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Video Store Owner to Be Sentenced on Felony Obscenity Charges

RUSTON, Louisiana – A Ruston man convicted of violating the state’s obscenity law is scheduled to be sentenced at 3 p.m. today in Lincoln District Court in Ruston. Dan Sasha Birman, 23, could be sentenced to six months to three years in prison at hard labor and fined $1,000 to $2,500 on the felony.

A jury of four women and two men deliberated about four hours Oct. 29 then unanimously found the owner of Fantasy Video, an adult video and novelty store on Frontage Road between Ruston and Grambling, guilty of selling obscene material to undercover state troopers April 17, April 23 and June 9.

After the conviction, defense attorney John Herbison said he anticipated an appeal. “We’ll see what motions we need to file and what we need to do,” he said.

One of the conditions Lincoln District Judge R. Wayne Smith set for Birman’s release on $25,000 bond pending sentencing is that Birman refrain from selling obscene material. Fantasy Video ceased selling tapes and DVDs shortly after the conviction but continues to sell sex toys, sexually explicit magazines and sex aids.

Tuesday, store manager Corey Toussaint said that as far as he knew the store would continue to operate after Birman’s sentencing. “I’ve talked with his brother (twin Guy Birman), and the plans are to stay open. We still won’t sell any tapes or DVDs, but we will sell the other items.”

At issue during the trial was whether two videotapes – Hustler’s Barely Legal, Vol. 16 and Ladies’ Club – violate community standards. State troopers working undercover bought the videos at Birman’s store, which he opened in February in a pink cinder block building on a service road along U.S. Interstate 20 just west of Ruston.

During the trial, Lincoln District Attorney Bob Levy argued that the sexually graphic scenes in the movies violate community standards of the area.

The defense countered that the materials do not violate community standards because they can be bought in Minden, Shreveport and Monroe and through local cable companies and at local hotels. Birman also owns stores in Minden and Delhi.

The two movies were shown to the jurors.

Ladies Club contained graphic scenes of sexual activity between two and sometimes three people. Some jurors seemed unable to watch its more explicit scenes, often bowing their heads or closing their eyes. One juror placed their hands over their mouth during some of the scenes. When Hustler’s Barely, Legal, Vol. 16 later was shown, jurors once again often looked away or bowed their heads during sexually explicit scenes.

Toussaint said he could not understand why the Louisiana Legislature made selling allegedly obscene material a felony. “I’m from New Orleans, and you can see more explicit stuff on Bourbon Street than what these tapes showed.”
 

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