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http://www.2theadvocate.com ST. MARTINVILLE — A state district judge on Wednesday shot down a First Amendment challenge to the state’s obscenity law brought by two adult video store owners facing criminal charges for allegedly selling illicit hard-core pornography.
ST. MARTINVILLE — A state district judge on Wednesday shot down a First Amendment challenge to the state’s obscenity law brought by two adult video store owners facing criminal charges for allegedly selling illicit hard-core pornography.
In a 12-page ruling that will likely be appealed, state Judge Charles Porter upheld the state’s obscenity law in the face of challenges that the statute is overbroad and so vague that it could stifle constitutionally protected expression.
Emmette Jacob Jr., the owner of Le Video Store, and Edward Burleigh Jr., the owner of Le Video Place, both face obscenity charges in the case.
Prosecutors said that in an undercover investigation last year, officers purchased such video titles as "Sabrina’s First Swing Party Orgy" and "Bootleg Bondage, Vol. 1" at the stores, both on the Breaux Bridge Highway in St. Martin Parish.
William Goode, one of Jacob’s attorneys, said his client will likely appeal Porter’s decision tossing out the constitutional challenge.
"I thought the arguments were sound and the law was bad," Goode said.
St. Martin Parish prosecutor Chester Cedars called the ruling "a validation of the First Amendment."
"I look forward to defending Judge Porter’s decision and the constitutionality of the decision on appeal," Cedars said.
Adult pornography is presumed legal. In Louisiana and most other states, the determination of when images cross the line into the realm of illegal obscenity is made by applying the so-called "community standards" test.
The test, drawn from a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision, defines obscenity as anything "the average person, applying contemporary community standards" would find appeals to a base sexual interest and has no political, artistic or scientific value.
The community standards test was the focus of the video store owner’s attack on Louisiana’s rarely used obscenity statute.
During a three-hour hearing in August, Chicago attorney J.D. Obenberger argued that the community standards test is too vague because it does not specify what "community" defines the standards.
Obenberger, a specialist in defending the adult entertainment industry, said 20 states have specifically defined the geographical boundaries of the community whose standards should define obscenity.
But Porter wrote in his ruling that the U.S. Supreme Court has "made it clear" that no state is required to set those boundaries.
The judge wrote that Louisiana law permits jurors "to rely on their understanding of the community standards of the geographic area from which they assemble to judge the controversy."
No trial date has been set. Jacob and Burleigh face up to three years in prison if convicted.