Store Case Goes Before Utah Supreme Court

Matt O'Conner
SALT LAKE CITY — John Haltom, owner of three Dr. John’s Boutiques in Utah as well as numerous stores in other state, had his day in court yesterday. He asked the Utah Supreme Court to overturn his 2000 conviction for selling a sexually explicit video to a minor.

Haltom served 30 days, with the remainder of his five-year sentence suspended, and was placed on probation after a jury found him guilty of failing to use reasonable care when checking the ID of a 17-year-old girl.

The girl, it turned out, was the daughter of a local police officer.

Haltom argued that he was entrapped because his trusted store employee was in on the sting and the young girl is related to a police officer.

In August 2005, Haltom lost an appeal based on the same argument. In an 11-page opinion, the court shot down Haltom’s claims, stating that there was no evidence showing that the employee attempted to coerce or convince Haltom to ignore the girl’s date of birth. The court also said the mere existence of a relationship between a decoy and a police officer does not constitute entrapment.

“The court has made it very clear what will happen to those who peddle porn to kids," Attorney General Mark Shurtleff said after the 2005 ruling. "Let's hope others will learn from Dr. John's unfortunate decision to sell an X-rated video to a minor.”

Shurtleff’s assistant Attorney General Christine Soltis argued the case before the state Supreme Court Thursday, sticking to the same contention that helped her win in appeals court last year: that adult retailers should be held criminally liable for failing to use care in discerning a customer’s age.

In a separate case, Haltom also is challenging city ordinances in Midvale and Roy requiring sex shop owners to buy special business licenses, claiming that such a rule interferes with his 1st Amendment rights.

He has refused to purchases licenses for any of his Utah stores.