Judge Denies Request to Drop Case Against Movie Gallery Clerks

Matt O'Conner
SPARTANBURG, S.C. — Lawyers for two Movie Gallery clerks petitioned a Spartanburg County Court at a preliminary hearing to dismiss felony obscenity charges against their clients, but the court denied the request, ruling that there is sufficient probable cause to convene a grand jury, which will determine whether to indict the clerks.

Both clerks were arrested after officers from the Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office raided three area video stores and seized several thousand adult videos.

Two clerks from a Priscilla’s adult store also were arrested and are being defended separately. Pick-A-Flick, a general-interest video store with an adults-only section, also was raided, but no employees were arrested.

Beattie Ashmore, an attorney for the clerks, argued that the raid itself should never have taken place because county Solicitor Trey Gowdy admits that he did not watch the videos in their entirety before deeming them obscene and issuing the search warrant that gave deputies the green light to seize the videos.

According to the state’s obscenity laws, a work must be viewed as a whole, similar to the federal Miller test. Gowdy did not return calls from XBiz.

Ashmore also said that the videos at the heart of the case are not obscene by community standards because “people [in the community] are freely and voluntarily renting these videos.”

Assistant Solicitor Robin File argued that Ashmore would have to prove that a majority of Spartanburg County’s 250,000 residents are renting adult videos in order for the videos to be considered within the boundaries of community standards.

The county did have a slight setback when sheriff's investigator Steve Cooper testified that the complaints used as the basis for the search warrant were directed only at Priscilla’s and not Movie Gallery.

However, the court ultimately agreed with File that the case against the clerks is solid enough to convene a grand jury.