time. Most of the videotapes were set to music. The films themselves and the promotional brochures distributed by Nather demonstrate that the video tapes clearly were designed to pander to pedophiles.
During the pre-trial process, and after conviction, Knox filed a total of three appeals, and lost each time. The items discussed in these appeals varies from the wording in a search warrant, to whether nudity is required for convictions, to how to determine if images captured on those Nather video tapes include a "lascivious exhibition of the genitals or pubic area" with or without nudity.
Outside of a tiny mention during an appeal filed and lost by Wiegand (Dost co-defendant), the Knox cases appear to be the first time that a United States Court of Appeals used the Dost Factors in a hearing or deliberations. This is important because the Judges of the United States Court of Appeals are the first level of jurists that can issue decisions and opinions that become binding precedent in the Federal system specifically related to the Federal laws.
There is no need to go into all the drivel of the three Knox cases and it is better to concentrate on main points we learn by combining all the opinions.
The first point is that the United States Court of Appeals concluded that the word "lascivious" is not unconstitutionally vague, and without vagueness the law doesn't risk capturing innocent people, while trying to stop the bad guys (legally known as being "over broad").
The second point is that the Court of Appeals affirmed that nudity is not required for a conviction under part (E) "lascivious exhibition of the genitals or pubic area of any person".
The third point is that by using the Dost Factors in their hearings, deliberations and written opinions, they have given the factors a bit of credibility in a non-binding way. While not a nationwide precedent in and of themselves the Dost Factors quickly became a guideline for not only judges and juries, but also those wanting to work with minors photographically.
The fourth point comes to us by way of the examples described from the Nather tapes Knox had purchased. Those videos included minors in panties with a cameraman zooming in and darn near filling the frame with the "genitals or pubic area". The court, over the three cases, discusses other examples that arise from those tapes or could come up in real life situations. They gave us an easy to follow outline of what not to do, and confirmed by upholding the Knox conviction three times, what will happen if you don't follow that outline.
Without that zooming the "Nather Tapes" would have been legal. That fact is pretty solid guidance for those wishing to work with minors and remain within the legal limits.
Overall, the Knox cases are all now more than 25 years old, but the precedent they set, and guidelines they provide, have been valid the entire time that teen model websites and DVDs have existed.
From the time of Knox, through the arrest of Hardman, Courts had looked at the law several times, Congress has amended it a few times, some of the amendments have been ruled unconstitutional, and even some new laws have been enacted.
Congress enacted The Child Pornography Prevention Act of 1996 (CPPA) as an attempt to take the Federal statue past the limits outlined in Ferber.
The CPPA added to the above (18 U.S.C. 2256) prohibitions depictions or displays of "sexually explicit conduct" that are not produced with minors, but rather with models or actors above age 18 "that appear to be" minors, or images drawn, painted or illustrated, manually or by computer, that "appear to be minors", but are not actual minors, but are mere figments of the creator's imagination. Those prohibitions were struck down as unconstitutional vague and overbroad in Reno 198 f.3d 1083 (1999) which was strongly affirmed by the Supreme Court in Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition 122 S.CT 1389 (2002).
The Reno and Ashcroft cases both bring us some very good citations:
We must remember that real child pornography is without First Amendment protection solely "because of the harm done to children during it's production" Ferber 102 S.CT 3348, as the Supreme Court stated in Ashcroft, "Ferber's judgment about child pornography was based upon how it was made, not on what it communicated. The case reaffirmed that where speech is neither obscene, nor the product of sexual abuse, it does not fall outside the protection of the First Amendment."
Yes, you are understanding that correctly, Congress at one time was trying to ban 20 year old girls that happen to look younger ("that appear to be") from participating in an activity (porn) that all others their age could participate in. Because the law was not protecting a minor from sexual abuse, but rather seeking to prevent adults from seeing adult models "that appear to be" minors, it was struck down. The First Amendment does allow thought or fantasy control.
During some of these amendments and changes Congress updated the structural way they present the laws. Part (E) became part (v), but for the entirety of Hardman's career working with minors only the 11 or 12 words shown below actually matter.
(E) "lascivious exhibition of the genitals or pubic area of any person".
Or, the more recent amendment that reads:
(v) "lascivious exhibition of the anus, genitals, or pubic area of any person;"
Nothing in the Court record, or that I've read in public forums, state that Hardman has ever produced materials that violate subsections (A), (B), (C), or (D), which indicates that to be convicted the items law enforcement found tucked away in his storage locker would contain "sexually explicit conduct" in the form of an illegal "lascivious exhibition of the genitals or pubic area".
