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Fantasia’s obscenity case dismissed

Huntsville, Alabama- Local prosecutors have dropped obscenity charges against the owner and manager of the Fantasia nightclub on the advice of state Attorney General Troy King’s office.

Keith Miller, chief deputy attorney general, said dropping the charge against Fantasia owner Shannon Dawn Reliford was vital to preserve the state’s obscenity law.

“A federal judge had indicated that he would strike down the Alabama obscenity law if it came before him,” he said.

If the obscenity law had been declared unconstitutional, the state would not have a law at all to regulate nude dancing, said Chris Bence, a spokesman in the attorney general’s office.

“That would have meant men and women dancing naked on tables in any nightclub and juke joint in Alabama,” he said.

Prosecutors in the Madison County district attorney’s office did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Madison County deputies raided the Fantasia club at 14068 S. Memorial Parkway on Dec. 29.

Reliford, 35, listed as the owner, was arrested and charged with three counts of violating the state’s anti-obscenity law and one of employing a minor to dance naked.

The deputies also arrested the club’s manager, David Joseph Seagroves, 42, of Meridianville, on three charges of violating anti-obscenity laws.

The female dancers at Fantasia were showing more than the law allows to their customers and some were offering sex for money, deputies said.

Reliford’s trial was scheduled to begin Monday, but the charges against Reliford and Seagroves were dropped in November.

The settlement documents in the federal case were filed in federal court Dec. 1.

The charges were dropped to help settle a complaint requesting a restraining order against King, the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board and Jefferson County Sheriff Mike Hale in U.S. District Court.Advertisement The complaint, initially filed by a Birmingham club owner, SJB Inc., also asked the court to rule on the constitutionality of Alabama’s anti-obscenity law.

The action was filed in anticipation of a crackdown by law enforcement officers and the ABC Board on clubs that sell alcoholic beverages and allow exotic dancing.

The owners of the Fantasia club were named among the plaintiffs in the federal complaint.

The case was eventually assigned to U.S. District Judge Scott Coogler.

The state’s obscenity law, passed in 1998, was sponsored in the Legislature by state Sen. Tom Butler, D-Madison. Under that law, establishments or private clubs are restricted from allowing male or female entertainers to show their private parts without fully opaque coverings.

Over the years, technological advancements in the exotic dance field have resulted in the use of theatrical grade latex and body paint for coverage of the private parts of entertainers, according to court papers.

All establishments and clubs in the complaint have agreed to require that their exotic dancers use acceptable coverings, Miller said. So the claims the complaint raises about the constitutionality of the law are moot, he said.

The agreement between the state and the club owners would not have been reached with criminal charges pending against the owners and operators of the Fantasia club, Miller said.

The deputies arrested five other people during the raid. Charges are still pending against Joseph G. Goss, 25, of Arab, who was arrested on a charge of possession of cocaine.

Charged with soliciting prostitution, a misdemeanor, were: Adrianna Christine Thomas, 22, of Huntsville; Shelby Danielle Beard, 22, of Huntsville; Amanda D. Hall, 30, of Meridianville; and Rita Kay Ivey, 32, of Florence.

The charges against Hall and Ivey were dismissed by District Judge Lynn Sherrod, said Bruce Gardner, their lawyer.

“The prosecution did not have a case,” he said.

Beard was found guilty in a trial before District Judge Susan T. Moquin. Gardner has filed an appeal in Madison County Circuit Court.

Thomas was convicted in District Judge Dennis O’Dell’s court. No appeal has been filed.



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