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Utah and Idaho -- two states with more in common than a border -- have been enforcing First Amendment-trampling liquor laws preventing adults viewing certain films from enjoying adult beverages while doing so. I'm not talking about porn theaters, although the use of the word "adult" certainly leads the mind in that direction. No, I'm talking about regular, old-fashioned R-rated films no one really has much objection to adults viewing, even those who often object to adults viewing films rated X and up.In a clear waste of public funds and law enforcement resources, officers are sneaking off to R-rated films at movie houses serving alcohol in hopes of catching them engaged in double-devilry. The movie houses have been fighting back, noting (in lawsuit form) the enforced laws are unconstitutional and inconsistently enforced. Theaters in Utah and Idaho could expect visits from undercover prudes for films like "50 Shades of Grey" and, apparently, "Deadpool."Theaters in both states sued their respective state alcohol boards. Brewvies -- the theater suing the state of Utah -- has been handed a win. Elizabeth Nolan Brown reports on the federal court's decision in the delightfully-titled article "First Amendment Protects Cinema's Right to Show Unicorn Masturbation Scene While Serving Alcohol, Says Judge."
A Utah movie theater that dared to serve alcohol during a sexually explicit movie has won its legal battle against the state's Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (DABC)."The State has violated the First Amendment by bringing an administrative enforcement action against a mainstream motion picture theater showing an R-rated movie," U.S. District Judge David Nuffer wrote for the court Thursday.
The decision [PDF] details a lot of the backstory, which includes state officials singling out Brewvies to score cheap wins for the state alcohol board. It also shows the state, after harassing Brewvies multiple times, suggesting it could preview all movies before showing (the court calls this "untenable"), alter the movies it shows to edit out "obscene" content (forbidden by contracts with motion picture studios), or just stop serving alcohol (lose a great deal of its profits).It also shows an attorney at the state's attorney's office was the source of the sole complaint against Brewvies' showing of Deadpool -- the end result of which was even more harassment of the theater and, consequently, this lawsuit.
Between February 12, 2016, and March 24, 2016, Brewvies showed the movie Deadpool on one of its screens. A friend of Sheila Page, the attorney at the Attorney General’s Office who represents the DABC in enforcement proceedings, mentioned to Ms. Page that Brewvies was showing Deadpool. Once Ms. Page received the information from her friend, she sent an email to Defendant Margaret Hardie, who has been the DABC Compliance Officer assigned to Brewvies since 2014. In her email to Ms. Hardie, dated February 22, 2016, Ms. Page wrote: “I hate to bring this up, but it is just too blatant to ignore. Brewvies is showing Deadpool. The reviews describe explicit sex scenes and male and female frontal nudity. I know some people who have seen it, and they confirm that it is very raunchy amid the bloody violence. Perhaps you should refer it to [the State Bureau of Investigation].” That email, which was the only complaint received by the DABC about Brewvies showing Deadpool, triggered a referral to the State Bureau of Investigation.
Undercover officers were sent to "investigate." It would have been cheaper to keep them home. All three had already seen the movie, one of them multiple times. But their attendance generated an inadvertently-hilarious report on all the naughtiness contained in Deadpool... and gave Brown's article its unforgettable title.
Officer Bullock’s report describes certain scenes of the movie in terms of the prohibitions of Subsection 7. For instance, he states that the male and female characters were “shown numerous times engaging in acts or simulated acts of sexual intercourse” and that the male character “is shown on his back under bed sheets briefly engaged in masturbation or simulated masturbation using a stuffed unicorn toy.” He also describes a scene where the woman was wearing a leather bikini, with an imagined strap-on penis “that isn’t shown,” and “has her groin area pressed against the man’s posterior,” and she tells him to relax as he is sweating and grimacing. She then bends down and says, “Happy Women’s Rights Day” during what Officer Bullock calls “the sodomy or simulated sodomy scene.”Officer Bullock also says that during one sex scene, the male character fondled the woman’s bare breasts and, finally, during the credits, Officer Bullock describes “a drawing of the main character (male) . . . ‘as he rides on the back of a unicorn, he rubs its horn briefly until the horn shoots out rainbows (simulating orgasm).”
Officer Bullock (along with Officer Cannon -- Utah's pro prudes seem to have the porniest of surnames…) presented their "findings" and the state went to work getting itself sued. In the end, it's the state hearing a judge whisper "It's First Amendment Day every day!" in its ear as it drives its point home.
