Thursday, April 29, 1999

Flynt's lawyers must wait to question star witness

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Larry Flynt's lawyers will not be allowed to question the star witness in his obscenity case until the Hustler publisher's trial begins in two weeks.

        A judge ruled Wednesday that the witness, a 16-year-old boy, did not have to testify at a pre-trial hearing about his alleged purchase of a pornographic videotape at Mr. Flynt's store in Cincinnati.

        Three of the obscenity charges against Mr. Flynt claim a clerk at his store sold the tape even though the boy was only 14 at the time.

        Defense attorneys, however, say the teen-ager has been used more than 50 times in police sting operations against stores that sell alcohol to minors.

        They told Judge Patrick Dinkelacker they needed to question the youth to learn more about how and why he was used in the Flynt investigation.

        “It's relevant to our case,” said H. Louis Sirkin, one of Mr. Flynt's attorneys. “We'd like to know what information this young man may have given the prosecutors.”

        But assistant prosecutor Steve Tolbert said the teen-ager's other activities have nothing to do with the Flynt case.

        “Regardless of how often he was used, where or when, it's not relevant to the facts that occurred here,” Mr. Tolbert said after the hearing in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court.

        He said it would be inappropriate for defense attorneys to question the teen-ager before the trial because it would give the defense an unfair advantage.

        Judge Dinkelacker agreed, saying the defense would have to wait until the trial.

        The judge also indicated he is uncertain whether any of the teen-ager's other activities in police operations would be permitted as evidence at Mr. Flynt's trial.

        “I'm not exactly sure that any of this can be used at trial,” the judge said.

        He is unlikely to rule on the issue until the trial is under way and the defense attempts to introduce the evidence.

        The defense wants to use the teen-ager's history with police to challenge his credibility as a witness. They say his background raises questions about police tactics and the charges against Mr. Flynt.

        The teen-ager recently testified in an unrelated case that police have used him because he looks old for his age.

        Mr. Flynt and his attorneys have maintained that clerks at the Hustler store are instructed not to sell videos to anyone without an ID showing they are at least 18.

        Mr. Flynt and his brother, Jimmy, were indicted on 15 charges and could face more than 20 years in prison. Their trial is set for May 10.


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