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A federal judge barred police Sunday from confiscating photographs from an exhibition of Robert Mapplethorpe's works that led to an obscenity indictment against an arts center and its director.

U.S. District Judge Carl Rubin also ordered county and city authorities not to interfere in any way with the exhibition while the obscenity charges are tried.The Contemporary Arts Center hailed the protective order, which will let the 175-photo exhibit proceed unchanged until a jury can decide whether its seven sexually explicit photos are obscene.

The exhibit opened to the public Saturday morning, attracting a crowd of thousands, including nine grand jury members. It was closed for an hour in the afternoon when the arts center and its director, Dennis Barrie, were indicted on state obscenity charges.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Arthur Ney Jr. asked the center Saturday to voluntarily remove seven photographs that grand jurors found objectionable, but center officials refused.

Ney made a veiled threat of more action if the photographs remain in place this week, and he would not rule out confiscation.

The seven photos include two of children either naked or partially naked, and others depicting homoerotic acts.

Last June, the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington canceled the exhibit. The exhibit prompted Congress to limit money for the arts after Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., declared the photographs obscene.

The judge ordered the arts center to give prosecutors a copy of each photograph for use at trial. He also said there was no reason for authorities to interfere with the exhibition, which runs through May 26 and moves to Boston in August.

``You may not recover any photos, you may not close the exhibit to the public, you may not take any action that could be intimidating in nature to prevent the public from seeing the exhibit,' the judge said.

Rubin said he would file his written opinion today.

The next step is Barrie's arraignment Friday, when he is expected to plead innocent to charges of pandering obscenity and illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material.

The question of whether the seven photos are obscene will be left to an eight-member jury. A trial date is expected to be set Friday.


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