Obscenity Ordinance Appeal

Starship wins fight against citation

by Sarah Fay Campbell

A judge has ruled in favor of the Coweta Starship Store in the appeal of a citation for violating the county’s obscenity ordinance.

Coweta Superior Court Chief Judge Qullian Baldwin issued a ruling Tuesday in the appeal, following a March 5 hearing.

On May 7, 2013, Coweta Code Enforcement Officer Tim Shellnut issued a citation to the Coweta Starship store for violating the obscenity ordinance's prohibition on the selling of sexual devices.

The ordinance prohibits the sale of sexual devices unless the devices are being used for “bona fide medical, scientific, educational, legislative, judicial or law enforcement” purposes.

A hearing on the citation was held Aug. 5 in Coweta Magistrate Court. Chef Magistrate Jim Stripling ruled that the store had violated the ordinance. Attorneys for Starship appealed to Coweta Superior Court.

Baldwin overturned the earlier ruling in the Starship case, saying that there was no evidence the store had violated the ordinance.

Shellnut had visited the store and taken several pictures of items for sale. However, he didn’t purchase any of the items or see any of them purchased when he was there.

During the August hearing, Store Manager Terah Capell testified that plenty of people do buy the items for medical uses. There are signs in the store, and stickers on the items, saying that they can only be sold for the authorized uses. Each receipt is stamped with the same message.

According to Baldwin’s order, the county “did not show that any of the items in petitioner’s store were sold for any other purpose than those stated above, and has not overcome the petitioner’s affirmative defense.”

Selling the items for the approved purposes is an “affirmative defense,” under the ordinance.

And with an affirmative defense “the county has to disprove the defense beyond a reasonable doubt,” said Alan Begner, attorney for Starship.



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