The State offered only one governmental interest in support of Section 7’s restrictions: avoiding potential negative secondary effects from combining sexually explicit images with alcohol. Though this may be a compelling governmental interest, Section 7 is not the least restrictive means for accomplishing it.Section 7 is overinclusive. A statute is overinclusive, and thus facially invalid, if there is a showing that the “law punishes a substantial amount of protected free speech, judged in relation to the statute’s plainly legitimate sweep.” If the statute is found to be overinclusive it will “invalidate all enforcement of that law, until and unless a limiting construction or partial invalidation so narrows it as to remove the seeming threat or deterrence to constitutionally protected expression.”Section 7 is overinclusive because it captures mainstream content.
The court continues, pointing out how the state's alcohol regulations serve to unconstitutionally regulate speech, a definite forbidden (government) act.
Section 7 reaches “many films that are far removed from what is colloquially termed ‘hard core,’ or even ‘soft core,’ pornography.” The State admits this. It makes no contention that Deadpool is pornography. The State only argues that by analogy short portions of Deadpool are like the films typically found in an adult theater.Unlike the statute in Baby Dolls Topless Saloons, no language limits Section 7’s application to those businesses that are characterized by regularly showing sexually explicit material, who make that their essential nature. The State has violated the First Amendment by bringing an administrative enforcement action against a mainstream motion picture theater showing an R-rated movie. That demonstrates the breadth of Section 7’s reach. Section 7’s restrictions impose unacceptable limitations on speech that the State admits should be accorded full First Amendment protection.
State booze regulators will have to go back to the drawing board. The statute needs to be severely narrowed before it can be considered constitutional. Undercover officers Bullock and Cannon will have to start watching R-rated movies on their own time, on their own dime, and presumably without a notebook in one hand and a hard on for free speech oppression in the other.
Sheboygan's Police Chief, Chris Domagalski, corrects errors in a story circulating on social media this week, accusing his department of withholding information from the community. The story involved the arrest of a Sheboygan man facing several felony drug charges, resisting arrest, and biting an officer at Erie and North 14th Street.[...]Domagalski, armed with facts, and the law, spoke out about the accusations, encouraging the community to be very careful about where they get their news - saying "Because you have a website and a facebook page, does not make you a journalist. When you engage in repeated unethical conduct, your character is revealed, and people should weigh that in their decision about whether they rely on you for news."
This is true… partly. A website and a Facebook page does not automatically make someone a journalist. But having only a website and a Facebook page does not disqualify someone from being a journalist. There are plenty of journalists out there who've never written anything on a printed page. There are plenty of people committing journalism without ever intending to, and a lot of that revolves around requesting public records.The journalist, who Chief Domagalski says isn't one, wrote an article about this arrest, suggesting the refusal to turn over recordings of the arrest was a sign of more widespread misconduct within the force.There's not enough information out there to state definitively which side of the story is more credible. It must be noted there's no love shown for the unnamed "non-journalist" in this article's comment thread, suggesting someone who has aimed for muckraker but settled for constant annoyance.Unfortunately, the writer for WHBL Radio seems inclined to consider only those who show tons of deference to police officials to be real journalists. Those that question the actions and motives of government entities are nothing more than non-journalist interlopers.Some of that sentiment can be picked up in the first sentence of the second quoted paragraph:
Domagalski, armed with facts, and the law…
That's some credible stenography right there. Then again, someone without even a Facebook page or a website could have transcribed Domagalski's statement without pausing to infer the chief was wholly in the right.There's more, though.
The Sheboygan Police Department has a number of different ways to communicate factual, verified information to the public, including services like Nixle, which will push information out as text messages or email, AND a service powered by LexisNexis, which provides real-time mapping of police calls within the city. They also maintain a social media presence on facebook and twitter, and communicate regularly with credible journalists in Sheboygan, who can accurately communicate important information about the community with the public.
Apparently, people employed by WHBL will also be determining who is or isn't a "credible journalist." Defined in these surrounding terms, it will be those who publish whatever the PD provides, even if it appears to contradict what has been captured on video or gleaned from public records.I prefer my journalists to show distance, rather than deference, when covering controversial incidents involving public servants. And I don't give a damn if the journalists I read have nothing more than a Wordpress blog and a Muckrock account. What I find less than credible is coverage of police press conferences that read like low-key fan fiction -- especially ones that idolize authority figures while trotting out self-congratulatory prose. The police chief is implying he prefers deference in his journalists, and WHBL is only too happy to comply.