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Adult Business Sues to Get Sex Toys Back

SPARTANBURG, S.C. – An adult-oriented business raided last month is suing the Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office to get its sex toys back.

Attorneys for Priscilla’s say deputies violated the company’s constitutional rights when they seized more than two dozen movies and 500 novelty items, mostly sex toys.

Sheriff Chuck Wright said Tuesday that last month’s raid was legal and no items will be returned.

“They’re not getting anything until the lawsuit’s through and we go through the courts,” Wright said. “They can demand all they want.”

University of South Carolina law professor Andrew Siegel said Wednesday he was unaware of any specific law in South Carolina prohibiting the sale of sex toys.

“General obscenity laws used to be used many a generation ago to prosecute for sexual aids and sex toys as well as pictures,” Siegel said. But, he said, that’s “an archaic interpretation of the law that doesn’t stand up to the modern obscenity definition.”

Sheriff’s Maj. Daniel Johnson said he couldn’t recall his office ever raiding a store based solely on the sale of novelties.

Johnson would not address the issue raised by the lawsuit, but he did say he thought the sex toys were seized as supporting evidence in the obscenity case against the store.

That case was made after an undercover officer obtained a sexually explicit video from Priscilla’s, showed it to the local prosecutor and obtained a warrant for the Jan. 13 raid, Johnson said.

The lawsuit filed Feb. 9 in federal court alleges officers ignored Priscilla’s freedom of speech, protection against unreasonable search and seizure and right to due process.

Prosecutor Trey Gowdy has said he will meet with attorneys for two clerks arrested at Priscilla’s and immediately return any items that both sides agree don’t rise to the level of obscenity.

Siegel said it was unusual under modern standards to have a store raided for disseminating obscene materials. Most fights over adult-oriented businesses coming in zoning cases, he said.

Siegel said he thought the store’s owners had several good points in their case, including the broad scope of the seizure.

Officers “grabbed things that aren’t normally seized in the modern era,” Siegel said. “Police used to use raids as a tactic to shut down the stores. It didn’t matter whether they could get a conviction.”

With their doors closed and no material to sell, the stores soon went out of business, Siegel said.

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