In a Jan. 10 article about obscenity charges related to complaints of sexually explicit videos at Ecstasy Video in Essex, a headline in The Evening Sun incorrectly said that three persons had been arrested after undercover police officers went to the store. In fact, the three were issued summonses charging them and were not arrested. Also, the police did not rent the tapes, as the article incorrectly indicated, but bought the tapes.
A great thinker once said he couldn't define obscenity but knew it when he saw it.
A couple of Baltimore County citizens, led by Councilman Vincent Gardina, D-5th, thought they saw it at an Essex video store and complained to police.
Three people, one a 60-year-old woman, now face criminal charges as a result of those complaints.
"I received a number of complaints from residents in my district about the materials in the store, and I referred them to the police department," Gardina said yesterday. "I'm not aware of the specifics, but the police will seek prosecution."
Gardina said he has never visited the store.
The police dispatched a vice squad detective to Ecstasy Video, in the 1700 block of Eastern Blvd. The officer rented four tapes and took them to District Court Judges John Rellas and G. Darrell Russell for review.
Rellas and Russell found the videos obscene and issued summonses against John E. Parlett, 41, and Thomas W. Esworthy, 29, the owners of the shop, which deals in so-called adult videos, magazines and sexual aids.
Parlett's 60-year-old mother, Ruth, also was charged with two counts each of distributing obscene materials and violating the nudity and sexual display laws. She is an employee at Ecstasy.
The three suspects must appear Jan. 28 in Essex District Court to face the charges.
Esworthy yesterday refused to comment on the case.
Reached in his chambers, Russell said he viewed two of the tapes because a detective "told me it was my turn to look at them. I watched each of them for about five minutes and found them patently obscene. They were abnormal; one had three parties engaged in copulation . . . copulation belongs in the bedroom."
Russell added that the First Amendment to the Constitution -- the one that guarantees freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly and petition -- "is not one that is absolute without considering the rights of others."
According to police spokesman Sgt. Stephen Doarnberger, police went to the shop in August and October only after they received complaints from Gardina and two other residents whom he would not publicly identify.
The obscenity charges involve the tapes themselves. The nudity and display charges involve the "pictures on the film boxes," Doarnberger said.
Doarnberger said county police have recently investigated only one similar case. That came after a citizen's complaint two years ago.
Complaints about adult movies were frequent and loud when Mary Avara, now 81, was the most vocal member of the now-defunct Maryland State Board of Censors, a group of three citizens who screened movies before they were shown in the state.
These days, Avara said, she calls bingo games at her church hall on Poppleton Street and works two days a week at her son's barber shop, The Academy of Hair Design in Dundalk.
"I predicted when they abolished the board that the country would go down the drain with all that filth in the movies," she said yesterday from her home in southwest Baltimore.
"Nobody wants to fight it anymore," she said. "For 21 years, I sat every day and watched that garbage. There was a time when I had trouble eating because I witnessed food being used in just about every disgusting manner possible."
Not everyone has problems with the shop's merchandise and the customers who frequent the establishment.
A woman who identified herself as the owner of Kathy's Hair Boutique next door to the Ecstasy Video store said, "we never had any problems with them because everything of theirs is inside; you have to go in. I always say hi to the people who work there."
"Besides," she said, "one of my customer's husbands goes there."