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Rick Krial Says He Will Appeal Decision; Kiddie Porn Card May Have Influenced the Jury

Staunton, Virginia- At the conclusion of a trial unlike any Staunton Circuit Court has ever seen, it seemed oddly fitting that the jury would come back with an equally unusual verdict.

After deliberating one hour and 44 minutes, the jury in the Staunton obscenity trial found Rick Krial [pictured right], owner of After Hours Video, guilty of only one of two misdemeanor counts of obscenity, deciding that the first of the two DVDs they watched— Sugar Britches— was not obscene, but the second— City Girls Extreme Gangbangs— was. For his crime, the jury fined Krial $1,000 and his company $1,500. Cashier Tinsley Embrey [pictured left] was found not guilty.

Krial declined comment after the jury rendered its verdict, except to say, “We’re going to place our appeal.”

Embrey told reporters that while he was happy to be exonerated of the charges against him, this was not a completely happy day.

“I’m very happy to be acquitted, but I don’t agree with the decision,” he said. “I do not agree that Rick Krial or the company are guilty.”

Staunton Commonwealth’s Attorney Ray Robertson, who has received much criticism as a result of his dogged prosecution of this case, touted the ruling as a victory for “decency and morality.”

“I’m elated,” said Robertson, “that the people of the City of Staunton have spoken on behalf of their friends and neighbors and spoken out about how they feel about this stuff.”

Paul Cambria, the Buffalo-based defense attorney and former Hustler counsel representing Krial, says he’s never seen anything quite like this.

“It’s a surprise that it’s a split,” says Cambria. “I’ve never seen a verdict like this when the acts in the movies were so close in context.”

Just what was the big difference between the two movies? While jurors declined to comment, each side offered the same speculation.

“The jury felt that the tape that didn’t contain multiple partners was not obscene,” said Cambria. “It seems to me that’s a lot of why the jury decided the way they did.”

“My best guess is they drew a line with Sugar Britches since it was all one-on-one,” said Robertson.

Still, Cambria said he’s confident of his chances to successfully appeal to the next level.

“We do feel errors were made,” he said. “Particularly that the prosecution brought the child pornography theme into this. That prejudiced the jury, and I feel it’s reversible.”

Cambria was referring to Commonwealth witness Mary Anne Laydon, a University of Pennsylvania psychologist who testified yesterday that a performer in Sugar Britches, “has no pubic hair, no breasts, and an angular body type. Typically this is someone whose body has not yet fully developed sexually. In most industrialized countries, this occurs at the age of 12.”

The guilty verdict now opens the door to more trials against Krial, as obscenity becomes a felony offense after the first conviction. Robertson still has 10 more DVDs Staunton undercover police purchased from After Hours Video in October 2007, and he indicated today that this would not be the end of his campaign against the store.

“I’m confident we’ll have the same sort of stuff,” he said, “and that the jury will find it equally if not more gross.”

Each side made impassioned speeches in closing arguments as roughly 40 Stauntonians turned out to watch. Leading off was prosecutor Matthew Buzzelli, an attorney on loan from the Justice Department to aid Robertson, who invoked James Madison and Abraham Lincoln in pleading with the jury to make a decision “to promote the general welfare.”

“You know, my father always said, ‘Matt, keep an open mind, but not so open that your brains fall out,’” said Buzzelli, adding, “The defendants gambled. They came into this town and thought that no one would care. Well, someone did. Mr. Robertson cared, and now he gives this case to you.”

With many dramatic build-ups and decrescendos, Cambria showed no less zeal in making his client’s appeal.

“This country is all about individual rights in a community in 2008, not 1958,” he said. “If I put a picture from Playboy on a billboard along Route 250, that would exceed community standards. But if I choose to purchase one of these DVDs, take it home, and watch it in the privacy of my home, no reasonable adult would say that’s unacceptable under the circumstances.”

Cambria even used the Staunton city adult business licensing and zoning statutes the City Council passed in December to prevent businesses like After Hours from opening again as evidence that Staunton accepted such businesses.

“It’s acceptable because they license it,” Cambria said. “They collect money for that license! If nothing else that’s proof that the community accepts this material. That’s like you getting your drivers’ license, driving home, and then when you get there they arrest you because they say you’re not allowed to drive! What the heck’s the license for?”

But it was Robertson who had the last word, and with it he reminded the jury just what they had been watching 24 hours ago.

“There was a guy having sex with a girl in her vagina and another guy having sex in her anus,” he said. “There were two guys with their penises in the same vagina. Six times a man pulled his penis out of a woman’s anus and put it directly in her mouth. If we’re influenced by what we see, what do you think that does to a town?”

And then Robertson made a fervent plea to his fellow Stauntonians to think of the consequences of their verdict beyond the courthouse walls in “the town we love so much.”

“If you want this stuff, go buy it where they don’t care about morals and decency, but don’t turn Staunton, Virginia into Las Vegas,” he said. “Staunton may be a small light shining in the darkness these days, but don’t put it out. Let it live, and let it maybe be the first domino that reverses this junk.”

Before departing the courthouse, Cambria said, “The last chapter in this book has yet to be written, that’s for sure.”

When asked what he thought of Cambria’s vow, Robertson said, “Hey, that’s fine. Bring it on.”

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