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Lawyer says police wrong to raid Pure Bliss adult store

New Bern, North Carolina- A lawyer for Pure Bliss said Friday that his client may take legal action against the city of New Bern and its Police Department for a raid this week.

The lawyer, Glenn Barfield of Goldsboro, represents store owner Greg Sakas of Goldsboro. Barfield said he thought there was an understanding with New Bern police that there would be no more raids until charges from a January raid were heard in court.

In January, Sakas and two others were charged with operating more than one adult business under one roof.

Barfield said Friday that New Bern’s city Planning Department had never determined that Pure Bliss was an adult business.

Mike Avery, New Bern city planner, referred all calls to City Attorney Michael Scott Davis.

Davis said the Planning Department would take its direction from the district attorney.

Scott Thomas, Craven County District Attorney, said the January case would be prosecuted.

“I have not seen the report of the latest case,” Thomas said. “The first I heard of it was by reading it in the newspaper.”

Davis said that adult businesses must have a certain percentage of earnings from the non-adult portion of the store and a certain percentage of earning from “adult” items.

He said the city does not employ forensic accountants and doesn’t have the staff to audit the store’s specific income.

Pure Bliss does have a privilege license to do business in New Bern. It was issued to Sakas in March 2004.

According to a search warrant that police obtained for the latest raid, an undercover officer, Detective Malydia Owen, spoke with an employee of the company. Owen swore that the employee told her that the majority of the business profits came from the adult items in the back room and referred to the front of the business as being “lame.” Owen said the employee identified himself as a regional manager and said he worked in several stores (owned by Sakas).

Owen was wearing a hidden recorder and other detectives electronically monitored the conversation from outside the business.

“It appears the New Bern police are undertaking a campaign against what we sell,” Barfield said.

He said he thought the police action was a violation of the First and Fourth Amendments.

The First Amendment guarantees free speech and the Fourth Amendment guarantees against search and seizures unless there is a probable cause.

“If the state tries these cases, they will go higher than District Court where a judge decides innocence or guilt. There are complex statutes in this case that will be heard,” Barfield said.

The Rev. Walter Leake of the Craven-Pamlico Christian Coalition said he has talked to police about Pure Bliss and voiced complaints. “We quietly picket the business on the fourth Sunday of each month, except during December, because of Christmas,” Leake said Friday.

The charges filed this week included counts of selling a controlled substance called “rush” in an inhaler.

Barfield said the store does not sell “rush” and the charge is wrong.

Owen swore in the warrant that she bought the product during two visits to the store.

She said in affidavits that the store clerk told her the item was “rush” but the store had to market it as “Head Cleaner.”

The front part of the store sells lingerie and general tapes. Owen said an employ admitted her through an electronically controlled door to a room containing adult material.

The store was open Friday with a full parking lot in spite of the fact that police say they confiscated several hundred adult videos and magazines.

The January charges are scheduled to be heard Sept. 27. The latest charges are set to be heard Oct. 25.

In the latest case, Sakas, 59, was charged with maintaining a multi-adult establishment and selling a controlled substance. Store manager Michael Squires, 28, was charged with two counts of operating a multi-adult establishment and two counts of possession of a toxic substance and two counts of selling a toxic substance.

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