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Movie Gallery clerks face charges

South Carolina- A Spartanburg County magistrate judge has denied a request to dismiss felony charges against two Movie Gallery clerks accused of disseminating obscenity.

Judge Tommy Wall ruled during a preliminary hearing last Thursday that probable cause exists to send the case to a grand jury, which will determine whether to indict Shawn Wesley Price, 25, and Tamika LaShonda Grier, 23.

Price and Grier were arrested in January after sheriff’s deputies seized hundreds of adult DVDs and videotapes at the rental store on Garner Road, where the two worked.

Deputies also confiscated materials from Priscilla’s, an adult store on Pine Street, and they arrested two clerks at that business. The attorney representing the Priscilla’s employees has not requested a preliminary hearing.

Attorney Beattie Ashmore of Greenville, who represents Price and Grier, argued Thursday that the movies seized might be tasteless, but they are not obscene when applying community standards. There is a demand for adult videos, he said.

“Apparently, the community standard of Spartanburg County to the average person is, these materials are available in Spartanburg County and people are freely and voluntarily renting these videos,” Ashmore said.

He also took issue with the procedure the solicitor’s office used to allow sheriff’s deputies to seize the materials, and he argued that Solicitor Trey Gowdy could not legally deem the movies “obscene” without watching them in full. Gowdy only viewed snippets of some of the movies before authorizing a search warrant.

The judge, however, agreed with Assistant Solicitor Robin File, who argued the search warrant and arrest warrants were valid and that a jury must decide whether the movies violate the obscenity statute. File, noting that a quarter-million people live in Spartanburg County, said the defense failed to prove the “majority of those 250,000 people rent (adult) movies from the Movie Gallery, or anywhere else.”

Sheriff Chuck Wright said the raids at the two stores came after complaints from the community. In court Thursday, sheriff’s investigator Steve Cooper testified that deputies had received complaints about Priscilla’s only, not the Movie Gallery.

When undercover officers first visited Priscilla’s, they asked where they could rent adult videos. Priscilla’s employees directed them to the Movie Gallery, Cooper said.

South Carolina law defines obscenity as material depicting or describing “in a patently offensive way sexual conduct” and appealing to the “prurient interest in sex” when contemporary community standards are applied.


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