No person I know of, certainly including myself, can evaluate if the materials in the Hardman case violate the law as we haven't seen them.
The above statement would also include the Federal District judge that sentenced Hardman to 360 months (30 years) in Federal prison for producing the materials. That may seem like a shocker, but it is true. At no time, according to the full docket and transcripts of all judicial hearings in the Hardman case, were any video tapes, video files, DVDs, or screen captures from them viewed, reviewed, played, displayed or analyzed.
The court passed down Hardman's sentence based solely on a prosecutor's description (unclear if she ever viewed them) and the provocative testimony of an unrelated third party, who had never seen the video(s).
I've never met Dave Hardman in person or knowingly spoken with him by phone. I'm never done any sort of business with Hardman. Between 2003 and 2008 I did have several email exchanges with him, and participated in a couple of open public forums on Yahoo in which he eventually joined.
In the early 2000s when David Hardman first showed up in non-nude teen model Yahoo Groups, and other forums, as a prospective photographer/videographer, as opposed to just a fan, he wasn't very quick to make friends. In many ways he came online with what many may call "an attitude".
We've all had a friend or family member of that style. I'm speaking of the one guy that rudely jumps in every conversation at a party or cookout. The one guy that answers questions he overheard from the next table in the local Denny's. The one guy that loudly interrupts people to make sure he gets his words or opinion or so called "expertise" inserted in the discussion first.
When it came to the teen model website scene back in those days Hardman was that guy. Conversation threads among a few people interrupted to have it explained to us by Hardman how everybody was wrong. Some other conversation threads, specific to one topic, would be hijacked by Hardman wanting to continue a debate that had ended in a previous thread.
Overall, myself and others that recall those days, simply didn't find him very conversational, but more on the argumentative or "know it all" side.
In 2003-04 the teen model website scene was facing a bit of a dilemma. It had been featured in a couple of negative stories on national TV, including Oprah and CBS 48 Hours, and the main discussion in the shows, and other media, centered around one simple phrase; "the internet". Very little time was spent talking about the actual imagery, but more and more was spent talking about it being on "the internet" as if being online was automatically bad and maybe illegal, but the same images in a model portfolio, catalog or magazine would be a non-issue.
The teen model website business desperately needed to become normalized and common, like rock & roll music had years before, and tattoos on teen females would a few years later, if it was to grow and expand.
At about the same time some of the back end service providers started to reevaluate their business relationships with websites featuring models under age 18. A few web hosting companies received negative emails after those TV shows from what we now know as "Social Justice Warriors"; persons that see their way as the only right way to live, and themselves as heroic.
The most dramatic issue for a few months was that the two major website billing companies at the time, iBill.com and CCBill.com, decided that because they largely service adult porn companies and websites, it would be best to withdraw from the under-18 market. Most American websites switched to a European payment service, but soon that service required enhanced deposits, European company registrations and other issues many small sites couldn't manage.
To mitigate these issues, and hopefully grow the entire non-nude teen model scene on the theory that "a rising tide lifts all boats", I proposed teaming up both online and off as much as possible. The plan involved creating a sort of co-op around three websites.
NNPortal.com would be what it sounds like, a portal for fans into the non-nude teen world with forums, pages of sample galleries, advertising banners, and even a live webcam chat area.
NNWebmasters.com would be a hangout for the website owners, photographers and their associates. We would discuss common issues, make suggestions, trade traffic and maybe even do business favors for each other.
NNBill.com / NNBilling.com would have been our own billing system able to service both membership sites and shopping carts. This part of the plan was doable, but was going to take longer to arrange compared to the other two sites, and was eventually dropped when some of the group couldn't commit the resources required by the banks.
Again, the idea at the time was to form a loose cooperative that would operate within certain standards to try to normalize teen models online, with the goal to grow the entire business model, not just one site, and to work with each other to accomplish that. Of course, the standards we discussed would include not hiring models below the teen range, adhering to the lessons learned from the Ferber, Dost and Knox cases, and not partnering with foreign websites because their laws vary from here in the USA.
Hardman was invited to participate in this informal arrangement when it was first conceived but selected not to.
Eventually, maybe a year later, after NNPortal and NNWebmasters went up, Hardman did join the NNWebmaster forum, but it seemed in many ways he couldn't grasp the entire concept of friendly competition. There was much back and forth between him and others. It felt like he hadn't come into the forum to join productive discussions, but to blame others for how slow his business was. He would do so rather than look in the mirror at his own methods, which eventually led me to write this post in the fall of 2006.
