NEWS- Net widens: Cashier at Staunton porn store indicted


"There's a reason Staunton doesn't have an AIDS epidemic," says Staunton Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Robertson. "We're a decent, moral community."
FILE PHOTO BY JEN FARIELLO

Staunton's war on pornography began in December with felony indictments against After Hours Video owner Rick Krial. Now, the a cashier who sold police porno DVDs has also been caught up in the dragnet.

On Wednesday, January 23, Staunton Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Robertson indicted Tinsley Embrey on six felony and four misdemeanor counts of obscenity.

Why has Robertson decided to charge the man behind the counter when he's already indicted Rick Krial, the man behind the store?

"It's not really fair to charge the owner of the store and let the guy who actually sold the obscene material off the hook," Robertson says. "He knew the general nature of the material, and he's admitted to the police that he was hired to sell porn."

Kent Willis, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, doesn't see this prosecutorial tactic very often.

"In the obscenity cases we've done," says Willis, "I don't recall any of the clerical staff ever being charged. If you target the owner of the store, then the store goes away. If you target an employee who has little to no decision-making power over what items are for sale, it just means more work for the prosecution to achieve the same goal."

Robertson says this is the last set of indictments he intends to hand down in the case.

"Nobody else sold the videos," says Robertson. "On the four occasions undercover agents bought videos, three times they bought them from this guy Embrey, and the other time it was Krial himself." 

Robertson won't be the only prosecutor trying that evidence. Matthew Buzzelli, an attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice's Obscenity Prosecution Task Force, will join Robertson as co-prosecutor in the After Hours Video case, although the federal government has not announced any indictments of its own against the Manassas-based Krial or any of his Staunton employees.

"The Justice Department called me because this has been getting some national media coverage and offered one of their attorneys," explains Robertson. "They're going after porn on the Internet and through pay-per-view, so they're very interested to see how we do here."

Robertson says he welcomes Buzzelli's help, especially considering that Krial's co-counsel is Paul Cambria, a man who's made a career defending the likes of shock rocker Marilyn Manson, gangsta rapper DMX, and the king of porn himself, Hustler publisher Larry Flynt.

"I don't have a great deal of familiarity with these kinds of cases, because we've never had an adult video store in town," says Robertson. "They other side is bringing in their A-Team, and having an attorney from the Department of Justice who's experienced in obscenity cases evens up the odds."

Buzzelli did not return the Hook's calls for comment, but an online search finds that among the federal prosecutor's accomplishments is a 2007 conviction of Brazilian fetish porn producer Danilo Simoes Croce for conspiracy to mail obscene materials, in which he reached a plea deal that stipulated a six-month prison sentence and a $98,000 fine for distributing Croce's possibly stomach-turning scatalogical brand of adult videos. (Croce gained mainstream notoriety when people filmed others' reactions to his "Two Girls, One Cup" video. At press time, a YouTube search for "one cup reactions" yielded 5,830 hits.)

While Robertson concedes the material After Hours sells is more sex than toilet, he says it's not any less criminal.

"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," he says. "The message you get from this stuff is that unprotected sex with strangers– multiple strangers, even– is okay."

If the obscenity of a store like After Hours goes unchecked in his city, Robertson says, he worries about the Queen City's future.

"There's a reason Staunton doesn't have an AIDS epidemic," says Robertson. "We're not like Las Vegas or San Francisco where they've got these problems. We're a decent, moral community, and when I see this coming, I revile at it."

Robertson says he will move then to have Embrey and Krial tried together. Embrey's hearing has been set for Tuesday, February 5 at 8:30am, and Robertson is adamant about charging the clerk.

"I'm convinced this is the right thing to do," says Robertson. "He should have to face the music along with his employer."

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8 comments

The last time I checked porn was legel, Just another
bible thumper trying to rid the world of the great evil porn. If you don't like it don't watch it wow wasn't that simple. As far as going after internet porn good luck with that. The US thinks for some reason it can control the internet. The laws of the USA don't apply over seas. So when we ban porn from the internet I guess we can start arresting people for viewing the overseas content. You guys are going to be very busy.

What? Vegas and San Francisco have aids issues because of *morals*? Someone needs to teach this guy that unprotected sex, not porn, spreads HIV before he catches it himself.

Good lord, what decade did this guy Robertson come from? The 1950s? In my opinion he is completely nuts. Was that store hurting anyone? If you don't like it, don't go in there. Should he ban satellite dishes because you can get Playboy and Skinemax as well?

The question is, are there actually laws against selling pornography in Staunton, and if so what is the definition of "pornography?"

Dear Danl101,

That's an excellent question and the answer is a two-parter. Following the indictment against Krial, Staunton's city council passed two ordinances. One of them requires all future adult businesses to apply to the city for a permit. The other bans such businesses from being within 500 feet within "daycare centers, schools, churches, or residences." So, if anyone wants to open up something like After Hours Video in the future, the city gets to determine its legality. However, since neither of these went into effect before After Hours opened, they don't apply in this case.

As for the definition of pornography, the law of the land is still the 1973 Supreme Court case Miller v. California, in which Chief Justice Warren Berger wrote that in order for something to be obscene--and thus unprotected by the First Amendment-- it must meet all three of the following criteria: "a) whether the average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest, b) whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by state law, and c) whether the work taken as a whole lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value."

So, is pornography legal? The law doesn't explicitly say. Is the porn After Hours sold legal? That's for the jury to decide.

You can read more about it in the cover story we did about the case in December: http://www.readthehook.com/stories/2007/12/13/COVER-StauntonPorn-E.rtf.aspx

Thanks for asking, and thanks for reading.

Best,
Lindsay Barnes

I'm still trying to wrap my mind around this story, in that it seems that yet another 'public crusader of good' feeling the need to make decisions for adults.

If there were cases of the store selling/renting their wares to people who were underage, then I could see there being a hue and cry to deal with it.

However (and not that I'm interested in what they sell), the last time I looked, as adults, we do have the right to decide what we see and buy (outside of items that are illegal). I'd appreciate it if the do-gooders of the world would let some of us make our own decisions on what we watch, read, or buy.

I'm still trying to understand this comment:

"There's a reason Staunton doesn't have an AIDS epidemic," says Robertson. "We're not like Las Vegas or San Francisco where they've got these problems. We're a decent, moral community, and when I see this coming, I revile at it."

HIV/AIDS IS NOT A MORAL ISSUE.

Thanks for the reply Lindsay.

"a) whether the average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest, b) whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by state law, and c) whether the work taken as a whole lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value."

Heh, I think that definition is in serious need of updating. Those items would eliminate Jerry Springer and many other shows, magazines, and books (hey maybe that wouldn't be a totally bad thing, but who am I to judge?)

The "patently offensive way" phrase in item B is the real tricky part to me. To paraphrase of all things the band Anthrax, "What is offensive to you may not be offensive to me."

Wonder if Robertson ever goes into grocery stores and sees all the SEX!!! headlines on Cosmo each month?

"Descent" and "morality" are relative concepts to one's philosophy. How can one attorney speak for the majority or the minority? My moral code eliminates egalitarianism and embraces capitalism, not collectivism. My moral standards are higher than this attorneys',but to me, pornography falls into business ethics--not what is good or bad, which defies set theory of what is finite, not morality since my being moral is not reflective to religion but self respect and confidence to deal with the world.