Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The Porn Wars: Love Shack Gets Little Love

It's all about paint. Attorneys for both Love Shack owner John Cornetta and Fulton County plumbed the depths of analogy in an effort to clarify District Court Judge James Thrash 12-20-06 contempt order. Analogies were necessary due to the wording of the order which commanded the Love Shack to reduce its adult inventory to less than a "significant amount".

The crux of all arguments lay in those peculiar words.

Fulton County Attorney Steve Rosenberg stated that the Love Shack had not complied with the order and offered as evidence The Love Shacks own affadavit which stated the store still contained 2312 adult DVDs and 1647 sex toys. He compared this to his time in criminal prosecution where a police report stated a residence had a significant amount of drugs. For example, a significant amount could be "40 hits of crack". The argument The Love Shack put forward in its brief is inventory had been reduced by a "significant portion" not a "significant amount". He pointed out Judge Thrash had not used this term and that in context, as with the crack in the drug arrest, a significant amount still existed.

Mr. Rosenberg stated, "It's as if you ordered them to paint a house black and they painted it deep charcoal gray and then we disagreed if it was black. In this case they painted the house pink".

Mr. Cornetta's attorney Louis Sirkin countered that if the judge had ordered his client to paint something a deep red this is what would have been done. However it is as if the judge ordered something painted red and now both sides were arguing if it is truly red. He argued that his client had made a good faith effort to comply with a vague court order. As evidence he presented county and city ordinances that ranged from the City of Atlanta requiring less than 25% of floor sales to Warner Robins requiring less than 50% of sales in a 90 day rolling period. Mr. Sirkin stated his client had chosen what he felt was the most restrictive parameters and attempted to comply.

In the end, Judge Thrash was not moved. Apparently, he saw pink where The Love Shack attorneys saw gray. He stated in his ruling that he had deliberately used the term "significant amount" in order to prevent Mr. Cornetta from manipulating his inventory in an effort to comply. He went on to say he could not see how "anybody would see compliance" given the amount of adult material remaining. He specified his intent was number of items, not percentage or portion.

He ruled The Love Shack in contempt and ordered compliance by 3:00pm tomorrow. The Love Shack could comply by reducing its inventory under a "significant amount" or closing its doors. Until that time the business would be fined $1000 per day retroactively to 12-21-06 . He also stated his ruling would termintate at 12:01am on 1-5-07 at which point Johns Creek would have jurisdiction. He added the ruling and fine would be suspended if The Love Shack complied by the deadline.

Mr. Sirkin asked for clarification of "significant amount" and Judge Thrash replied "anything more than a few".

Fulton Attorney Rosenberg claimed victory although his side did not reach the goal of closure. He concluded the ruling to mean The Love Shack was operating without a license. This would prevent any kind of "grandfathering" once Johns Creek ordinances began enforcement.

On 1-2-06, Johns Creek passed new ordinances including a highly restrictive adult ordinance that includes any business to wait 20 days for approval. The new ordinance goes into effect at 12:01am, 1-5-06.

Not surprisingly, Mr. Cornetta also claimed victory. He stated he was still in business and not in jail. When asked about the fine, Mr. Cornetta stated he was "ready to pay out of my pocket right now". When confronted about the amount of the fine which would have exceeded $10,000, Mr. Cornetta pulled out a roll of $100 bills and a black American Express card. He explained that a person had to "spend $300,000 a year" just to maintain such an item. He said $13,000 did not bother him as he had spent more on his wife on New Year's Eve. He was quick to clarify he did not want to make light of the money and his real purpose in this was to fight for what is right. He also claimed to have previously turned down a deal from the Fulton D.A. stating "let me go to jail".

Cornetta also plans to increase his inventory. Now that he is in contempt and with no hard limit on his inventory, his immediate plans are to increase inventory back to 25%. However, he stated he and his attorneys are discussing multiple strategies.

For now, The Love Shack remains open. D.A Rosenberg was unclear if Fulton County will attempt another closure tomorrow at 3:00pm but indicated something would happen. In the meantime, Johns Creek's new ordinance goes into effect in less than 30 hours. When asked if this new chapter in the saga would send everything back to square one, Rosenberg shrugged and smiled.

As for Cornetta, he says, "If Johns Creek comes an arrests me, where are they going to put me? Mike Bodker's apartment?"


Amber Rhea said...

Wow, what a load of bullshit.

Good work, Griftdrift!

rusty said...

Yes, good work. Very thorough account!