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Adult store ordered closed for year

BROOKVILLE, PA – An adult store in Brookville found to have provided secluded rooms for the viewing of live dancing and adult movies was ordered closed for a year Wednesday.

But the moral battle in the historic borough will likely emerge again as the store’s representatives vowed to reopen it after the closure is lifted. Borough leaders also have been working on an ordinance to curtail adult businesses.

Attorneys for the Adult Super Center said it would re-open in a year without any additional restrictions outside state law.

One of the attorneys told the newspaper the ruling would not help to compel the store’s owners to sale the property since all business activity is prohibited on the property for one year under the ruling, while its owners continue to pay property taxes.

“There are absolutely no plans to sale the property,” said lead counsel Barry Covert, of Buffalo, who represented the store. “If anything, the closure of the store for the year would diminish its value and hinder its sale. But I want to make it clear there is no intention of selling it. My clients will certainly reopen the store and there will no restrictions at that time.”

Covert and his co-counsel, Warner Marianni, of Pittsburgh, conceded before Judge John Foradora in the Jefferson County Court of Common Pleas that the business was in violation of Pennsylvania law. Foradora closed it March 3 via a temporary injunction after an investigation by Brookville police.

Police said the store, at 250 Allegheny Blvd., had about 12 dimly-lit booths in two areas, and the interiors of the booths weren’t visible and were separated by walls from common areas of the store.

Additionally, swinging doors to the booths could be locked from the inside, and all lighting ceased when video viewing was in progress, police said.

“The law provides that there has to be clear visibility and the entire interior portions of the booths have to visible from the common areas of the premises,” said Jefferson County District Attorney Jeffrey D. Burkett. “There was completely secluded viewing of adult-oriented material which is exactly what is prohibited by the law.”

Brookville police said a plainclothes officer entered the store on various occasions last summer and viewed videos while unsupervised. An informant was sent into the store several times in February and also viewed adult videos without supervision, police said.

Brookville police conducted an inspection March 2 when large amounts of suspected biological specimens were detected inside every video booth and surrounding areas with a blue light.

Three random samples were collected for forensic analysis at an Erie crime lab.

“Two of three came back seminal fluid,” Burkett said. “The other was some other substance. That is further evidence that the very situation that was to be prevented by the law was taking place.”

The store’s attorneys told Foradora it was the first time the store had been found in violation of state laws and the violations cited had been corrected as the doors had been taken off the booths, the booths have been reconfigured, and the lighting had been resolved.

They argued the store should be allowed to reopen immediately, under numerous restrictions and oversight.

“We asked that we be allowed to reopen upon presenting a bond and with an injunction requiring that we not violate state statutes,” Covert said. “We obviously would have preferred that the court allow us to reopen with the bond and injunction. We would have agreed to the monitoring and other requirements as part of the injunction.”

Foradora, however, levied the maximum penalty and ordered the store closed for a year, beginning Wednesday.

Burkett said he was pleased with the ruling.

“Our position was we wanted the court to exercise its discretion under the law to close the store for one year,” he said. “There probably will be an appeal. For the day, it was a very good result.”

Burkett said Foradora’s ruling would stand during any potential appeal.

Covert said Wednesday it was too early to tell if the store’s owner, Western Keystone RE Investments, LLC of Allentown, would appeal the ruling.

“My clients have to decide whether to appeal,” Covert said. “In any event, after the one year, if the appeal is not successful, there will be no conditions on the continued operations on the store. After a year elapses, the whole thing is over with and there are no restrictions on the store.”

Burkett’s said Wednesday’s hearing and subsequent ruling were in regard to if the store had violated state law, and what remedy the court should order, not whether the store had corrected its violations.

“They agreed they were in violation of the law. They did not deny the allegations that we made,” Burkett said. “For one thing, I have not seen any evidence myself to tell me the store would be in compliance. That doesn’t change the violations that occurred.

“At such time that the store reopened, we would have to look and see if the store is in compliance.”

The store had 20 days from the day it was closed March 3 to enter a defense to the civil action brought by the commonwealth.

It entered a defense in April and the store’s attorneys asked for and received extensions until Wednesday’s hearing.

“We came (Wednesday) prepared,” Burkett said. “We had a number of witnesses ready to go, but there was an admission, taking away the need for any testimony. At the beginning, a stipulation was reached really regarding the facts. They admitted that that was correct and that they had been in violation of those laws. Being that they stipulated to all the material allegation, there was no testimony taken.”

A large anti-pornography sign, sponsored by the Brookville Citizens for Community Values, still obscures the view to the store and stands just inches from its property.

The 10-by-25 foot sign installed last winter states “Pornography Pollutes Body, Soul, Mind.”

Bob Bickerstaff, chaplain of the I-80 Trucker Traveler ministry, said the adult store’s opening off Interstate 80’s Exit 78 in 2004 was the catalyst for inception of the citizens group. He said the group hoped to close the adult store permanently, calling it a “blight to the boulevard.”

Store manager Ronald E. Heffner has said many of his former customers are offended by the sign, since it includes a large picture of a little girl crying, and that children should be left out of a “mature, adult dispute.”

Heffner has said the business had a mixed clientele of people from all walks of life, mostly from Brookville and surrounding towns, and many have called to see when the store would reopen.

Heffner also criticized the influence of churches and religious leaders on public policy in Brookville. He noted a sign on the store cautions that the business contains “educational and medical literature of a sexual nature” and “if material herein offends you please do not enter.”

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