The couple argued over which video to buy, so a clerk offered them a compromise - a movie that wasn't on the shelf where any customer could see it.
That video is one of 260 that police say is illegal in Utah and is one reason they secured a search warrant to raid Bob's Magazine Corner, 360 S. State, for the second time in eight months.The arguing couple, who were really two police officers, were part of an undercover operation that's spanned more than seven months and resulted in the two search warrants served on the downtown store.
Police first served a search warrant on the magazine and video shop in August 1997. But charges were never filed in the weeks that followed the first search, in which hundreds of videotapes were seized.
Salt Lake Police Sgt. Ken Hansen said investigators were asked by the Salt Lake District Attorney's Office to gather additional information before that office determined whether to file any charges against the store's owners or its employees.
So they ran several sting operations such as the one described above in which police actually bought tapes that they say are considered illegal in Utah.
Meanwhile, Hansen added, vice detectives received additional complaints from people who purchased "hard core" pornography. Only "cable versions" of adult movies are legal in the Beehive State. Specifically showing certain sex acts or body parts is illegal and differentiates the two types of movies.
Police were also told about a room where allegedly illegal tapes were rented and sold, he said. So, after months of police work, they obtained a second search warrant, which was executed Thursday night.
About 260 tapes, $1,500 in cash and several books and magazines were seized by officers in the search, Hansen said. Detectives will give that material to the District Attorney's Office, which will determine what, if any, charges will be filed. Hansen said attorneys are considering 25 charges.
But the attorney for Bob's Magazine Corner said the stings, searches and seizures aren't creative and diligent police work but rather insults to the constitutional amendment that guarantees free speech.
"The combination of these search warrants amounts to the most blatant disregard of first amendment (protections) that I've seen in 25 years of practicing law," Jerry Mooney said. "It's blatant harassment."
He called the search warrants and the seizures "prior restraint" because none of the confiscated adult videos has been declared obscene by any court.
Mooney said the search warrants should have described specifically what material would be seized and why. Instead, the warrant generally asked to seize questionable videos and other materials.
Also, he said police took multiple copies of the same video and that is strictly forbidden by the law.
"That can only be meant for one purpose, and that purpose is to restrain speech," he said.
Mooney doesn't plan to wait to see what prosecutors do with the new evidence.
"They (the police) are responsible for damages now to my client," he said. "I think we're going to file (a lawsuit), unless they make it clear that they made a mistake. And since we're talking about the government here, I don't think that's going to happen."
The District Attorney's Office hasn't looked at the case to determine if the officers violated the rights of the store's owners, Deputy District Attorney Vincent Miester said. Prosecutors should look at the case in the next week.
Mooney said police even asked a clerk to empty money from his personal wallet as part of the seizure.
"That's his money from his wallet, money that he needs to feed his family. . . . This is the most offensive thing I've seen," the attorney said.
In similar raids, officers have taken the money from the clerk's wallet. The money brought in from illegal porno videos usually doesn't go into the cash register but into the clerk's pocket, Miester explained. Prosecutors aren't sure if that was the case Thursday.