The Supreme Court yesterday upheld the obscenity conviction of former Washington Pornography kingpin Herman Lynn Womack, who was convicted last year of displaying a sex magazine to juveniles at a Norfolk bookstore.
Womack, 57, had appealed his conviction, arguing that a Norfolk ordinance barring sales or exhibition of obscene items to juveniles was unconstitutionally "vague and indefinite."
A Norfolk jury, in a decision affirmed by the Virginia Supreme Court, had found Womack's store, Budget Books, guilty and had fined the stored $1,000.
Ben Bull, Norfolk assistant city attorney, said yesterday that the Supreme Court's action came in "a test case" on the ordinance. Several Northern Virginia localities have similar ordinances, which prohibit display of sexually explicit magazine covers to juveniles.
Womack's success in what he called "the smut business" peaked in the late 1960s, and he was subsequently convicted in federal court in Washington of transporting obscene materials. He served six months in prison and closed his earlier bookstore operations in 1974.
At one point in Womack's legal difficulties he was barred from directing any of his own businesses - a court order that Womack said contributed to the demise of a pornography empire that once earned him $2 million a year.
Womack could not be reached for comment yesterday.
The city of Norfolk brought action against Womack and his store in 1978 after a police investigator saw the magazine, "Male Swinger," in a roped-off area restricted to adults at the store.
Although the magazine's cover was partially obscured by a city-required opaque strip, the police investigator said part of a male sex organ was visible to the public, including juveniles.
Womack's lawyer, Roger Zuckerman, had argued in the appeal that the Norfolk ordinance is unclear about whether it bars "actual nudity, pictorial representations or something in between."
Bull said Womack still awaits trial on charges of selling two obscene magazines in the Norfolk area. That city prosecution, he said, was held up while Womack served a recent jail sentence on a federal conviction for transporting obscene material through the mails.