OPELOUSAS, La.—In a series of raids conducted Tuesday jointly by the St. Landry Parish Sheriff's Office and the Opelousas Police Department, four Opelousas convenience stores were busted and five men arrested for allegedly distributing obscene material; sale, exhibition or distribution of material harmful to minors; and possession of drug paraphernalia with intent to distribute.
The busts took place at the Airport Quick Stop, Fast Way Food Mart and Fina Creswell Station, as well as a later raid on the Main Street Grocery, and coincidentally, all five men arrested appeared to be of Middle Eastern descent: Fakher Fakhri Asfour, Ali Kassem Maklani, Qaid Ahmed Alhalmi, Asaad Saleh Zamzami and Hussam Zeidan.
While details of the offenses are not yet known—in particular, it is not known what prompted the raids in the first place—sheriff's deputies reportedly found adult DVDs for sale "in plain sight" at the stores, with apparently no attempt to conceal the disks' box covers from minors who also shopped at the stores.
"Some of this material was actually on display with disgusting pictures for the customers to walk in and see and that's disgusting its horrible," said Opelousas Sheriff Bobby Guidroz.
According to a report on the DailyWorld.com website, one of the suspects told police that he had only recently begun selling the adult DVDs, priced at $6.99, after "a guy came with a van" two months previously and sold them to him.
At two of the locations, police also found what they claim were the materials for constructing a "makeshift crack pipe," consisting of "a small, ostensibly decorative, glass tube with an artificial rose inside, a metal kitchen scrubber and a cigarette lighter, all packaged in a small brown paper bag and sold for $5."
There is some question about the type of adult materials seized in the raids, since Sheriff Guidroz apparently told reporters that possessing and distributing pornographic material is illegal in St. Landry Parish "by parish ordinance and by state law."
In fact, Louisiana Revised Statutes 14:106(2)(a) defines sexually explicit material as "obscene" using the three-prong test commonly know as "the Miller standard." That portion of the law reads, "Participation or engagement in, or management, operation, production, presentation, performance, promotion, exhibition, advertisement, sponsorship, electronic communication, or display of, hard core sexual conduct when the trier of fact determines that the average person applying contemporary community standards would find that the conduct, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest; and the hard core sexual conduct, as specifically defined herein, is presented in a patently offensive way; and the conduct taken as a whole lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value."
However, the statute also defines "hard core sexual conduct" to include "Actual, simulated, or animated touching, caressing, or fondling of, or other similar physical contact with a pubic area, anus, female breast nipple, covered or exposed, whether alone or between humans, animals, or a human and an animal, of the same or opposite sex, in an act of apparent sexual stimulation or gratification"; or "Actual, simulated, or animated stimulation of a human genital organ by any device whether or not the device is designed, manufactured, or marketed for such purpose." [Emphasis added]
Interestingly, the law also contains the following provision: "If any employee of a theatre or bookstore acting in the course or scope of his employment, is arrested for an offense designated in this Section, the employer shall reimburse the employee for all attorney's fees and other costs of defense of such employee."
The law also requires that anyone convicted of obscenity for the first time be fined at least $1,000, and may also face six months in prison at hard labor, with a maximum sentence of three years in prison and a $2,500 fine for each violation.
However, if the violation is "with or in the presence of an unmarried person under the age of seventeen years," the convicted person may be fined up to $10,000 and imprisoned for up to five years at hard labor with no possibility of parole or probation.