Croatan Books Inc., which operates Show Place Adults Books on Richmond Highway in Fairfax, yesterday asked the federal court in Richmond to block an attempt by the state attorney general's office to revoke the bookstore's charter until a $600,000 lawsuit filed by the bookstore is resolved.
The bookstore, which distributes novelties, books, newspapers and magazines and rents adult movies, has been convicted a total of 79 times of distributing or renting obscene materials since 1975.
Last January, in an attempt to shut down the store, Virginia Attorney General Gerald L. Baliles invoked a seldom-used provision of state corporation law which says a firm's charter can be dissolved if it "has continued to exceed or abuse the authority conferred upon it by law."
A hearing on the revocation was scheduled for Thursday before the State Corporation Commission (SCC) in Richmond. Burton W. Sandler, an attorney for Croatan, said he asked the U.S. District Court in Richmond yesterday to delay all action in the case until the court hears the lawsuit, which was filed last week.
The lawsuit contends that Virginia officials and others have conspired "to close the bookstore down in violation of its First Amendment rights."
In addition to conspiracy, Sandler said the lawsuit contends that the statute raised by Baliles is being selectively enforced and restricts First Amendment rights when there are less drastic means of enforcement available.
Baliles and the SCC, which regulates corporations, banking and utilities in the state, are named in the suit which seeks $300,000 in compensatory damages and $300,000 in punitive damages.
Sandler said the state's legal tactics "remind us of the old blitzkrieg. They have thrown everything but the kitchen sink at us."
Sandler also contends that state agencies trying to revoke the firm's charter "have become vehicles for the outside organizations--many religiously affiliated--which want to close the bookstore down." Sandler said this raises questions concerning the separation of church and state.
"Never before," the suit states, "has the State Corporation Commission attempted to revoke the charter of a validly existing corporation on the basis of the past convictions." Sandler emphasized that despite the bookstore's numerous convictions, several recent cases brought against it have ended in acquittal.
The most recent conviction against Croatan occurred June 9 when a Fairfax jury found the store guilty on seven counts of intent to rent obscene movies and three counts of selling obscene magazines.