Seized tapes allowed in video piracy case

September 11, 1994|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,Sun Staff Writer

Police confiscation of allegedly pirated videotapes at a adult movie rental and sales outlet in Havre de Grace did not violate any laws or the constitutional rights of the business' two owners, a Harford circuit judge has ruled.

In a written opinion filed in Harford Circuit Court last week, Judge Albert P. Close denied a defense motion to dismiss the case.

The judge also denied all motions by Larry Craig Hicks, 47, of Havre de Grace and John Nicholas Dilutis, 43, of Baltimore to suppress evidence seized by police at The Depot.

The two men are awaiting trial on charges of making illegal copies of video movies for sale or rent and the theft of items worth more than $300.

Judge Close presided at the suppression hearing Aug. 16.

Authorities raided The Depot, in the 1600 block of Pulaski Highway, on June 18, 1993, and seized about 70 videotapes believed to be pirated, the original videotapes and display boxes, four television sets, 21 videocassette recorders, a label maker and blank video tapes.

The television, VCRs and label maker were in the basement of the store in a locked room used by T&A Leasing, a video movie supplier owned by Mr. Dilutis, the judge said.

Mr. Hicks identified himself as the manager of T&A Leasing and the owner of The Depot, the judge said. Both Mr. Hicks and Mr. Dilutis were arrested.

Mr. Hicks also was charged with writing four bad checks to vendors who supplied his business with some of the original adult film video cassettes.

In addition, Judge Close ruled that prosecutors could use about 900 adult videotapes seized in a 1989 raid at U.S. Books, an adult materials shop at 3011 Pulaski Highway in Edgewood, as trial evidence against Mr. Hicks and Mr. Dilutis.

Mr. Hicks, who owned U.S. Books, was convicted of improperly displaying sexually explicit materials there in 1989. But the state Court of Special Appeals overturned his conviction, ruling that .. prosecutors had failed to prove he owned the objectionable material or had any say in its display.

Rather than return the 900 adult videotapes to Mr. Hicks and Mr. Dilutis, Harford State's Attorney Joseph I. Cassilly arranged for the cassettes to be held as evidence for the current case against the defendants because investigators had tied Mr. Hicks to a company called Heather D&M Corp., which held the the trader's license for U.S. Books.

In addition, court records in an unrelated case showed that T&A Leasing paid rent for U.S. Books at 3011 Pulaski Highway.

Judge Close ruled against arguments by defense attorney William E. Seekford that the defendants' Fourth Amendment rights had been violated.

The judge said there is no reasonable expectation of privacy in a place of business where the public is invited to enter to purchase or rent adult videos.

Judge Close also discounted defense claims that the tapes were seized because authorities considered them to be obscene. He said the tapes were seized because they were improperly labeled as required by state law.

Mr. Seekford said Friday that he had not yet received a copy of the judge's opinion.

"I was in court for a hearing on my motion to suppress and quash evidence, so I'm surprised to hear that my motion to dismiss the case is included in Judge Close's opinion," Mr. Seekford said. "I guess that means I'm not going to get a hearing on that."

Mr. Seekford said he has not decided whether to appeal.

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