Adult-video store admits to selling obscene tape

Friday, May 15, 1998

An adult-video store in Manassas, Va., pleaded guilty Thursday to an obscenity charge less than a week before a scheduled trial.

Prosecutors charged Manassas Video Club with four counts of obscenity about a year ago. In Thursday’s plea agreement, the store agreed to plead guilty to selling one obscene videotape, House of 1,000 Torments, and to plead no contest to another count. In exchange, prosecutors dropped two other charges.

Assistant commonwealth attorney John Notarianni told The Washington Post that he was “happy to avoid a trial and still be able to send a message to other video stores.”

Notarianni said he hopes the plea arrangement will have “a deterrent effect” on other stores.

Dennis Daugherty, chairman of the local Christian Coalition that spearheaded protest against the video store, was equally happy. “These high-priced lawyers just folded in this case without a trial. They felt like the standards of our community were such that the risks of going to trial were not worth the costs,” he told the paper.

According to the store’s attorney, prominent First Amendment attorney Paul Cambria, the decision to negotiate a plea agreement was based on a factor other than the community standards of Manassas.

Cambria told The Washington Post that the plea agreement was reached because of unrelated embezzlement charges pending against the video store’s owner. Cambria told the paper: “I’m totally convinced that a jury would find these tapes not to be obscene.”