Ruling In: Starship found in violation, fined $205

by By Sarah Fay Campbell

Coweta Chief Magistrate Jim Stripling found Monday morning that the Starship store in Coweta violated the county's obscenity ordinance by selling sex toys for reasons other than bona fide medical, educational, scientific, judicial or law enforcement purposes.

The court hearing lasted just over an hour at the Coweta Justice Center.

Stripling said that "the court is going to find that there is proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the offense" of violating the county's obscenity ordinance.

Stripling fined the store $205 and told Starship CEO Kelly Rogers that "your corporation is admonished not to sell any more of these items" in Coweta County.

Coweta County Attorney Nathan Lee had asked the judge, just before the ruling, to ask the store to stop selling the items and stated that "we think that probation would be appropriate."

Stripling did not mention placing the store on probation.

Starship Attorney Allen Begner asked for some clarification. "It's unclear to me which items, precisely, are covered and which are not," he said.

Stripling said his ruling is that the store comply with Coweta law.

"We don't want to get in trouble about what we might sell," Begner said.

"I just want you to comply with the law," Stripling said. "You want to submit a list of merchandise and have me check off what I think can be sold" and not sold? Stripling said he didn't think that's what they wanted and "I wouldn't do it if you did."

As for the ordinance itself, Stripling said it's curious to him why the Coweta County Commissioners crafted it the way they did.

"I think they would rather you go on eBay and buy a genital stimulation device than to have a brick and mortar store in Coweta," Stripling said. "That is what it is all about. I guess it's a quality of life issue of some sort."

"It's a little bit lost on me," Stripling said. But his job is "not to judge Kelly Rogers or Starship or act as a sycophant for Coweta County. My job is to decide legal issues."

"The statute is there. It has some meaning and it's clear to me that the commissioners don't want you to sell sexually… autoerotic devices or whatever you want to call them. That may be right. It may be wrong. That is what the statute says and I've tried to apply it as best I can."

Begner and Rogers met with Lee after the ruling.

After that discussion, Begner said that he would be drafting an appeal as soon as possible. The case would be appealed to Coweta County Superior Court. And the filing of the appeal will stay the ruling, Begner said. That mean's Stripling's ruling would be postponed until the appeal is decided.

Depending on the results of the appeal, Begner said he may file for a judgement on the constitutionality of the county's ordinance. "We think in this day and time… the courts cannot prohibit the sale of these devices for medical reasons, and we intend to keep fighting until we get a court to say so," he said.

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