Have your ever thought that maybe you just handled certain issues, events and opportunities wrong and it comes back to affect your business?
A.Some people in the teen model business have lots of friends or fans of their own. Some of those people also visit a site like yours and do business with you, but remain more loyal or invested in the first guy. When you do some wrong shit to the first guy the person most loyal or friendly or respectful of him stop visiting your site or buying from you.
Take NASCAR. Most normal week to week fans have a favorite driver, like Dale Earnhardt, JR, then one or two others they support and cheer for if their main guy drops out with engine trouble.... But, heaven forbid the outrage, should one of the secondary drivers be the one causing the wreck that takes out top Dale Earnhardt, JR. The support for the secondary guy evaporates in seconds, and in extreme cases those loyal fans seek revenge by tossing beer cans over the fence as he drives by.
I don't understand why you wish to try hurting these other webmasters.
B. Competitors are not your competition - Meaning, others sites and businesses being out there only makes the teen model marketplace bigger and more mainstream. Working WITH THEM over the last 2 years likely would have been a much better strategy as compared to trying to cut them down to enhance yourself.
Take the NFL. Years ago, before they had a salary cap, one or two teams would offer higher salaries to players from other teams - often outrageous salaries - to get those players to come to their teams. That worked, but only in the short term... SHORT TERM....
Eventually after one or two seasons with just those high spending teams winning the overall league got uncompetitive and boring. Stadiums didn't sell out. T-Shirts and other memorabilia didn't move off the shelf. Those teams did good in the short term, but in the long term it was bad for the entire business model of those teams and the league in general.
Think of the teen model marketplace as the NFL. Now think about how many times you paid models high numbers and reminded them it was more than others paid, and from what I've been told and shown, in subtle ways hinted the girls should work just with you and not go back to the photographers they had been with. The higher numbers got you those models, and likely impressed them as you intended to do, but it busted up your relationship with the other photographers, and now you can't use those other photographers as a model source in the future. Short term thinking.
US Airways, Northwest Airlines, United Airlines and Delta have all offered higher salaries to pilots from Southwest, Frontier and others over the last ten years. It was a move to get those well skilled and trained pilots without having to make the investment to find them and train them on their own.
They got the pilots. But, US Airways, Northwest Airlines, United Airlines and Delta have also all filed for bankruptcy protection in the last 2 years, and two of them came within a few days of being completely shut down. Short term thinking is bad for long term goals.
C. Tactics. Way back before you even opened the teen stuff I talked in the previous version of this forum that I thought some of your comments and tactics seemed out of line. Now, 2-3 years later it's proving true and correct. The moves you have made to twist and turn and trick people is likely coming back to you. My opinion is that your sneaky little lies and trickery have caused you some of the issues you mention (see point "A" above) and will be bringing you much, much more in the way of expensive headaches in the near future.
Copying text from another's website?
Lie to potential customers telling them certain sites are being investigated in an effort to get the customer to buy only from you?
Indicating to mothers that you are in some association with others that you clearly are not?
Why do this dumb shit when being honest and open is so much easier?
D. Media Issue. In my opinion that wasn't an issue - it was an opportunity. After a couple of phone calls and discussions with the lawyer I gave them a full 90 minutes on camera in my own studio building, with a full tour given. The story came out on 08/25/06 (1st version) and was followed up two weeks later. I just completed the biggest 30 day subscription period I have had in 30 months. As of last night the total TTB subscribers is at the highest it's ever been.
More importantly, that huge boost is almost all persons / surfers that are new to the teen model scene. it's new money coming into the marketplace. it's new surfers I can keep for many months to come. it's new surfers that have trickled down to more than TTB memberships. Tina and Kaylynne's sites are rocking. The TTB store has been busy as heck.... including, the $199.99 CD set with the first 75 models having sold dozens of copies in the last 4 weeks to new surfers, and lots of DVDs on top of that.
Its show business. it's Hollywood. As they say, any publicity is good publicity.
The follow-up to that media month has also been helpful.
Two different people have contacted me about using their property as locations or props -- custom cycles, a beach front mansion and a 33 foot long boat.
I've been dying for helpers at the Clearwater studio ever since we moved in. Just 1 day after the news story I was contacted by a guy that worked for years with the guys from Teen Planet Forums and now he'll be helping me with new sites starting next month and his experience is a great thing for me!
