Utah store gets OK to put racy items back on shelves

Monday, December 8, 2008

LAYTON, Utah — Kitsch and niche gift lovers can celebrate: A store at a Layton mall has struck an agreement with city and county prosecutors that will allow it to offer racy products to customers again.

Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings said the Spencer's store at Layton Hills Mall was making a good-faith effort to comply with Utah's law on selling the items to minors.

Since February, the corporate leaders of New Jersey-based Spencer's Gifts LLC had been threatened with criminal prosecution for dealing in material harmful to minors, a third-degree felony. The law prohibits people from distributing sexual material with no “serious value” to minors when a majority of the local adult community would find the material “patently offensive” for the kids to see.

Layton and Davis County prosecutors also had said that Spencer's, besides not being allowed to sell items like vibrators and sexually themed candies to minors, was prohibited under the law from displaying such items where minors could see them.

On Feb. 12, Layton police searched the store with a warrant and shut it down for a day. They confiscated about 15 boxes of products deemed harmful to minors. They said minors were able to see the items, but police didn't know whether any were sold.

Because of free-speech issues, the agreement between the store and authorities doesn't say which items can and can't be displayed, Rawlings said.

“We can't engage in censorship,” Rawlings said. “We can simply say, 'You have got to comply with the law, but how you do that is up to you.'”

Past discussions about a solution have included talk of building an adults-only section in the store, but there are no such guidelines in the agreement, Rawlings said. It was unclear how the items would be displayed. A call from the Associated Press to Spencer's Gifts headquarters was not returned.

Rawlings said he believed the situation had been resolved, but reserved the right to prosecute if Spencer's is found to be in violation in the future.

“They realize that we were serious about prosecuting on a corporate level,” Rawlings said. “They know that. They're taking it seriously. They have made some changes and made some commitments. … We're taking them at their word.”

Spencer's Gifts operates about 600 stores in malls across the country, according to its Web site. It targets shoppers ages 18 to 25.

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