New Bern, North Carolina- The criminal trial of the owner and an employee of the Pure Bliss adult store began Friday in Craven County District Court but was continued until July 28.
Judge Peter Mack said the trial was expected to be lengthy and time needed to be scheduled for it.
Pure Bliss owner Greg Sakas and an employee, Michael Squires, both pleaded not guilty to violating the law governing adult establishments and to selling a controlled substance.
A number of city employees were subpoenaed to testify, including a New Bern tax collector, Police Chief Frank Palombo, City Attorney Michael Scott Davis, city inspector Johnny Clark, at least six detectives, and New Bern Fire Marshal Henry Watson.
But only three witnesses testified Friday. They were New Bern tax officer Barbra Best, who issued the privilege license to Pure Bliss; detective Malydia Owen, who made purchases at the store as part of an investigation; and detective Marcus Kirk.
The charges against Squires and Sakas were filed last year after police raided the business twice.
Sakas was being defended by lawyers Marcus Chesnutt of New Bern and Glen Barfield of Goldsboro.
In her testimony, Owen said she bought a dildo, magazines, videos and an inhalant known as Rush from the store. She admitted that she did not know what Rush is made of. “I had a narcotics lesson from Sgt. Willie Wilcutt. He did not explain the chemical names of the inhalant,” she said.
The adult material was purchased with New Bern police narcotics money.
“Who is accountable for keeping up with the narcotic money in the police department?” Chesnutt asked Owen. She said she did not know. She said Wilcutt gave her $200 to make purchases at the store.
Detective Kirk said in court that Rush was not a controlled substance.
McAfee argued that there was no probable cause for the arrests. “It has not been established that Pure Bliss is an adult establishment. Rush is not a controlled substance. Those charges are not valid,” he said.
The judge said he would take the objections into consideration.
Pure Bliss has filed a civil suit against the city since the criminal charges, contending that the city’s actions violated several constitutional amendments, including the amending protecting freedom of speech.
That case has been transferred to the federal courts at the city’s request.