Friday, May 21, 1999

'Community standards' face test

Video sellers indicted for alleged porn

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        BATAVIA — Clermont County prosecutors are hoping obscenity charges against two video store owners will help establish the meaning of a phrase much in the news lately: Community standards.

        Vicky Emerson, 50, and Vivian Hageman, 61, both of Batavia, were indicted Wednesday by a Clermont County grand jury on two counts each of pandering obscenity.

        When the grand jury viewed the films, it represented the first time in Don White's 11 years as county prosecutor that a grand jury has done so.

        The women are owners of video stores in which sexually explicit videos were confiscated last week. Ms. Emerson and Ms. Hageman were allowed to remain free and are scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday before Clermont County Common Pleas Court Judge Jerry McBride.

        Pandering obscenity is a fifth-degree felony punishable by up to a year in prison.

        The confiscations at Video Barn in Withamsville and Major Video Center in Mount Carmel occurred the same day that Hustler, through publisher Larry Flynt, pleaded guilty to pandering obscenity for selling objectionable pornographic videos at its downtown Cincinnati store.

        Ironically, the charges against Mr. Flynt involved the same “Rocco” series of videos confiscated from the Clermont stores, but Mr. White said there was no direct connection between the two cases.

        “We've for years and years talked about community standards,” Mr. White said Thursday. “This is one way to determine whether this type of movie fits into that.”

        He said there had been other previous citizen complaints about the videos but they didn't draw the close scrutiny of investigators, in part, because of manpower limitations created by undercover drug operations.

        “As a result of the Flynt case,” Mr. White said, “we probably were receiving more complaints.”

        The prosecutor said that clearly not everybody who watches sexually explicit videos is a sex abuser, but that “when we're investigating child sex abuse, we run into stashes of porn. We can see there's some kind of correlation.”

        He emphasized, “I'm not saying, obviously, that everybody with a collection is involved in child sex abuse.”

        Mr. White said he anticipated sales receipts of the videos would be part of the women's defense, because the rate of sale also would be a factor in establishing a community standard for such pornography.

        But Mr. White countered that many of the customers could be from outside Clermont County, because there are few or no businesses that sell sexually explicit videos in the surrounding counties of Hamilton, Warren and Brown.

        “I think they're obscene,” Mr. White explained, “but I'm not the community standard.”


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