Model applications went way the heck up after that week. I normally get 1-2 a day, but it jumped right up to 14-15 for the few days right after the shows. One of those girls is already scheduled, another is waiting for her mom to confirm with mom's job certain travel dates. Of course, there was a bunch of fakes and a handful of overweight girls too.
There has been almost no negative effect. No neighbors complaining. A few rude emails (along with an invite to submit photos to an online art gallery to be sold as collector prints), and mostly handshakes from the people that know me.
Think carefully about what they said and showed in the two newscasts. Think carefully. If you don't know exactly what I mean, somebody start another topic to discuss exactly what was shown on the screen during those newscasts.
I notice that after the media days your site makes the point to say you are not related to my operation. LOL... didn't say that in the past.... Just a few months ago you (falsely) claimed to be in a circle of photographers that all did the same work and shared models.
Your post today, and this quote from your website; "It seems to me, anytime the media is involved with a website the fans disappear", seem to indicate that you've not had a great summer.
Why is that? As I said, TTB is at the highest total subscriber number it's ever been and the last 4 weeks have been the highest total sales the TTB store has ever had.
I'd carefully review the items I mention above (A thru C) and see if maybe they need tuning up.
Hardman replied within a day or two, and it was his typical rough, I know it all, style. Here are some excerpts.
"Competitors are not your competition" well of course they are... I don't have a ego, I'm not doing this to show the world how good I am, I went into this to get some of the pie.
"As for talking to media, generally I would assume most sites get a hit from any rumors of media attention. Who's going to sign up in they think the media will get hold of sales records and customers lists?"
"And really, I'm not the one with a past record that just seems to leap out everytime someone wants an interview."
My reaction, in particular to that last quote, was this:
That, Dave, is you playing the race card. Bringing up 20 and 24 year old bad check convictions is a sure sign of desperation. Why you feel the need to use that tactic (and the other tactics we discussed in the previous post and other times) is exactly what I'm talking about. It makes my point exactly.
Hardman's curious method of interacting with others in the business really came to light that day in 2006 and he was never again seen around the group of teen model websites that wanted to help each other and grow the overall business if possible.
Admittedly, the co-operative didn't blossom as I hoped, but we did try. The persons involved became friends, made some money, had some fun dinners, and continue to talk right up to the day I'm typing this in April, 2019. Conversely, Hardman is in prison and I, the guy he most hated, happen to be the only person outside his older sister that communicates with him or tried to help.
Models from other websites worked on TrueTeenBabes, such as Brittany Marie, Natasha Annamarie and Krissy, including getting to attend bigger projects in Miami or other areas. Dave B., from the old Beauty-Watchers / Lovely-Models sites, Mike from SandleTeens, Neal from MoreMelly and others used my studio a few times. Multiple websites hosted on servers that group members shared to keep costs down. There are many more examples of people working together.
Around 2008 Hardman was again invited to join a loose group of teen model website owners. This time it was for legal reasons not promotional reasons.
After some media attention on the business in 2006 and 2007, the state legislature in Florida planned to look into changing the state law to ban such websites. The debates took place in the spring of 2008, and the proposed changes to the law were scheduled to be effective July 1, 2008.
Knowing the controlling power of Ferber, and how it had been reinforced in cases such as Osborne, Reno and Ashcroft, and how other courts referred to it in a positive light in Oakes and others, it seemed to my lawyer friends that pretty much anything that Florida changed from their current law would be unconstitutional, and we would need to make that case in court.
I had a studio there at the time and some other sites operated from Florida locations. The idea was to get a group together, pool some cash, and then hire First Amendment lawyer Luke Lirot. We would sue to get a ruling on the constitutionality of the law before anybody was arrested under the new terms.
I sent a general email proposal to the 7 teen model website people in Florida at the time. Hardman's reply was:
"You brought this shit down and should just go back to Colorado. No worry unlike some I have my legal shit in order"
Obviously, he didn't select to pitch in any money.
In the end it didn't matter. Despite all the TV news hype, when the Florida law changes were published the amendments they made didn't have any direct effect on teen model websites featuring models under 18, and ironically had been directed more towards adult website or porn companies that used models under age 18 accidently, such as a 16 or 17 year old girl with fake identification.
No legal action was needed and teen model websites produced imagery and ran from Florida without interruption until such time as social justice warriors scared away models and parents, and piracy took away all the incentive to continue.
Overall, from the early 2000s through that 2008 email, Hardman displayed a lot of online bravado, but also a lot of lot of desperation and short term thinking, and that would seem to catch up with his business over the years. He didn't have friends, advice or resources when he most needed them.
