Thursday, December 21, 2000

Two stores accused of obscenity

Charges involve five videotapes

By Dan Horn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Hamilton County authorities launched a new battle over pornography Wednesday when they accused two Cincinnati stores of peddling obscene videotapes.

        The owners of Tip Top Magazines in Corryville and Elyse's Passion in Pendleton each face up to three years in prison if they are convicted of pandering obscenity.

        The obscenity charges are the first against a Cincinnati business since Hustler publisher Larry Flynt agreed last year to stop selling sexually explicit videos at his downtown store.

    The U.S. Supreme Court has established a three-part test that guides jurors as they determine whether material violates community standards for obscenity. The test asks jurors to decide:
    • Whether the average person would conclude the material appeals to prurient interests.
    • Whether the material depicts, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct that is offensive to community standards.
    • Whether the material, taken as a whole, lacks serious artistic, literary, scientific or social value.
        The charges involve five videotapes sold at the stores, including one tape that was labeled obscene as part of the plea bargain that ended Mr. Flynt's case.

        Prosecutor Mike Allen said the charges reflect Hamilton County's long tradition of opposing the sale of sexually explicit material, especially pornographic videos.

        “Hamilton County maintains a tradition of keeping our communi ty a place where people are proud to raise their families,” Mr. Allen said Wednesday. “With the indictments today, we continue that tradition.”

        The store owners said the charges show that county authorities are intolerant of free speech.

        “Repression's ugly head has reared again,” said Elyse Metcalf, owner of Elyse's Passion on Sycamore Street. “I think it's a problem in America today, most markedly so in Hamilton County.”

        Ms. Metcalf's store became the focus of controversy in October when she moved her business from Northside to Pendleton, less than a block from the School for the Creative and Performing Arts.

        Joseph Neuhaus, owner of Tip Top, said he will fight the charges in court.

        “I'm doing totally nothing wrong,” Mr. Neuhaus said. “I'll stand up for my rights.”

        The videos named in the indictment are Air Tight Granny, Planet Max 5, Jeff Stryker's Underground, Kitty Foxx's Aged to Perfection Vol. 15 and Gangland17.

        The store owners said some of the videos feature older performers while others are more traditional pornographic tapes. Jeff Stryker's Underground, a gay-oriented video, also was named in the Flynt case.

        The stores' attorney, H. Louis Sirkin, said he was disappointed prosecutors decided to seek charges. He also said his clients suspect that someone close to authorities may have tricked them into carrying the Stryker video.

        Both store owners said they carried the video only because a customer made a “special request.”

        Mr. Allen said he knows of no such request made by anyone associated with the investigation, which was conducted by Cincinnati police and the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office.

        Mr. Sirkin said prosecutors cannot argue the Stryker video is obscene simply because it was part of the Flynt plea bargain. “They can't use it against these two people,” he said. “They weren't involved with the Flynt case.”

        The Flynt case ended in May 1999 after the Hustler News & Gifts corporation pleaded guilty to two counts of pandering obscenity. Mr. Flynt did not plead to any charge himself but did agree to stop selling explicit videos in Hamilton County.


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