ACLU Questions Prosecutor Over Threats on Adult Videos in Ohio

January 13, 1999 12:00 am

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Wednesday, January 13, 1999

CLEVELAND, OH — The ACLU of Ohio today called into question the recent actions of the Wood County Prosecuting Attorney toward stores that rent adult videos to the public.

The prosecuting attorney, Alan Mayberry, recently sent a letter to video store owners throughout Wood County, informing them of a recent obscenity prosecution, and asking them to question whether the “potential ramifications” such prosecution might have for their own stores.

The letter, which does not raise specific titles or target specific stores, is addressed to “Dear Sir or Madam.” According to the Toledo Blade, at least one video store has chosen to pull adult titles off the shelf rather than risk prosecution.

In a letter to Mayberry, newly appointed ACLU of Ohio Legal Director Raymond Vasvari has expressed “deep concern” over the tone and content of the prosecutor’s warning letter.

In the sharply worded letter, the ACLU’s Vasvari questioned the tactics employed by Mayberry.

“Since 1985, the United States Supreme Court has recognized that adult material cannot be considered obscene simply because it is sexually explicit,” Vasvari said. “Obscenity is always a act specific conclusion, to be made on a case by case basis. To threaten to prosecute every store that rents adult titles ignores the law, and muddies the waters.” In his letter to Mayberry, Vasvari noted that courts and First Amendment scholars take seriously the “chilling effect” that threats of prosecution can have on perfectly legal speech.

“The Wood County prosecutor is using vague language to bully video stores into removing what may be perfectly legal material from their shelves,” Vasvari said. “That not only offends the First Amendment, it offends a basic sense of fair play.”

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