By John Hacker
Globe Staff Writer
PINEVILLE, Mo. - A McDonald County judge will rule sometime in early March on an injunction to have an adult video store declared a health nuisance and closed down for a year.
William Fleischaker, the Joplin attorney representing owners of Mid-Nite Video Store South, said the state has until Feb. 21 to file additional information and briefs supporting its claims that store owners and employees are promoting activity that is dangerous and can lead to sexually transmitted diseases.
Fleischaker said he will have until Feb. 28 to file his response, and Circuit Judge John Lepage will rule on an injunction that would close the store soon afterward.
This announcement came after more than four hours of testimony Friday in a hearing that actually started on Nov. 14, 2002.
Special Prosecutor Tim Finnical finished presenting his case, which was based on two former Mid-Nite Video store employees who testified that unsafe sex was common in the store, and a Missouri State Highway Patrol Trooper who said he found paper towels stained with semen in the store's trash.
In rebuttal, Fleischaker, with store owner Robert Crump Jr. at his side, called the Pineville town marshal and current employees of the store to impugn the credibility of the state's witnesses.
McDonald County Prosecutor Steve Geeding, in filing the case, did not seek a ruling that the store's videos are obscene, but rather asked for the injunction under a state statute passed in 2001 that prohibits maintaining a health nuisance where the HIV virus can be transmitted. The statute says any business that maintains such a nuisance can be closed by injunction for up to a year.
In February 2000, Jasper County Prosecutor Dean Dankelson tried to have the material sold by the Mid-Nite Video store near Joplin, also owned by Crump, closed by declaring the material it sold obscene. A jury rejected Dankelson's arguments. Fleischaker represented Crump in the jury trial.
Friday's testimony started with Fleischaker cross-examining Jim Buttram, a former janitor at the store, and Trooper Roger Renken, one of two troopers who served a search warrant on the store on Sept. 29 and took 12 bags of trash from the arcade portion of the store.
Buttram and Renken were the only two witnesses who testified on Nov. 14.
At that time, Buttram said he saw men masturbating and men having oral and anal sex with other men in the arcade, which was described as a part of the store where people could use tokens to view adult videos in booths.
Renken said the patrol's laboratory in Jefferson City tested some of the towels found in the trash and found semen on them.
The state's final witness, former Mid-Nite Video cashier Lisa Burge of Anderson, said she worked the over-night shift at the 24-hour store for more than two months. She said on a number of occasions, customers exposed themselves to her or ask her to join them for sex in the arcade. She said she turned them down.
Burge also said she saw dozens of pairs of men a week come into the store and go into the arcade together. Burge said she and other female employees were told not to go back to the arcade area. On one occasion, however, she said she did go near the area and saw two men engaged in oral sex in a booth.
Fleischaker's first witness, Pineville Marshal David Breshears testified that Buttram "likes to stretch the truth" and that his credibility is "very poor."
Fleischaker called four current employees who testified that they had never been propositioned, and that they had not seen the unsafe sex acts that Burge and Buttram claimed to have seen.
The employees and store owner Crump testified that they had had complaints from customers about Buttram bothering them while they were in the arcade.
Crump also testified that Burge had only worked at the store for about three weeks, not the two months she claimed, and she never came to him with complaints about customers propositioning her.
By John Hacker