The owner of an Abingdon adult bookstore has been convicted of 78 counts of illegally displaying sexually obscene magazines in a Circuit Court trial that sets a precedent for the county.
In finding LarryC. Hicks guilty, a jury has set the standard for shops selling sexually explicit materials for the first time in the county, said M. Teresa Garland, the assistant state's attorney who prosecuted the case.
In two previous bookstore cases, operators were convicted of or pleaded guilty to similar charges before judges in Harford District Court, which handles cases without juries.
The verdict puts other shop owners that sell explicit magazines on notice that they will have to closely follow display laws that require them to cover their products, Garland said.
"The jurors found that (displaying these magazines) is not acceptable in Harford County," Garland said after the trial. "That's what we were hoping for."
The jury of 10 women and twomen deliberated about one hour on Friday before reaching its verdict. Hicks, owner of U.S. Books in the 3000 block of Pulaski Highway, did not testify during the three-day trial.
The 45-year-old Edgewoodresident faces a maximum sentence of six months in prison and $1,000in fines for each of the 78 counts. He is to be sentenced March 30.
Hicks was charged after deputies from the Harford Sheriff's Officeraided U.S. Books in June 1989, seizing about 1,100 sexually explicit magazines and videos.
At the time of the raid, the magazines were not covered, according to trial testimony. When Hicks was served with court papers a month later, the magazines in the store had been covered.
Before deliberations began, Judge Maurice W. Baldwin Jr. told the jurors they had to establish whether the magazine covers couldbe defined as "obscene" and whether Hicks knowingly allowed the materials to be displayed.
To define the magazines as obscene, the jurors had to weigh whether the average person using "contemporary community standards" would find that materials appeal to lewd interests, according to state law.
"In this trial, you have an opportunity to make an impact on the community by the decision you make today," Garland told the jury during her closement statement. "You are the judge of what we will accept in Harford County."
Garland showed the jurors the covers of magazines seized at U.S. Books.
"Is this a magazine you would expect to see in a dentist's office, in a library or in a supermarket?" Garland asked the jury. "You wouldn't, because it's an affront to contemporary community standards."
Defense attorney William E. Seekford of Towson dismissed the prosecutor's arguments, saying the state has failed to submit evidence that shows Hicks had an active role in the store.
"(The state) wants to shove these down your throat," Seekford said, pointing to the magazines. "That's not right. That's not the American way."
Garland presented the jury withbank records, articles of incorporation and applications for county business licenses that lists Hicks as the owner of 3011 Corp., which operates U.S. Books.
But Seekford argued that just because Hicks' name appears on corporate records does not mean he ran the book store. He noted that another man, Francis P. Reynolds of Baltimore, also is
listed on corporate records but has not been charged.
In a separate case, L&R News Inc., another company listed in court papers asoperated by Hicks, faces trial on 100 counts of display law violations. L&R News operates Edgewood Books.
3011 Corp. and L&R News Inc.were among four companies charged with displaying sexually obscene materials after the sheriff's office raided several adult book stores in June 1989.
Wide Horizons Unlimited, which owns a Fallston adultbook store, pleaded guilty to 49 counts of displaying sexually explicit materials and one count of distributing obscene materials in May 1990.
Another company, Chesapeake B&M Inc., which owns Highway Craft, Gift and Book Store in Aberdeen, was found guilty of 100 counts of displaying explicit magazines and one count of distributing obscenematerials in Harford District Court in September 1990.