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Grand Jury Indicts 4 XXX Stores

South Carolina- The indictment of four Anderson adult stores in response to a religious outcry is reopening a decades-old debate about the difference between pornography and obscenity.

“It’s not about me; it’s about the First Amendment,” said Ingo Stugg, owner of 4 Your Eyes Only. “This is the government going into people’s bedrooms. If you don’t like it, stay away.”

A 13-member grand jury made up of four white men, eight white women and one black woman between the ages of 20 and 62 indicted 4 Your Eyes Only, Lucy’s Love Shop, Pandora’s Boxxx and Paradise on charges of disseminating obscene material.

The felony charges carry a maximum five-year prison sentence and a maximum fine of $10,000.

Mr. Stugg’s adult novelty store has operated in Anderson since 1992. The action came as a shock, he said.

In addition to lingerie, Mr. Stugg peddles lotions, books, magazines, videos and adult novelties.

“You go to Wal-Mart, J.C. Penney’s – they’re selling these things,” he said. “You go to any kind of gas station, and they sell these magazines. You can buy some of the books I sell here at Books-A-Million.”

The charges resulted from a four-month investigation by the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office and the Anderson Police Department.

Anderson County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Tim Busha said the investigations were driven by citizen complaints stemming from publicity over the opening of Pandora’s Boxxx in North Pointe Shopping Center on Mall Road. He said the sheriff’s office had not received any formal complaints about the adult businesses in the county before March.

Rachel Robinson, 40, Starr, said she doesn’t think the businesses should be prosecuted.

“I think they should be able to run their business as they see fit,” she said.

But Mandy Bradley, 69, Anderson, said the stores are not a good thing to have, in general.

“I think it’s terrible,” she said. “Anything that’s not pleasing to God is rotten. I think they need to stop it.”

That difference of opinion lends weight to what Eldon Wedlock, a professor of law at the University of South Carolina, points out. He said obscenity prosecutions are rare, in part, because local community standards are the measuring rod for what is obscene.

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects certain types of pornography as long as they aren’t deemed obscene.

And the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Miller v. California establishes a three-part test using “contemporary community standards” to define obscene material.

Anderson County’s zoning laws most recently were strengthened in 1997 when community groups protested the opening of a new adult night club on S.C. 81. Anderson County Planning Director Jeff Ricketson said the proposed club never opened and the existing Show Club on S.C. 28 Bypass eventually shut down.

Mr. Ricketson said the other existing adult businesses – Lucy’s Love Shop, 4 Your Eyes Only and Paradise – were grandfathered into the law and have complied with the law.

Anderson Police Capt. Jack Sanders, head of the investigations unit, said city police received numerous complaints about Pandora’s Boxxx around the time the shop opened as the first sexually oriented business to locate within the city limits.

Greenville-based Pandora’s Boxxx announced its plans to open in early April. The Anderson Prayer Task Force, headed by the Rev. Elva Martin and other community groups, organized prayer rallies. They collected almost 4,000 signatures in a petition drive to protest the City Council’s draft of a zoning law to regulate sexually oriented businesses.

“Some of our people did some investigation and found out they were selling things in violation of the ordinance,” Ms. Martin said.

The group took the information to the sheriff’s office and followed up with a letter to 10th Circuit Solicitor Chrissy Adams on April 29.

In late April and May, the City Council placed a moratorium on the issuance of business licenses to other sexually oriented businesses and began to put its own pressure on the solicitor’s office to enforce the state law.

Council member Tommy Dunaway said he received numerous calls from constituents, so he met with the police department. When the council passed the zoning law Oct. 10, Mr. Dunaway repeated his call for swift action from the solicitor’s office in enforcing the state law.

“We can’t take credit for these indictments as much as we’d like to,” Ms. Martin said. “It was really the wisdom of our City Council and our sheriff just doing their job. Our main focus is to pray.”

On the solicitor’s instructions, undercover agents from the police department and sheriff’s office purchased three items each from all four stores suspected of violating the state law. They then turned the merchandise over as evidence. According to the indictments, the purchases were made May 9, May 23, June 1, June 6 and Oct. 20.

Explaining the inconsistency in purchase dates, Chief Deputy Busha said investigators did not find anything in violation of state law during an initial visit to Lucy’s Love Shop. In the interest of being thorough, he said, investigators returned to the store in October and found different merchandise.

Ms. Adams said videos, magazines and novelties were purchased as evidence but was quick to point out that not everything sold in the store or purchased by the investigators was illegal.

Mr. Stugg said he and the other longtime stores plan to defend themselves but said the legal battle probably will cost $20,000 to $30,000. He also has begun a petition drive and said 600 signatures had been collected by Friday afternoon.

“It’s just not right after such a long time to turn around and tell me this,” he said.

Anderson Independent-Mail reporter Meryl Dillman contributed to this story.

 

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