That June 2008 email was the last time I spoke with Hardman prior to his September 2018 sentencing.
For many years Hardman relied on a spider web style series of connections in bloodlines and across flip-flop foot baths in trailer parks to find new models. One girl would do a decent shoot and later her little sister would want to be involved, and a month or two later a cousin would join the fun.
While working with one or two girls Hardman would overhear them, or the mother that had driven them to his home, talking about some other girl in their neighborhood. He would offer the mother a referral fee if she could make the connection to that other girl and her mother.
These types of referrals are very common and I've often spoken about how many of the original TrueTeenBabes models can be traced back to just one person or one day. The problem in Hardman's situation was that he wasn't prepared.
He had no formal permission forms for parents to sign that spoke directly to who he was, what he was doing, and how it would be done. He, instead, relied on a generic template style model release form found online.
He, in a number of cases, simply trusted the referring model or mother to get a signature from the birth mother or custodial parent of a new model, and we know now that he never spoke with some of the custodial parents and a few of them never knew what the kid was participating in.
He, not only relied on others to do the recruiting and business paperwork, but we know now that those he was dealing with ended up being a mixed-up, somewhat strange, drug infested bunch of fools.
Read this next paragraph and decide for yourself if you would rely on that mother to get some legally binding paperwork completed on your behalf.
During Hardman's time in the teen model DVD business he came to work with three sisters. They all had the same mother, but three different fathers. They lived on public welfare in a trailer park with a rotating series of the mother's boyfriends. At one point in time the mother became pregnant again by one of those loser boyfriends and shortly thereafter the oldest of the three daughters also became pregnant - by the same guy, her mother's loser boyfriend.
Once your head stops spinning, and nightmares about The Jerry Springer Show leave your brain, ask yourself - would you get involved in a situation like that, much less rely on the participants in that situation to honestly complete the legal forms required as the very foundation of your business?
Would you rely on them to bring in paperwork they claim was signed by a custodial parent allowing a young model to participate in this style of work without having at least spoken with the mother by phone? Would you do so knowing they are really, really wanting that referral fee cash?
The entire thing reeks of desperation and short-term thinking on his part, and it would come back to haunt him later.
His records were a cluster fuck of unreadable handwritten notes, often by black marker on a video tape or DVD case, that no legal team could have gone through to counter prosecution arguments. In at least one video shoot he didn't even know the true name of a model or her mother and just made something up.
If the prosecution is likely to present you to a jury as a dirty old man sneaking underage girls into your home, without the parents knowledge, for illegal video tape sessions, you and your legal team need to be ready to present a strong counter argument that this is a professional business, run well within the legal guidelines, and common in the internet age.
At his sentencing in September of 2018 the prosecution presented him to the judge just that way, and Hardman's legal team had nothing they could show to counter it. Not one single document. Not only didn't they know the true and correct name of the former model being described as a victim, they also didn't know that she wasn't even one of the girls listed in the Federal indictment, and shouldn't have been part of that hearing.
Like almost every day in his video production adventures, from bikini babes to teen models to child models, Hardman's legal battle for his life was a sewer system reeking of poor decisions made much too quickly, desperation, offensive bravado and ridiculous theories.
Hardman's ModelingDVDs and related businesses had been the subject of a neighborhood watch group and local investigations for years. Some of these groups would write down license plates, call the Florida Department of Children and make exaggerated claims about what he was doing with these 10, 11 or 12 year old females in his private home, hoping to get the mothers and Hardman investigated.
It was, to use a common idiom, "A Recipe for Disaster".
Over the next few paragraphs I'm going to lay out what I believe took place in the months before his arrest. I've cobbled this together using the following:
• My experience reading and reviewing every legal case I've ever been able to find in the teen model / photography of minors category.
• My experience in my own case and as a consultant in three other legal cases involving the photography of minors.
• My review, over and over, of all the legal documents in the Hardman case except those that are sealed, as well as all the legal documents filed thus far in his appeal.
• More than two dozen letters to Hardman, many with direct questions, and his replies to those letters and questions.
• My direct communications with his sister, a couple of his former customers, former models, and others he had communicated with in 2017.
• My review of business documents not seized by the F.B.I..
• My discussions with lawyers that didn't participate in the case, but know those that did and/or the general process.
Please take note that this may not be 100% correct, in particular when it comes to a few names and dates, but I'll bet an evening of margaritas it's very damn close.
