Priscilla’s Sues Sheriff’s Department Over Sex Toys

Matt O'Conner
SPARTANBURG, S.C. — Adult store Priscilla’s has filed suit against the Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office alleging that a warrant used to seize more than 500 sex toys and novelties in a raid on the store last month was overbroad and that the seizure itself was massive, which is only permissible after an adversarial meeting.

The company, which is being represented by veteran adult industry attorney Paul Cambria’s law firm, is seeking the return of all the confiscated items as well as legal fees, attorney Michael Beal, an associate at Cambria’s firm, told XBiz.

In January, officers from the Spartanburg County Sheriff 's Office raided three area video stores and seized several thousand adult videos and toys, supposedly to be used as evidence in the impending prosecution of four store clerks arrested during the action, including two clerks working at Priscilla’s.

But Beal said officers should never have taken the sex toys and that they violated the company’s constitutional rights by doing so. He stressed that the suit does not deal with the criminal case against the store clerks, who have their own defense attorneys, but instead focuses on the alleged civil rights violations against the store.

Specifically, the suit claims the Sheriff’s department overstepped its bounds by seizing the sex toys, violating the store’s right to free speech and due process of law, as well as its constitutional protection against unreasonable search.

“The argument is founded and grounded in the 1st, 4th and 14th Amendments,” Beal told XBiz. “The judge issued an overly broad search warrant authorizing officers to seize any and all obscene material. It did not have defined parameters, and the seizure that resulted was massive.

“Everything in the store except the clothing was seized pursuant to the warrant,” Beal added. “If [the authorities] are going to do that type of seizure that takes all of these presumptively non-obscene materials out of distribution, they need to have a hearing ahead of time to determine if there is a probability they are obscene, and the meeting must include both sides.”

Priscilla’s is asking a judge to order the Sheriff’s Department to give back the items and pay for its legal fees.

But Sheriff Chuck Wright doesn’t seem to be onboard with that plan. He told the Associated Press: “They’re not getting anything until the lawsuit’s through and we go through the courts. They can demand all they want.”

The other stores targeted in the January raid included The Movie Gallery and Pick-A-Flick, both of which are general-interest video stores with adults-only sections.

South Carolina law does not specifically prohibit the sale of sex toys, but Beal said that fact is not even relevant to his client’s case, which deals specifically with federal law and does not address state law issues.

Sheriff Wright’s office did not return phone calls from XBiz.