Starship cited for obscenity
by SARAH FAY CAMPBELL
The Starship Enterprises store near Thomas Crossroads has been issued a citation for violating Coweta County’s obscenity law.
The citation, issued May 17, is for violation of section 42-5(b), which prohibits the sale of sexual devices (better known as sex toys) except for certain purposes.
“The citation was issued after receipt of several citizen complaints and confirmation of the violation” by the county’s code enforcement department, said Patricia Palmer, county spokeswoman.
A court date has been set for June 17 in Coweta Magistrate Court.
Allen Begner, attorney for Starship Enterprises, said he intends to enter a plea of not guilty to the ordinance violation.
The county’s obscenity ordinance states that “it shall be an affirmative defense to a charge of violating subsection (b) that the act charged was done for a bona fide medical, scientific, educational, legislative, judicial, or law enforcement purpose.”
“I’m not sure why this has occurred,” Begner said of the citation. “We are only keeping them to sell for those reasons and selling them for those reasons,” he said.
Begner said there are signs posted in the Highway 34 store stating the sexual devices are only to be sold or bought for medical, educational or scientific uses.
Sexual devices are recommended by the Federal Drug Administration for women who suffer from urinary incontinence and similar problems, according Begner. They are recommended by marriage counselors for medical use for couples who have problems with inorgasmia, and some sexual devices can even help men with spinal cord injuries have children, Begner said.
Begner said he hopes the judge “will find we haven’t violated the ordinance. Because we tried not to,” he said.
Begner explained that an affirmative defense means that the defendant must present evidence the devices are being possessed with an intent to sell them for the allowable reasons. It will then be up to the county to disprove that beyond a reasonable doubt.
Begner said he may be filing motions to change the court date, because he is having knee replacement surgery on May 30.
The Coweta Starship store opened in late 2010 after a protracted legal battle. Coweta Superior Court Judge Jack Kirby ruled that Coweta County had to issue the store a business license, as long as it was in compliance with new ordinances related to obscenity and “sexually-oriented business” that were passed in early 2009, after Starship President and CEO Kelly Rogers received a building permit for renovations to the building on Highway 34 East.
Despite the long battle to open, Begner says he hasn’t heard of any problems or issues since the store opened.
“Once, I don’t remember when, we were parking a truck out front, and we were asked to quit doing that. So we did,” Begner said. “Other than that, I haven’t heard anything.”
“I’m not sure why this is occurring,” he added.
In addition to the legal actions in Coweta Superior Court, Starship filed a federal civil rights lawsuit, seeking monetary damages and seeking to have the county’s obscenity ordinance struck down.
The case was dismissed on the district level because the judge ruled Starship should have included the damages request in the original suit before superior court. The portion of the suit dealing with the obscenity ordinance was dismissed without prejudice, meaning it could be brought back up.
The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal last fall.
Begner said, in hindsight, he still would not have added the damages suit to the original court filing.
“It would have made it harder for us to get open at all,” he said, and could have “delayed us getting open for years.”
Coweta County’s obscenity ordinance can be viewed online at www.municode.com.