A twice-raided magazine and video shop has filed a federal lawsuit accusing Salt Lake police and prosecutors of violating its constitutional rights.
Bob's Magazine Corner, 360 S. State, said police seized hundreds of videos with no legal finding that they were obscene and without proper search warrants.Filed in U.S. District Court by free speech attorney Jerome H. Mooney, the lawsuit asks the court to bar any criminal prosecution of Bob's and seeks $1.1 million in damages.
Named as defendants are Salt Lake County, District Attorney Neal Gunnarson, Salt Lake police detective Todd C. Mitchell and 10 "John Does."
Police first raided Bob's on Aug. 9, 1997. According to the lawsuit, the search warrant identified no specific item or material, but rather directed police to seize videos "which relate to the manufacturing, distribution and/or possession with intent to distribute pornographic materials."
Armed with that warrant, police took between 1,200 and 1,500 video tapes and other materials. All but 250 tapes were later returned, and no charges have been filed.
On March 12, police returned with a new search warrant and seized another 250 videos plus cash from the register and the clerk's wallet.
The lawsuit said the tapes at Bob's "include a wide range of expressive materials, all of which are presumed to be lawful but some of which defendants find personally offensive."
None of the material has been ruled obscene by any court or otherwise prohibited from distribution, the lawsuit said.
The warrants were flawed because they failed to identify by name those items that were to be seized "but rather left it to the discretion of the officers," who made "ad hoc decisions on the spot whether or not to seize the videos based upon the general warrant in hand."
Mooney also said officers took multiple copies of the same videos. In a similar case involving a Utah County Movie Buffs shop last year, a federal judge told authorities they had no right to take multiple copies of tapes.
The lawsuit alleges that the raids were "intended to chill (Bob's) exercise of free speech and that of its customers through the illegal actions."
Also, the lawsuit said police told news reporters that Bob's had violated the law.
Noting that Bob's has now been raided twice within the past seven months, the lawsuit said an injunction is necessary to stop further constitutional violations by prosecutors and city police.
"Suppressing our First Amendment rights in such a broad sweeping manner, without any determination having been made as to whether or not the material is unprotected, is exactly the type of conduct that the framing fathers intended to protect society from," the lawsuit said.