Larry Flynt had been defending himself against obscenity charges since the first copy of Hustler magazine rolled off the presses in 1974. In early 1978 Gwinnett County decided to press obscenity charges against the publisher when a local market began distributing the magazine. In March, 1978 trial began in Lawrenceville, Georgia.
Larry Flynt publisher of Hustler magazine
Joseph Paul Franklin - self avowed racist and admitted serial killer
Gene Reeves - Local lawyer for Larry Flynt was also shot in the attack.
Herald Price Fahringer - Flynt attorney
Paul Cambria Jr. - Flynt attorney
Gary Davis - Solicitor
Sara Hutchins - Part time surveyor's office clerk
Rhodes Jordan - Mayor of Lawrenceville, Georgia at the time of the attack.
Fulton County prosecutor Hinson McAuliff targeted Larry Flynt in 1978 when he sold personally autographed copies of Hustler and Chic Magazine at an Atlanta bookstore. Flynt was arrested and charged in Fulton County. As he posted bond, a warrant arrived on an unrelated charge for the sale of a copy of Hustler in Gwinnett County.
Originally slated to end on Friday, March 3, 1978, testimony had run long. On the morning of March 6, Larry Flynt took the stand and began to testify in defense of his magazine. He called it a "satire" and said it was "one big put-on." After what most people describe as a good performance by the publisher, Flynt and his legal team opted to return to V&J Cafeteria, on Perry Street on the west side of the courthouse. Flynt, 35, was joined by Paul Cambria, Price Fahringer, and Gene Reeves, just as they had done each day of the trial.
At 11:55am Eastern Standard Time, two or three shots rang out, striking both Gene Reeves and Larry Flynt. Falling forward, Flynt fell face down on a concrete driveway while Reeves took a few steps before collapsing on the sidewalk. Reeves had been struck in the arm and chest while Flynt had been hit twice in the abdomen.
At 12:20 pm a call came into the courthouse switchboard where Sara Hutchins, a part-time clerk answered.
"Tell (Solicitor) Gary Davis he doesn't have to worry about Larry Flynt anymore." Hutchins believed her caller and stood up to find Davis or his secretary. She heard the ambulances not far from the courthouse.
Early eyewitness reports had two men speeding off in a car, but no one actually saw a gunmen. One early clue was a spent .44 magnum cartridge near the crime scene, probably from a Martin deer rifle. A reporter for a Lawrenceville paper (The Dispatch) said he barely heard the gunshots. Investigators concentrated on an abandoned hotel across the street from the shooting. The hotel had a door to a parking lot in the rear of the building, making for an easy getaway.
The injured men were taken to Button Gwinnett Hospital on Scenic Highway in Lawrenceville. Surgeons worked on Flynt in two separate operations. In the first they removed much of the lower intestine which had been damaged by the bullets. In a second operation, Flynt's spleen was removed. Flynt and Reeves were moved to Emory Hospital for continued care.
Lawrenceville Mayor Rhodes Jordan was quoted in Time Magazine, "Somebody was sending Flynt a message, that they don't want his type of filth around."
State and local authorities had little to go on. No eyewitness description of the assailant, no fingerprints in the casing or in the vicinity of the hotel where they thought the assailant had waited. Originally, the police looked for a silver Camaro, which eyewitnesses reported seeing fleeing the scene. Then came a drawing of a couple wanted for questioning, not because they were involved in the shooting but because police felt they might have seen something. Then police looked into Flynt's business dealings for a motive.
Half a dozen requests to interview Flynt about the shooting were denied. He may have been afraid because he believed the shooting was part of an FBI or CIA plot to kill him.
During his years of incarceration Joseph Paul Franklin claimed responsibility for many crimes. For example, he claimed to have killed two black men in Atlanta, one in 1977 the other in 1978. Atlanta Police found one case that closely matched the details he gave, but had no idea about the second confession. Franklin also claimed to have shot Vernon Jordan because Franklin saw him with a white woman (Jordan's wife Shirley was white).
When Franklin confessed to shooting Larry Flynt, he claimed that it was because of an interracial photo shoot that appeared in the pornographic magazine. Franklin is currently on death row in Missouri.
Gwinnett County District Attorney Daniel Porter received a letter from Franklin in 1984, while he was in prison in Marion, Illinois. In the letter Franklin stated "My name is Joseph Paul Franklin. I shot Larry Flynt. If you bring me to Gwinnett County, I'll tell you about it."
When police arrived to discuss the letter Franklin had a change of heart, claiming the letter was a hoax. Finally, after 2 interviews, Franklin admitted he shot Flynt. Franklin was able to describe the building where the shots came from, his route of escape, and the vehicle he used. The detectives from Georgia felt certain enough of his involvement to recommend his indictment for assault and in 1984 the county filed charges.
Unfortunately, the string of murders in which Franklin had been involved took priority. In 1997 Franklin was convicted of murdering a man outside a Jewish Synagogue in St. Louis in 1977 and sentenced to death. Porter decided not to pursue the charges against Franklin filed in 1984.