Staunton to get multiple porn trials

In Staunton Circuit Court today, a hearing in the case of the town's new adult video store After Hours Video, its owner Rick Krial (at left, with his attorney Paul Cambria answering a reporter's questions), and a cashier Tinsley Embrey, became the latest installment of a legal drama that will extend to at least June 17, when Judge Thomas Wood set their trial date.

However, this saga could have multiple sequels, as this first trial focuses only on the first four of the combined 22 charges currently facing the store owner and his employee, leaving open the possibility of three or more additional trials. Why so many?

"You're dealing with 24 hours' worth of porn," answers Staunton Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Robertson. "I've watched these, and if you require a jury to watch all that, they could become bored or desensitized to these acts."

In light of this prospect, Robertson proposed to Judge Wood that the prosecution choose two movies to be representative of the other 10 purchased by Staunton police.

"If we have all these videos, and the jury has only seen one or two, how does my summation of all of them make any sense if they haven't seen them?" asked Krial attorney Paul Cambria, a Buffalo-based obscenity lawyer made famous by 30+ years of courthouse arguments on behalf of Hustler publisher Larry Flynt. "They decided how many movies to purchase. We're the ones disadvantaged by multiple trials because of the incredible expense to my client."

Fellow former Flynt attorney Louis Sirkin, who is defending cashier Embrey, believes that Robertson's proposal of trying all the charges on the basis of one or two representative videos was downright unconstitutional.

"Each of these movies is presumed not to be obscene," the Cincinnati-based Sirkin said. "We're not willing to say if you find two obscene, the other 10 are obscene. You're taking away that presumption, and that's a chilling effect. If [the prosecutors] feel it's a handicap, they chose their own handicap."

Robertson eventually decided to throw out the other two videos from the first purchase for now, and instead focus this initial misdemeanor trial on two titles: Sugar Britches and City Girls Extreme Gangbangs.

Addressing reporters afterward, Sirkin said that while he wasn't happy with the need for multiple trials, "I hope jurors remember that Virginia was one of the original 13 colonies, and the importance of the American way, and the liberties people came here for in the first place."

Meanwhile, Robertson said that multiple trials were not only necessary, but more practical.

"My thoughts are that I would be totally disgusted and sickened, and upset with somebody if I were a juror having to watch all this," he said. "This way, it's only four hours, and they'll definitely get an idea of it."

Robertson admits he has watched all 24 hours of porn the police purchased, and has not been shy about offering explicit description. In December he told the Hook, "I'm going after things like double penetrating women, slamming them in both orifices, multiple strangers ejaculating on the faces of women," and in January that, "In just about every one of these things, you'll see one guy inserting his penis into a woman's vagina, and another guy inserting his penis into her anus, and then that guy puts it in her mouth, again, and again, and again."

Asked why he speaks of the case in such graphic detail, Robertson said, "Why not? You need to know what you're dealing with. Nobody's attempting to gross anybody out. The jury is going to be required to look at it, and people need to know what this is."

As for what will happen to the other 18 obscenity counts if Krial and Tinsley are acquitted in the first trial, Robertson said, "I'm not going to give up after one."

Robertson is not the only prosecutor trying After Hours. Matthew Buzzelli is a member of the federal Obscenity Prosecution Task Force whose services are on loan to Robertson from the Justice Department. While the federal government has no jurisdiction, the Justice Department volunteered Buzzelli, he says, because of Staunton's relative proximity to Washington.

"If this were in Alaska, I probably wouldn't be doing this," says Buzzelli, "but we have the resources in terms of what kinds of briefs to file, arguments, motions, instead of Mr. Robertson having to reinvent the wheel."

Sirkin said he's only seen a federal prosecutor involved in a state-level obscenity case "once or twice in my career" and wondered if the DOJ didn't have better things to do.

"I find there are much more important problems," he said, "like how people from the White House won't testify before Congress. But here they are worried about the sale of videos to consenting adults."

Buzzelli emphasized that he was not brought in as a ringer to even the playing field against Krial and Embrey's nationally-renowned counselors.

"Mr. Robertson is a capable lawyer," he said. "He's been prosecuting for over 30 years, he can handle these guys."

All parties are due back in court on May 27 at 8:30am for a hearing on additional pre-trial motions.

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4 comments

Keep the fight; the first amendment needs to be protected. I will not support what you do but I die for your right to do it. America has lost its way in the last few years.

I just don't get it. Somebody can view pornography and then describe it in graphic detail, and that somebody isn't just as guilty of distributing pornography? The graphic description above left nothing to the imagination, so I feel as if I was forced to watch it just by reading Robertson's graphic description! Charge him! :)

as for the above posted comment I agree whole heartedly

I agree, as a shop owner, the adult industry needs to band together and fight this kinda nonsense. Shop owners have no say over what scenes are in the movies, but they do have a choice not to sell em. If we removed all our ATM movies and Anal gangbang, we'd have all of about 4 dvds in stock.