STAUNTON, Va. - Six months after a jury returned a mixed verdict in the After Hours Video obscenity trial, owner Rick Krial has decided to call it a day and close the store.
After Hours Video had been open less than a month when, on Nov. 1, 2007, Krial was indicted on eight felony and four misdemeanor counts of selling obscene material after an undercover sting operation conducted by local police. Store clerk Tinsley Embrey was similarly charged two months later.
"We filed a motion to vacate the verdict, which was a good one," attorney Paul Cambria told AVN. "There's no doubt that the verdict would be vacated somewhere along the appellate line, but the prosecutor's response was, 'I have a dozen felonies here, and if you continue to go forward with the appeal, we're going to prosecute him on all these felonies. If, on the other hand, you drop the appeal, we will dismiss all the felonies.' So Rick Krial, obviously with a gun to his head, decided that he didn't need to be prosecuted anymore, nor could he afford to be prosecuted anymore, so it's the age-old situation where the side with the power and the money is the one who, at the end of the day, gets to the finish line first."
It had been a long battle, beginning with a March 2008 attempt by prosecutor Ray Robertson to split the charges into multiple trials, thereby giving the state several "bites at the apple" and leaving Krial in legal jeopardy possibly for several years.
Eventually, Circuit Judge Thomas H. Wood decided that Krial and Embrey would first be tried on the misdemeanor obscenity charges related to two movies - Sugar Britches and City Girls Extreme Gangbang. Depending on the outcome of that trial, the two possibly stand trial for some or all of the other felony indictments.
That first trial, which ended in mid-August, was one of the dirtiest in memory. Robertson tried several times to imply that at least one of the movies featured an underage performer. In his opening statement, Robertson referred to a suppressed statement Embrey had allegedly given to police, as well as a claim that porn was a "serious community problem" in Staunton - charges that drew angry objections and motions for mistrial from Cambria, Embrey's attorney H. Louis Sirkin and local counsel Tate Love, representing Krial's corporation.
Robertson then offered former Staunton Police Chief Butch Wells as an expert on the city's "community standard" - testimony which Judge Wood ruled to be inadmissible after voir dire questioning revealed that Wells had no experience with locally available adult material. However, the judge also refused to allow the defense to introduce comparable videos even from stores less than 20 miles away.
The prosecution also imported University of Pennsylvania psychologist Dr. Mary Anne Layden, an anti-porn activist, to "evaluate" a freeze-framed image from Sugar Britches, which Layden said depicted a girl whose body resembled that of a 12-year-old - testimony that elicited immediate objections (and more mistrial motions) from the defense, since all performers in the video were adults.
Finally, Robertson's closing argument was also a nightmare. He once again implied that the charged videos contained minors, that performers "excrete[d] semen," and that if the jury failed to convict the defendants, Staunton would become "another Las Vegas."
All of those errors committed by Robertson and the judge became fodder for Cambria's motion to overturn the verdicts, which he filed in October. However, with Krial's agreement to close After Hours Video in exchange for the state dropping all charges against him, that appeal becomes moot.
"If the store stayed open, they were going to come at me with all the charges they could," Krial told the Staunton News-Leader, adding that he's already spent an estimated $150,000 in his defense. "Nobody needs this kind of aggravation."
"They can just keep bringing them [additional charges] and bringing them, and in order to fight that, à la a P.H.E. or something like that, you need money; you need to be a Phil Harvey type with deep pockets to fight something like that, and Krial's not that kind of guy," Cambria said. "So I tried everything, including that he would agree to drop the appeal for the store, he would agree to close the store, as long as we could continue with the one appeal of Rick Krial's misdemeanor - you know, keep that one alive - and obviously, there was no way they were going to do that. I said, 'Well, if you're so confident you're going to win, why wouldn't you do that?' And of course, the answer was, 'It's this or nothing.' We even offered to handle just movies like the one found not obscene, and of course, their response was, 'I'm the prosecutor and I can bring all these felonies and I will and I did and I'll make them go away if you go away.' So that's basically what happened."
But even though Cambria had filed the appeal for free, and was prepared to argue it at the same price, Krial, who has 11 other stores in Virginia and Maryland, decided that a continued fight just wasn't worth the expense or the increased jeopardy.
"If this was one of my major video people, this would not be happening, because there's no way this conviction would have held up," Cambria said. "We would be taking it to the mat, so that's always the advantage that the prosecutors have, the money and the ability to charge you and keep charging you forever."
Pictured: Paul Cambria