STAUNTON, Va. - Jurors spent nearly four hours watching porn in Staunton Circuit Court Thursday afternoon, as the Commonwealth finished presenting its case against After Hours Video.
After Hours owner Rick Krial and employee Tinsley Embrey are facing multiple obscenity charges for selling 12 adult DVDs to undercover police officers shortly after the retail store opened in October. This week's trial centers on two of the videos in the case: Sugar Britches and City Girls: Extreme Gang Bangs.
The jury of four men and three women must determine if the videos are obscene by community standards.
Defense attorneys Paul Cambria and H. Louis Sirkin argued that no clear chain of evidence proved the DVDs to be shown in court were the same ones purchased by police last year. Judge Wood denied the motion, allowing jurors to watch both videos in their entirety while the rest of the courtroom heard only the soundtrack.
Reporter Lindsay Barnes of The Hook described the jury's reaction turning from disgust to boredom as the 3-hour, 33-minute screening progressed: "Jurors yawned, chewed their nails, picked their teeth, checked their watches, and exchanged raised eyebrows, as if to say, 'There’s more?' One even dozed off for a second before reviving himself, aware that a nap, however brief, could mean a mistrial."
Prosecutor Ray Robertson and Matthew Buzzelli called four witnesses in all, including two police officers involved in the obscenity bust and two "experts."
Cambria won his motion to disqualify former Staunton Police Chief Butch Wells as an expert witness for the prosecution. Robertson had hoped to use Wells' testimony to define Staunton community standards.
"It is clear that these are [Wells'] personal opinions," Cambria said, adding that the former police chief's perspective does not represent the community standard of what is acceptable.
Judge Wood agreed: "Based on the cases I've read, he isn't an expert."
Dr. Mary Anne Layden, director of education at the Center for Cognitive Therapy at the University of Pennsylvania, testified for the prosecution that the videos lack "scientific value." Layden is a psychologist specializing in the treatment of sex-crime victims and perpetrators.
Layden's testimony led to a motion for mistrial. She was questioned by Buzzelli, an attorney with the U.S. Justice Department who Robertson brought in as his co-counsel in the case.
Buzzelli asked Layden to evaluate a still of one of the girls seen in Sugar Britches.
“The female has no pubic hair, no breasts, an angular body type. Typically this is someone whose body has not yet fully developed sexually. In most industrialized countries, this occurs at the age of 12,” Layden said.
Cambria objected, arguing that the prosecution had introduced testimony designed to mislead the jury into thinking of legal adult videos as child porn.
“Right from the beginning,” Cambria said, “the Commonwealth has tried to make this an underage case. They have no proof and no good faith basis to allege that any one of these performers is underage and I move for a mistrial.”
Judge Wood had warned all the attorneys in the case not to play the kiddie-porn card in a trial involving legal, consensual adult material.
“They have crossed the line,” Sirkin said.
Robertson insisted that the mere appearance of the actress was obscene. “It’s no accident she looks the way she does," he said. "This film does appeal to pedophiles. Pedophiles will buy this film and get off on it!”
Judge Wood rejected that argument.
“Give me a break!” he said. “You’re saying she’s like a child because she has small breasts? I saw this movie, every one of these women was shaved!”
When the prosecutors continued to press the issue, Wood sternly reminded them, “If your witness makes this sound like a kiddie porn film, we’re going to have a mistrial.”
But the judge denied Cambria's motion. “I don’t want to keep the jury here this long and get a mistrial,” he said. “I don’t want to do it.”
The defense will present its case Friday. According to local news sources, defense attorneys are likely to wrap up their arguments by mid-morning and the jury will begin deliberating in the afternoon.
Judging by public comments posted to the Staunton News-Leader, local sentiment is mostly in favor of the store and the right to view adult material. The majority of comments in response to the trial coverage predict the Commonwealth will lose - at taxpayers' expense.
One reader commented: "This Cambria guy is going to chew Ray Ray up...he ain't never seen a mother quite like him!"
Sources: NewsLeader.com, ReadTheHook.com.