Parties sue, countersue in adult bookstore fight Activist says shop owners are trying to muzzle him

September 17, 1997|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

The battle over an Ellicott City adult bookstore has gone from the median strip of U.S. 40 to federal court.

Franklin V. Goodridge Jr., who has organized a series of protests against the Pack Shack, a shop in the 8400 block of Baltimore National Pike that sells sexually explicit videos, magazines and books, was sued last month by the store's owners, who said his almost daily demonstrations violated their First Amendment right freedom of speech.

This week, Goodridge countersued, claiming the Pack Shack is trying to limit his freedom of speech.

"I feel that they are trying to bully me, but I think my lawyers are going to protect my First Amendment rights," Goodridge said.

"The lawsuit brought against our client seems designed to harass and intimidate people who oppose pornography," said Walter M. Weber, an attorney for the Virginia Beach, Va.-based American Center for Law and Justice, which is representing Goodridge along with the Baltimore law firm of Weinstock Stevan Harris & Friedman.

"We're claiming it's a use of the legal system for bullying purposes," Weber said.

The countersuit, filed Mondayin U.S. District Court in Baltimore, alleges that the suit filed Aug. 6 by attorneys for the Pack Shack has no basis because the demonstrations Goodridge organizes outside the adult business are lawful and on public property.

The counterclaim also denies that Goodridge, 29, conspired with County Councilman Darrel E. Drown to close the business, as the Pack Shack suit claims.

Finally, the countersuit contends that the Pack Shack suit targets Goodridge because he is an outspoken, anti-pornography activist. It seeks dismissal of the first suit, lawyers' fees and a federal court order protecting Goodridge's right to protest.

Howard J. Schulman, a Baltimore attorney who represents the store's owners, denied trying to intimidate Goodridge.

"The store's position is that their lawsuit is not a bullying tactic but rather an attempt to defend themselves from those with the avowed purpose to put it out of business because of what they sell," Schulman said. "The store is the victim, not the bully."

The bookstore has been controversial since it opened in front of the Normandy Woods apartment complex in April. Although dozens of Ellicott City residents opposed the business, county officials said the store is protected by the U.S. Constitution.

But the store could be forced to close down at that location if a proposed zoning amendment is passed by the County Council. The legislation, which was recommended by the Planning Board last Wednesday, would require adult businesses to be at least 600 feet from residential areas and 2,500 feet from another adult store.

The proposal also would require anyone seeking to open a sexually oriented store to apply for a permit from the Department of Planning and Zoning.

Residents who live along the U.S. 1 corridor are contesting the amendment because the change would limit adult video and bookstores to industrial parks and heavy business areas. The bulk of land in Howard County zoned for those uses is in the U.S. 1 corridor.

Goodridge said he believes the effort to drive the Pack Shack out of Ellicott City is working.

"As far as I'm concerned, the Pack Shack is closed," Goodridge said, adding that the number of clients has steadily decreased. "Now we can get to the nuts and bolts of the issue, which is reaching out to the men who go in there and telling them that there is hope for them."

Pub Date: 9/17/97

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