Kansas City Grand Jury Indicts Storeowner on Obscenity

Tod Hunter
OLATHE, Kan. — The Johnson County grand jury that handed down three obscenity indictments last week indicted a fourth business on obscenity charges before disbanding yesterday.

Gringo Loco, a convenience store in Olathe, was charged with a misdemeanor of promoting obscenity by selling one "obscene" DVD. Gringo Loco co-owner Alex Huynh told XBIZ that the DVD named in the indictment was "Babysitter 18."

"I don't know about 'promoting,'" Huynh said. "We don't have any signs, we don't have any posters, even inside."

The three businesses previously indicted by the Johnson County grand jury will have a hearing on Oct. 10. A hearing for Gringo Loco has not yet been set, a spokesman for the Johnson County District Attorney said.

Huynh told XBIZ that he had not yet engaged a lawyer.

The grand jury was convened in mid-July. It and a grand jury in Wyandotte County were formed after an antiporn group filed petitions in six local counties calling for grand juries to investigate businesses believed to be promoting obscenity.

A news release issued by the district attorney said that the grand jury wanted Johnson County residents to know that obscenity laws are being violated and that grand jury members believe more obscene material is being sold in the county. It also said that the grand jury wanted businesses that are selling potentially obscene material to ensure they are complying with obscenity laws and to keep potentially obscene material out of view of minors.

"There are several fundamental misunderstandings that news release highlights," 1st Amendment attorney Jeffrey Douglas told XBIZ. "First of all, no one has any idea what obscenity is. No merchant has any guidelines of any sort to advise them what is deemed to be obscene. The notion that they are alerting retailers to adjust their stock would be useful if they were given some guide. As long as the guideline is you're indicted or you're not indicted, no one has any sense of what the rules of the road are. This is the goal of censors, to get people to self-censor.

"About keeping obscene material away from minors: If material is obscene, then it's not protected for adults or minors. 'Potentially obscene' just means that it's sexually explicit. Nothing that is sexually explicit should ever be available to a minor, and I'm confident that none is in Kansas City."

Federal grand juries are convened regularly in Kansas, but grand juries at the county or district court level have been rare. The Johnson County grand jury was the first since 1989.