I will not be using real names of mothers or models. I'll turn real names I know into initials, and for models identified by initials in legal documents, I'll continue to use those same initials.
Hardman's business began to crumble behind the scenes no later than March 2017, but the roots seem to have been planted months, and maybe even years, earlier. Not all of the issues he faced were related to the website.
Two documents in the Hardman case indicate that his gross income from teen model DVDs was $346,663.84 over his final 81 months in business (December 2010 - August 2017), resulting in an average of $4279 per month. That's before hosting, credit card fees, taxes, paying models, paying referral fees, buying outfits, blank DVDs, postage, or any other expense.
That $346,663.84 encompasses that entire 81 month time frame. Broken down to his final two full years the monthly average is much lower, and more in the range of $1600-$1800 a month. The reasons for this drop are common in that business; piracy took customers, and their payment cards, to the eastern European trading forums and file lockers and his overall product line had started to grow stale, with few new models and very little diversity in the production style, locations, settings or backgrounds.
During this same time frame Hardman maintained his full-time job, but also suffered additional expenses including every single thing that goes with home ownership, plus the equipment (welders, tube bender, raw materials) for his other hobby of building custom three wheel adult bicycles; and at least two female leeches he refused to dislodge from his life and wallet.
Leech number one is N.S., who is a model mother and druggie. At numerous times over a period of a few years she would also refer models and do the driving to bring those models from the ST. Cloud, Florida area (south of Orlando) over to Hardman's home in Melbourne. Again and again she would take his money for gas, referral fees, and outright loans from a few hundred dollars up into the thousands, only to let him down.
A review of emails between N.S. and Hardman shows her desperation, and in many ways, his own. He needed her to bring her kid for more shoots, and to be the driver for others, and for her to find new models. She would play on that and come up with excuses, make demands for additional money, and more.
She is desperate for cash for drugs or booze or her boyfriend's drugs or booze, or for other reasons because she used her normal employment paychecks for drugs or booze. Hardman was desperate for models to produce new DVDs and N.S., for an extended period of time, was his only source.
N.S., in dealing with Hardman, would often make veiled threats such as withdrawing her children from his work, and more serious threats such as "reporting him to the police".
That second threat is curious, and could only come from the mind of a druggie. How can she report him for something she is driving over an hour to bring her own child to participate in? If Hardman was violating any law with her child wouldn't she be risking the state taking her children away when they understood she was knowingly placing her child in the situation?
Seems a bit like those 911 calls where an illegal drug buyer complains that the dealer ripped them off.
There was a time when N.S. lost custody of one of her daughters that Hardman was using as a model. Temporary custody was given to another mother from that part of Florida that also had multiple kids, at least one of which was also working Hardman. All part of the drunk mom cesspool.
Hardman had to be pretty fucking desperate to first allow somebody like that in his life, much less to keep her there for an extended period of time.
Leech number two was K.R., who at all times relevant to Hardman's legal case, was a mid-20s Puerto Rican girl that grew up in his area. Hardman was paying her to fuck when her boyfriend wasn't around, and fell in love either with the sex or the deviousness of the situation, or more likely both.
Little Miss K.R. appears to have used his personal desperation, and addiction to her mouth and vagina, to not only suck cum from his penis, but serious cash from his wallet, and later use that cash for her own odd habits, and those of her violent, possessive boyfriend.
It is unconfirmed, but my instincts tell me that Hardman may have made his most recent gun purchase - the Ruger model LC9s - worried that crazy boyfriend might find K.R. at his home. He may have initially, for at least a few seconds, thought the pounding on the door waking him that early morning in August 2017 was K.R.'s boyfriend.
For an extended period of time, the length of which I was unable to confirm, K.R. used both her Latin sexual skills, and Hardman's loneliness, to suck as least $2000 a month out of him. Often, I'm led to believe, she would get more, maybe even twice as much, as her normal fuck fee from Hardman and income as a club stripper, wasn't enough to satisfy her financial needs, or those of whomever she was supporting, so she would pressure Hardman for more and more. K.R. didn't respond to email to confirm, clarify or deny.
Hardman had to be pretty fucking desperate to first allow somebody like that in his life, much less to keep her there for an extended period of time.
The shit pile was getting deep.
His teen model DVD business was slowly producing less and less income due to piracy, a shortage of new models, being slow to modernize, and a lack of new content style with the current models.
Slowing down piracy requires time and money, and he was short on both.
Finding new models was hard in the current social media environment and his only helper or source was a druggie loser cash sucker he couldn't trust.
