VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – In a burst of common sense, Virginia Beach Deputy City Attorney Mark Stiles said that he would drop charges of "Display of Obscene Materials at Business Establishments Open to Juveniles" against the Abercrombie & Fitch (A&F) store in the Lynnhaven Mall.
Although labeled "obscene," what the law actually prohibits is "Any picture, photograph, drawing, sculpture, motion picture film or similar visual representation or image of a person or portion of the human body which depicts nudity, sexual conduct or sadomasochistic abuse and which is harmful to juveniles." While Stiles said the photos displayed at the A&F location – one of three shirtless men, one of whose ass crack is slightly visible; the other of a topless woman whose breast, but not areola, is somewhat exposed – might technically meet that portion of the city code, it would be difficult to prove that the images met the Miller criteria for obscenity, since neither depicted explicit sexual acts nor apparently offended community standards.
"You might see that typical vision walking down a street," Stiles said of the photo with the men.
The incident began when Virginia Beach police demanded that the management at the A&F store remove the "offending" photos, and when that manager, who has not been named, refused, the police issued a citation under Sec. 22-31 of the criminal code. Police also seized the mural-sized photos.
According to police spokesman Adam Bernstein, the police seizure was "prompted by several customer complaints."
The A&F manager, if convicted, could have received up to one year in jail and a $2,000 fine for displaying the photos, which would not have garnered a second glance in, for instance, New York City or Los Angeles.
A spokesperson for Abercrombie & Fitch corporate headquarters, located in New Albany, Ohio, noted that the photos "show less skin than you see any summer day at the beach. And certainly less than the plumber working on your kitchen sink."
News reports have not indicated whether the confiscated photos have been returned to the store.