Va. Sex Shop Owners Plead Guilty to Obscenity Charges

Anne Winter
NORTH STAFFORD, Va. — The owners of Pheromoans sex shop, who were indicted in November for violating state obscenity laws, have plead guilty of possessing obscene materials with intent to distribute, a misdemeanor charge.

Four other charges against owners Meagan J. Pacheco and Lesley O. Mason were dropped, and the two reportedly were not jailed nor fined, and all five charges will be dropped in June 2009 as long as they continue to abide by state laws. Obscenity charges against the business, however, remain and it was fined $5,000 with half of the amount suspended.

Each charge carried a maximum penalty of 12 months jail time and a $2,500 fine. It is a crime in Virginia to sell adult movies but not to buy or possess them. Local newspaper The Free Lance-Star reported that the law is rarely enforced, and in the past 10 years there have been prosecutions in only three counties in the state.

The owners said they will close Pheromoans, which sparked legal trouble with a neighboring business in April after the two were accused of opening the shop in a forbidden zone. The shop will be out of business by July 1, they said.

Adult industry lawyer Lawrence Walters told XBIZ that the fact that there was an agreed-upon conviction in this case doesn't mean that the three videos are automatically obscene anywhere else, and the bar hasn't necessarily been lowered when identifying obscene material.

"This is a common resolution to those state obscenity cases," Walters said. "Often these charges are brought for political purposes."

Though this case does not set a national precedent, Walters said, it does give state law enforcement a powerful weapon against other adult shops in the area.

"They can use it against anything more explicit than the classics that were charged by arguing that if [they] were able to get convictions on these [tamer titles] then [they] can certainly drive you out of business and get convictions on all these other materials," Walters said.

Walters also said he wouldn't be surprised in the future to see additional cases like this one.