Modernizing would mean, at a bare minimum, ditching the DVD format (SD 480i) fully in favor of Blu-Ray (HD 1080p), but that would mean hoping all customers would invest in a Blu-Ray player, when by 2014 or 2015 or 2016 most customers had grown accustomed to either downloadable clips or streaming from other websites. The investment for better HD or 4K cameras, and a shopping cart site with downloads, would be thousands.
Trying to be more creative with his current models to make the product more professional, and less repetitive, had become a difficult option as the local social justice warriors would often harass him if he tried to shoot in public spaces. There is only so much that can be done in a small private home.
Those four individual considerations - piracy, new models, downloads and creativity - when added together resulted in a more than 60% revenue drop in monthly average from 2014 to 2016, and a similar drop in total customers placing orders.
Clearly, but very likely without him even realizing it, he was getting a bit more desperate as time went by.
By email he would be very nice to N.S. hoping she could bring new models, and then very quickly the tone would change to being more and more upset at N.S. to stop with the broken promises and excuses, and/or pay back the money he had given her in advance.
Slowly he began marketing his DVDs, in particular those that featured the youngest models, in online locations you wouldn't normally see his banners, and places most teen model website managers wouldn't want to be seen.
He started offering a few extra HD video clips, not seen on the normal retail DVDs, at the request of a few customers that he had been in direct contact with over the years. He didn't offer these private sales on the main website or advertise them in forums. It was almost like a separate business, with the payments done in a different manner from the retail products, and downloads from Google Drive.
And, a little in his retail products, but more in intentional outtakes for his private collection and private sales, he started venturing closer and closer to "lascivious exhibition of the genitals or pubic area of any person".
As sales totals slowly crept down the camera zoom slowly crept in, twisted there by various flavors of desperation.
Frankly, it now seems that for his private collection and sales, rather than using the items described in the Knox cases as examples of what not to do and steering clear of that type of video framing, he was using them as inspiration for what he would do for himself and those few private customers.
I must say - it's clear now that most of the clips offered in private sales had been produced as early as 2012-2015 for a private collection he maintained for himself. What is unclear is if at the time of production the models knew he was framing shots in that manner. Just as unclear is if the models, or mothers, at least one of whom was sitting just feet away during most shoots, happened to be paid extra.
It was, to use a common idiom yet again, "A Recipe for Disaster".
Rolling into spring 2017 Hardman started to sense the end was near, but in a business and personal sense, not a legal sense. The legal stuff was on his mind, but it was just a sense that he needed to be careful. It didn't dominate his thoughts.
He scheduled two weekends for production, but N.S. let him down, at least once, yet again, while blaming it on her personal money issues or current loser boyfriend hoping to get more cash.
Sales just plain sucked because most of his current customers had already purchased what he had to offer and new customers had become hard to find. He had no place to advertise, and he had long ago ruined relationships with teen model webmasters that had advertising space, forums or newsletters that would bring traffic.
The cash draining relationship with K.R. was growing stale and he was more and more uncomfortable with the baggage that came with her lifestyle.
He researched selling his home, and selected an agent, but didn't do a formal listing contract. He was dreaming - but not of a teen modeling DVD business, or the Puerto Rican slut, but of leaving south Florida behind and moving closer to family in South Carolina with his welders, tubing benders and paint gun.
In late spring he managed to get a shoot day done with J.D., the daughter of N.S., but by that time N.S. had lost custody of the girl, so the shoot had been scheduled on a visitation weekend. J.D. was carrying a cell phone provided by her biological father and he, either through Apple or an G.P.S. application he had installed, had noticed that the phone had been in Melbourne most of that Saturday.
Sunday evening, after she lied about it, he took her phone, discovered some behind the scenes photos N.S. had taken during the videotaping. Sensing an advantage in the current custody battle, first thing Monday morning the father called the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF). They investigated, and quickly called in the F.B.I.
N.S. contacted Hardman to let him know about the situation, and of course, asked him to pay for a lawyer she could use in the coming custody and DCF battle, making veiled threats along the way.
It was, to use a common idiom one more time, "The Last Straw".
He first removed certain pages from his website that featured the girl in question, then within hours Hardman put the entire ModelingDVD business and inventory up for sale. He never told his DVD customers, or the persons that emailed about the business being for sale, the truth about what was going on behind the scenes.
The next day he rented a 10' x 12' storage unit a few miles down the road and started moving some boxes there. While it is unclear from his writings to me and the legal documents, I believe that the Western Digital external hard drive found in this storage locker contained that private collection from which he sold a few clips here and there between 2014 and 2017.
