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Kan. grand juries to launch obscenity investigations

By The Associated Press
07.17.07

Editor's note: The Associated Press reported Dec. 21 that Johnson County prosecutors had dropped a grand jury indictment charging an Olathe convenience store with promoting obscenity. District Attorney Phill Kline dismissed the charge after Gringo Loco agreed to remove a DVD titled "Babysitter No. 18" from its shelves. In October Kline dismissed four counts of promoting obscenity against Spirit Halloween of Overland Park, and two other businesses that were indicted have pleaded not guilty.

OLATHE, Kan. — Separate grand jury investigations in two Kansas counties are expected to decide what’s too obscene for businesses to sell.

Courts in Johnson and Wyandotte counties began selecting grand juries yesterday in cases pushed by the Kansas City chapter of the National Coalition for the Protection of Children & Families, which delivered petitions to six county prosecutors in May seeking investigations of 32 businesses.

In the next several weeks, the jurors could decide what is and what isn’t obscene, setting standards for their Kansas communities. The jurors could be asked to watch adult videos, review adult toys, or even take field trips to the businesses.

“We don’t know yet what they’re going to want to see,” said Wyandotte County District Attorney Jerome Gorman. “Each community has to answer for itself what it will tolerate.”

The petitions in the six counties, including Jackson, Clay, Platte and Cass on the Missouri side and Johnson and Wyandotte in Kansas, ask the courts to look at strip clubs, sex shops and video rental stores.

While Kansas law requires a grand jury to be seated if enough signatures are collected, the public can’t call for one in Missouri. But in just two months, the group has had some success with Missouri prosecutors, said Phillip Cosby, executive director of the coalition’s Kansas City office.

In Platte County, the only targeted business stopped selling the merchandise under question after it was contacted by the office of prosecutor Eric Zahnd.

Other businesses have held their ground.

“I don’t think there’s much credibility in what they’re doing,” said Steve Wolverton, owner of Hollywood at Home in Overland Park, which carries a small percentage of adult magazines and videos. “I think it’s a First Amendment issue, an issue of privacy.”

In Jackson County, where 20 of the 32 businesses are located, prosecutor James Kanatzar hasn’t progressed past sending the letter to businesses.

Petitions provided by Cosby’s group targeting two businesses in Clay County are now in the hands of a grand jury there.

Jim Roberts, a spokesman for the Clay County prosecutor’s office, said: “We’re telling them (grand jurors) that this issue was raised in our community, we’re passing it on to you, and do whatever you want to do.”

Cosby and other anti-pornography activists first made headlines in 2004 when they launched similar drives against sexually oriented businesses in Cosby’s hometown of Abilene and 10 other Kansas cities, using a state law that allows the public to petition for grand jury investigations.


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Pornography & obscenity


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