The company filed suit in U.S. District Court against Sumter County Sheriff William Farmer, claiming that he unconstitutionally seized 22,000 videos from the store in violation of the 1st, 4th and 14th Amendments.
Farmer took the videos claiming that the store failed to properly display the ratings on the movie packages. The sheriff’s office also said it would petition the court seeking approval to destroy the movies as contraband.
In its complaint, XMart asserts that it is a duly authorized corporation properly registered to sell adult materials, its products are not obscene, it displays signage advising patrons about the nature of its products and it does not allow customers under 18 into the store.
In other words, the lawsuit says, the store was operating within its legal rights and abiding by all applicable laws, and it should not have been raided.
The raid itself also violated the law, the suit goes on to assert, because it was massive in nature, Sheriff’s agents seized multiple copies of the same titles rather than representative copies and, most importantly, agents made no attempt to remove security jackets on DVDs, meaning there was no way they could tell whether the DVDs had been properly labeled.
According to the suit, the videos have a wholesale value of roughly $200,000, while the security jackets are worth $40,000. Seizing and failing to return the videos, it says, is prior restraint against legal free speech.
The suit further alleges that Farmer was personally motivated in his decision to raid the store, calling out a quote in which Farmer said he felt the store “violated the sanctity of my community.”
It is the second lawsuit 75 Retail Enterprises has brought against the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office. The first, which is ongoing, revolves around the arrest and conviction of XMart owner Evgueni Souliaguine on obscenity charges, for which he is serving a 364-day sentence — the longest allowed for a misdemeanor in Florida.
That suit alleges that the Sheriff’s Office, in violation of Souliaguine’s constitutional rights, used state obscenity laws as a pretext for harassing XMart out of business.
Central to the plaintiff’s claims is that none of the videos sold at the store has ever been deemed obscene by a court. Souliaguine’s conviction is currently on appeal.
Lawyers for 75 Retail Enterprises want all of the seized movies to be returned and for the Sheriff’s Office to pay punitive damages.