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Joanne Webb Will Keep on Fighting

BURLESON – Misdemeanor charges against her have been dropped, but the woman who was accused of illegally selling sex toys said she plans to keep fighting to change the Texas law under which she was charged with obscenity.

Joanne Webb said she will focus on the federal lawsuit filed on behalf of eight women who, like her, are consultants for Passion Parties, a California-based company that demonstrates and sells sexual aids to women at home parties.

“I must do everything I can to overturn this law,” Webb, 43, said in a recent interview. “It makes women feel like their sexuality is obscene.”

The law defines an obscene device as a simulated sexual organ or other device designed to stimulate the genitals. Stores get around the law by calling them novelties.

Johnson County Attorney Bill Moore recently said that with a federal lawsuit challenging Texas’ obscenity law pending, pursuing the charges would have wasted county resources.

“Regardless of a jury trial, the issue of constitutionality would not have been resolved,” Moore said.

But Webb questioned Moore’s statement.

“What about our resources?” she said, referring to a February bankruptcy filing and the loss of her husband’s two construction businesses.

Webb’s attorney, BeAnn Sisemore, and co-counsel Steven Swander have asked the federal court to declare the Texas obscenity law an unconstitutional violation of the right to sexual privacy.

Several states, including Mississippi, have obscenity laws similar to those in Texas. Moore said that in March the Mississippi Supreme Court declared that state’s obscenity law constitutional.

Sisemore said Webb will be added to the lawsuit or will be asked to testify.

Webb can go forward with her fight, Sisemore said, because she is directly affected by the law.

“You have to have what is called a standing in the law,” she said. “You have to be directly impacted by the obscenity law. Their income is affected; people won’t sign up for something [“passion parties”] if they think it is against the law.”

“Every time she sells toys or has a party, she risks further penalty,” said Douglas Laycock, a constitutional-law professor at the University of Texas at Austin. “The state hasn’t done away with the law. There’s no commitment that they’re not going to prosecute.”

Moore’s motion was to dismiss the charges without prejudice, meaning he could refile the case, Sisemore said.

Webb turned herself in to authorities Nov. 13 after learning that a warrant had been issued for her arrest because she had sold sex toys to undercover officers at her husband’s construction office Oct. 7.

After her arrest, her husband, Chris Webb, a military veteran, said he had a mental breakdown because of what happened to his wife. He said he lost his home-building businesses because he couldn’t work for several months.

Joanne Webb said that she continued having passion parties outside Johnson County but that the income wasn’t enough to support the family.

The couple filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and had six vehicles repossessed. They sold a boat, a camper and stocks to help make ends meet.

Joanne Webb said she decided against selling her large home, with a swimming pool and hot tub.

“I’m not going to give up the home my husband built; they are not going to run me out of town,” she said.

But the Webbs said their lives are gradually getting better, with Chris Webb starting a trash-hauling business.

And because the charges against her were dropped, Joanne Webb said she can now have her parties, similar to Tupperware parties, in Burleson.

Sisemore, however, said she will discourage Webb from holding parties because she risks being arrested again.

Yet the Webbs say fighting for their rights is worth what they’ve been through.

“What’s right is right,” Chris Webb said. “If you don’t stand up for yourself, you are not going to stand up for anyone else.”



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