Concerns over porn rentals near Bedford school

Prosecutor says prohibitive law may be invalid

BEDFORD, Ind. - Some Bedford citizens are raising concerns about a video store renting pornography near a middle school, saying it violates state law, Call 6 Investigator Kara Kenney reports.

Indiana Code 35-49-3-3 says it’s a felony to knowingly or intentionally sell, rent or display material that is harmful to minors within 500 feet of the nearest property line of a school or church.

Citizens contacted Kenney with their concerns after they say the city, prosecutor and video store failed to take action.

When Kenney stopped by Monday, she saw the Family Video store on 16th street in Bedford has a section labeled "Adults Only" adjacent to the restrooms, in the back of the store.

Inside are dozens of pornographic videos for rent.

“To me, it’s endangerment to the welfare of a child,” said Sam Shaw, a 40 year resident of Bedford. “It’s easy access to get into the store and into the movies.”

Shaw said it’s a battle he’s been fighting for eight years to no avail.

Concerned citizen Ed Bay pointed to Lawrence County’s high teen pregnancy rate as cause for concern.
According to the Kids Count Data Center’s 2011 statistics, the state's average teen birth rate per 1,000 females ages 15-17 was 16.0.

Lawrence County was significantly higher at 24.4.

“I’m concerned we’re ignoring the law,” said Bay. “The bathroom doors are back there and it's a swinging door like one that goes into your kitchen. I was a 12-year-old boy, a 13-year-old boy, and that swinging door is not gonna stop me if I wanna go back there. "

Records show back in 2008, the city of Bedford’s city attorney James Pittman sent a cease and desist letter to Family Video’s corporate headquarters in Glenview, IL.

“According to our investigation, you are renting pornographic material at your Family Video Store located at 1303 16th Street, Bedford, Indiana which is located 359 feet from the Bedford Middle School,” read the letter. “On behalf of the City of Bedford, I request that you cease and desist this illegal practice immediately.”

The city of Bedford also performed its own investigation into the matter after citizen complaints.

“The investigation was conducted by the Bedford Police Departments at my request on the belief that the rental of pornographic material at that location violated a state statute,” said Bedford Mayor Shawna Girgis in an email to Kenney.  “Information regarding the status of the investigation by the Lawrence County Prosecutor’s office will need to be obtained from her office directly.”

Lawrence County Prosecutor Michelle Woodward told Kenney she has decided not to file criminal charges, pointing to a 2005 opinion from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana in which Indiana Code 35-49-3-3 and the 500 foot restriction was found unconstitutional.

“Based on that decision, we have concerns about the constitutionality of the statute,” said Woodward via phone.

She declined to be interviewed on camera.

Bay and Shaw refuse to accept Woodward’s response.

“We don’t know until we do something about it,” said Bay. “This is our case and this is the case we need to worry about.”

"Something needs to be done about it,” said Shaw.

Call 6 Investigator Kara Kenney reached out to Family Video’s corporate office several times for a response, but did not hear back.

An employee at the Bedford store also declined comment and would not allow cameras inside.
Bedford Middle School Principal David Schlegel responded to RTV6 with an emailed statement.

“As you know, exposure to pornography can have damaging effects, especially for young people,” read the statement from Principal Schlegel. “Unfortunately, in this information age this type of content is all too accessible.  Keeping kids safe is our highest priority and the dangers facing students can take on many forms.”

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