He contacted the real estate agent again and let them know he planned to use the summer and early fall to tune up the house and prepare it for sale.
The legally compliant part of his online business sold within a month.
Unknown to him, the F.B.I. had quickly investigated the retail products he had online, and specifically the items featuring J.D., and like the local law enforcement, had no plans to take action on those materials. Unfortunately, that wasn't then end of the story or investigation.
Full Stop - The next few paragraphs should be taken as a loose description of the process and the person with the initials R.H., with a bit of speculation thrown in on my part. Because they involved a short undercover investigation the two documents that would provide the exact details are not available to me, mainstream media members or even Hardman, through the normal court document system.
While Hardman has seen the documents, and reviewed them while sitting with his lawyer, he doesn't recall the full details such as dates or exact wording, nor does he have a copy that can be used to clarify details. There is also a chance Hardman simply doesn't wish to provide me with this particular information in detail, even though he has been fairly precise in explaining other matters and answering other questions.
Please review the next few paragraphs knowing the story may not be perfectly accurate.
In the second paragraph of this story I put five words in the italics type style to add emphasis; "attempted production of child pornography". Read them again; "attempted production of child pornography".
The search warrant was specifically written to look for evidence, or corroboration, that Hardman had recently "attempted" to produce illegal materials with a minor.
It is important to note what it did not state: It made no claim that he had actually produced illegal materials and therefore they were searching for copies of those materials.
At some date in late June or early July of 2017 Hardman received an email from R.H., a party in Virginia, that explained he appreciated Hardman's work, that he had a teenage daughter that was very attractive, and coincidently father and daughter would be visiting Florida soon, and wanted to know if the teenage daughter could do a shoot with Hardman while there.
Hardman appears to have thanked R.H. for the interest but let him know that he was no longer producing DVDs with teenage models.
The email conversations continued for several days. Some of these emails contained images, going both ways, but it is unclear what the content of those images happened to be. There may also have been some short video clips exchanged, and a phone call or two.
Eventually a plan was put in place that Hardman would in fact produce a video with the teenage daughter of R.H., and that R.H. would then market the video himself to customers on a list Hardman apparently still maintained.
The exact details of what they agreed upon are not known. There are no documents available to confirm what Hardman would be paid, or if it would be a cash fee or a commission of the sales. Not a single court filing I've read, exhibit I've reviewed, or question I've asked and had answered, has given me a clear picture of what the plan would have been.
What I do know is that R.H. was a 14 year veteran of the F.B.I working in a cyber-crimes unit, and whatever Hardman agreed to produce during a video shoot planned for August 19th, 2017 was at least one step over the legal line that has been painted for all to see since at least 1984.
I also know that whatever he agreed to, no matter if he truly meant it or not, was enough to get a Federal Judge or Magistrate to issue a search warrant authorizing a search of his home, even if by forced entry, to look for evidence related to the "attempted production of child pornography".
A warrant of that type also authorizes seizure of other illegal items, or potentially illegal items, law enforcement finds while searching for the items listed in the warrant.
When the F.B.I. arrived on August 17, 2017 they carried with them that search warrant, but not an arrest warrant for David Bruce Hardman. If they didn't find what they had arrived to locate he may not have been taken into custody.
Unfortunately, Hardman didn't know that detail when he ran to that bathroom and grabbed that gun. After that bizarre action, loaded gun or not, he was not about to get any leeway from the law enforcement officers present, their bosses back in Orlando or Washington D.C., or the prosecutors moving this case through the court system.
He was rushed to the Federal courthouse in Orlando, given representation from the Federal Public Defenders Office, advised again of his rights, and read the initial charge related to the gun. That was enough to hold him.
Over the next 30 days they found what they had been looking for, and more, somewhere within the seized computers at his home, and external hard drive from the storage unit.
The rest of the major dates in the Hardman case timeline are noted above.
David Bruce Hardman in now 57 years old, seems to be deteriorating mentally, and will very, very likely spend the rest of his life in Georgia's Federal Correctional Institution Jesup (FCI Jesup).
The previous paragraph, which you've now read twice, is not the end of the story. I've written almost 15,000 words today and there is so much more to say, and many more interesting, curious, somewhat unfair and maybe even legally questionable details to discuss.
I plan to continue my research and my weekly communication with Hardman. I expect to post "Hardman - The Rest of the Story" summer 2019.
April 12th, 2019
Avon, Colorado. USA.