Virginia Newspaper Dismayed Over Split Obscenity Verdict

Bob Preston
STAUNTON, Va. — In an article posted by the editorial board of the Staunton News-Leader, newspaper staffers questioned the split decision returned in the obscenity case of a local video store.

In a column titled simply, "What Happened?," the paper's senior editorial staff offered a mixed lament about the verdict, while simultaneously wondering about their community's standards and also questioning the value of obscenity prosecutions.

Jurors in the case convicted storeowner Rick Krial and the After Hours Video store on misdemeanor charges of selling an obscene item. Krial was fined $1,000 and the store was fined $1,500. Krial and the store were found not guilty on a second charge of obscenity, and store employee Tinsley Embrey was found not guilty on two misdemeanor charges of obscenity.

An appeal is expected.

On one hand, the editorial board expressed concern about the confused signal sent by the jury's decision.

"If a conviction of obscenity relies on the standard of the community, how does a split decision define our standards?" the column stated. "Are we as a city of residents a little bit concerned about obscenity? Do we run hot and cold on the question? Does it matter who starred in the flick?

The board continued, asking, "Does this mean that one video taken from After Hours Video flies in the face of the community standard of morality? Should each video be taken from the store, studied in detail by the prosecutor's office, be shown before a special grand jury, then be the topic of a multi-day trial?"

But, on the other hand, the editorial board questioned the very need to waste precious law-enforcement resources on the prosecution of obscenity when violent offenders are afoot.

Conceding that the office of Staunton Commonwealth's Attorney Raymond C. Robertson is "overwhelmed," the News-Leader's editorial staff criticized him for some of his moralistic rhetoric.

"When Staunton Commonwealth's Attorney Raymond C. Robertson stands before a jury of seven and pronounces this city free of immorality, is he not concerned about the drive-by shootings and gang-related activities?" the column reads. "In fact, about the same time that Robertson started his heavy-handed undercover operation, a 10-year-old boy was shot in a drive-by on Walnut Street."

Contributors to the column include president and publisher Roger Watson, executive editor David Fritz, community conversations editor Cindy Corell and editorial cartoonist Jim McCloskey.