Arizona porn studio owner gets 24 years in brothel case

PHOENIX (AP) - An Arizona man convicted of running a brothel out of his pornography production studio was sentenced Friday to 24 years in prison.

William James Hartwell was found guilty in early April on 10 felony charges that included sexual assault and operating a house of prostitution.

Prosecutors sought a 44-year sentence for the 57-year-old Hartwell, saying he showed no remorse for any of his actions and saw women as nothing more than a profitable commodity.

Hartwell insisted that he ran a legitimate studio where amateurs could rent cameras, lights and props to create sex scenes with the help of a model.

But authorities say Hartwell's studio was nothing more than a cleverly disguised brothel that raked in $40,000 a month in profits.

Hartwell accused the government of criminalizing free speech, saying the sex acts that were recorded and photographed amount to constitutionally protected free speech practiced in the same way as professional porn studios that legally operate.

Police say female employees who took customers into rooms would insist on shooting a minutes-long video or taking 10 photos with sexual content before the cameras were discarded and they began to have sex.

Prosecutors say those images were taken in a bid to guard against any future prostitution allegations.

The investigation was launched in 2012 after police received a tip about the business.

Authorities sent informants who posed as customers or prospective employees. One informant said Hartwell told her during a job interview that the studio provides customers with porn production space, cameras, condoms and a "free porn girl," court documents state.

Several women who worked at the studio have pleaded guilty to related charges.

Hartwell also was charged with sexually assaulting two women, but was acquitted of one of the two charges.

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