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Utah Business Had “Secret” Porn Room

ST. GEORGE, Utah – Authorities are continuing their investigation of an alleged secret pornography room in a well-known St. George business.

A second search warrant was executed Thursday for Earrings and More, located at 695 N. Bluff St. Susan Russell, [pictured] who owns Earrings and More, including the entire building out of which it operates, was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of distributing pornography. The building also includes other businesses, such as a laundromat and Sue’s Pet Castle.

The Washington County Drug Task Force seized more sexual paraphernalia Thursday, said Lt. Scott Staley.Sgt. Craig Harding, of the St. George Police Department, and Staley said they confiscated “hundreds of items.”

“Probably two pickup truck loads,” Harding said.

The seizure has raised questions about the legality of pornographic material in businesses. Deputy City Attorney Paula Houston clarified the issue. She said businesses that are “sexually oriented” are different from those selling graphic pornography. Strip clubs and adult theaters, for instance, would be considered sexually oriented.

In fact, city codes dictate that adult video, book or novelty stores are also legal. The codes also read that a business owner who wishes to distribute that kind of material must have the appropriate permit, Houston said.

Earrings and More may be cited for violating that law, as they allegedly did not carry a permit for their pornography, and they allegedly carried more than what is considered “sexually oriented” material, including sex toys and other similar paraphernalia.

“If it’s graphic, it violates the law,” Houston said.

Houston said another legal issue Russell is entangled in pertains to zoning regulations. As the codes read, it is unlawful to operate a sexually oriented business within 1,000 feet of a religious institution, school, park or similar establishment. Russell’s building is across the street from Bluff Street Park. Houston said this is one of the issues the city attorneys plan to investigate.

Meanwhile, the County Attorney’s Office is examining Russell’s allegedly illegal activity, with a focus on the general crime of distribution of pornography.

The codes that further elaborate on sexually related businesses can be found under Title 3, Chapter 8. They extensively detail the definitions, zoning laws and advertisement of such businesses, along with other ordinances concerning what is and is not prohibited under these laws.

Staley, who as a member of the Washington County Drug Task Force is handling the issue, said the task force is involved because of the store’s possible connection with drug-related activity.

“A lot of times, porn and drugs go hand in hand,” Staley said.

Staley said that Russell’s store sold items that could be and commonly are used as drug paraphernalia, though through a legal loophole, the pipes and bongs are permitted to be sold.

He said the pipes sold in the store were displayed to be used for tobacco and aromatherapy purposes, though Staley added the pipes could easily be purchased to smoke methamphetamine or other illicit substances.

“I feel that if the community knew what the most common use of these items were, they would be outraged,” Staley said.

Staley also addressed a rumor that the police knew about the alleged secret porn room long before they confiscated the items and started the investigation, saying police were unaware of the contents of the room.

When there was a burglary at the store, Staley said, police were not allowed to go into the room, and thus were unaware of the alleged pornography and sex toys.

In all, Staley said he was pleased that the task force could participate in helping to enforce state and local laws.

“I’m glad to have taken part in the investigation,” Staley said.

The St. George Police Department has a duty to the citizens of this community to investigate all reports of criminal activity, and we would certainly be derelict in our duty if we did not do this simply because it failed to rise to the level of importance to some individuals.

We must give the same importance to all of our citizens regardless of their standing or influence, and likewise, must investigate all reported criminal activity and take the appropriate actions should a violation of state law or city ordinance be found.

Many have voiced their concern regarding quality of life issues and this is why many have moved to our community. The quality of life we enjoy in St. George is the main reason many move here and the reason many more decide to live and raise their families here, and the St. George Police Department will do everything in its power to maintain the quality of life by enforcing the laws of this state and this city.

From KUTV: Two suspects were taken to jail and charged with numerous counts of dealing and distributing pornographic material in St. George.

St. George Police served a search warrant on a business and confiscated numerous items of pornographic material available for sale to the public.

Susan Russell, 54, of St. George, owner of Sue’s Pet Castle, and Clifford Whittaker, 22, of St. George, were taken to jail and booked into the Washington County Purgatory Correctional Facility after the service of this search warrant, which was the result of investigation prompted by tips from citizens.

The business, Earrings and More, located at 695 N Bluff, was distributing the pornographic material from an office located in that business owned and operated by Susan Russell.

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