The Virginia State Corporation Commission has ordered the owners of a Fairfax County bookstore to appear at a hearing and explain why they should not be put out of business for repeatedly violating pornography laws.
Croatan Books Inc., operating as Show Place Adult Books on Richmond Highway in Mount Vernon, has been convicted 69 times during the last five years and paid more than $60,000 in fines for possessing obscene materials, according to court records. The fines have not closed the store, frustrating prosecutors and community leaders, who claim the store attracts undesirable visitors to the neighborhood.
"The cost of complying with the law is being written off as a business expense," Virginia Attorney General Gerald L. Baliles said earlier this year.
The show-cause order, issued Wednesday, marks a preliminary victory for Baliles, who had petitioned the commission in January to dissolve Croatan. His petition marked the first such prosecutorial use of corporate law in Virginia, according to lawyers in Richmond.
Baliles declined to comment yesterday, and a spokesman would not say whether the show-cause order indicated the commission, a quasijudicial, three-man panel, had accepted Baliles' legal theory. "At least they didn't reject it out of hand," the spokesman said.
Croatan Books employes referred questions yesterday to a Maryland lawyer, who was out of town and could not be reached.
State Sen. Joseph V. Gartlan Jr. (D-Fairfax) introduced a series of bills in the Virginia General Assembly this year aimed at shutting Croatan down, including a measure that will raise the maximum fine for second and subsequent obscenity convictions from $1,000 to $10,000.
The commission set May 19 as the date for the Crotan hearing, a spokesman said yesterday.