Obscenity Arrest in Texas

Michael Hayes
BRAZORIA, Texas — Citing a violation of state obscenity laws, police arrested a convenience store owner for selling sexually explicit DVDs.

Sandipkumar Ghandi, who is accused of selling obscene material, could face up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $10,000, according to Brazoria County District Attorney Jeri Yenne.

Police seized two boxes of pornographic DVDs and several magazines from the K.N.S. Jiffy Mart during a raid after a female employee accused Ghandi of making unwanted sexual advances toward her.

After questioning the man regarding the first allegation and launching an undercover investigation, police obtained and executed a warrant to search the premises for obscene material, Brazoria police officer Charles Webster said.

According to attorney Lawrence Walters, who frequently represents storeowners accused of selling obscene material, adult retailers operate with a known Achilles heel.

“I tell all of my clients that given the nature of their business they need to be very careful,” Walters told XBIZ. “It’s almost as if they need to hold themselves to a higher standard. In this case, the police investigated one thing, but once they were in the door, it turned into an obscenity case.”

Texas law defines obscene material, in part, as “patently offensive representations or descriptions of ultimate sexual acts, normal or perverted, actual or simulated, including sexual intercourse.”

While Texas law relies on local community standards to determine whether or not material is obscene, Walters advised that all states must meet the minimum federal standard as defined in the Miller test.

According to police, the store remains in operation, but local policy dictates that once a store has been busted, officers will likely revisit the establishment to ensure against the further sale of obscene material.

Prohibiting the store from selling adult material before a trial on the obscenity issue likely constitutes an unconstitutional prior restraint, according to Walters, who said that in this case the defendant may have the right to seek an order from a federal judge protecting his 1st Amendment rights.

The convenience store obscenity arrest is not uncommon in Brazoria County, according to Yenne, who said that such stores usually are where police find obscene material in the area.

Ghandi remains free on $20,000 bond. Police are still looking to serve an arrest warrant on a second man, Bhupendra Patel, who allegedly sold an undercover officer several obscene DVDs.