Alabama Officials Hold a Porn Burning

Alabama Officials Hold a Porn Burning
Matt O'Conner
OXFORD, Ala. — After two-and-a-half years of legal maneuvering, officials in Calhoun County, Ala., have convinced a local judge to let them destroy more than $250,000 worth of movies seized in a 2003 raid on an adult video store.

“It’s important for the people of Calhoun County to know this is big business, and it’s going on right under [their] noses,” County Sheriff Larry Amerson said.

Deputies confiscated more than 5,000 VHS tapes and more than 900 DVDs from the store, Perfect Touch & Lingerie. Nobody was arrested in the raid.

Amerson told XBiz the store's former owner pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of pandering obscene material and forfeited the inventory as part of the plea agreement. The financial loss has effectively put Perfect Touch, the state’s largest adult retailer at the time of the raid, out of the adult video business.

According to First Amendment attorney Lawrence Walters, the initial warrant was based solely on the district attorney’s opinion that the seized materials were obscene.

“Investigators claimed that [the] material crossed the line into obscene pornography since it showed actual sexual intercourse,” Walters said. “Using that standard, just about every adult video could qualify as obscene in Oxford, Ala.

But Amerson told XBiz that the seizure happened only after three separate warrants were issued based on a magistrates determination that the materials violated local obscenity statutes.

“[This is] $250,000 worth of profit that went down the toilet, so I hope that is a deterrent,” he said, adding that he hopes the judges cooperation will set a precedent that selling pornography in the county won’t be tolerated.

Walters said he believes the raid, which happened while Amerson was running for reelection, was politically motivated. The store’s former owner was a vocal supporter of Amerson’s opponent, and the videos were seized just days after he posted political signs in his front yard touting the challenger.

The confiscated cache of tapes and DVDs are being hauled off to the county garbage dump, where they will be incinerated.

“I think this is the right place to get rid of it,” Amerson said.

The case is just the latest in a long line of raids and store closings in the state, which gained national attention in February when the nation’s highest court snubbed the adult novelty industry and free-speech advocates by rejecting an appeal to an Alabama law that makes it a crime to sell sex toys.