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Settlement in B&N Obscenity Case
Bob Summer -- 5/25/98
Although the Tennessee obscenity case involving Barnes &Noble, Christian conservatives and three allegedly pornographic photography books was expected to result in a landmark legal decision, the settlement announced last week by attorneys for both sides fell far short of that.
B&N was indicted last November by a local grand jury for violating community standards in its suburban Nashville store by displaying "adult" books beneath the legally required five-and-a-half-ft. height and without their covers being two-thirds hidden. In the settlement B&N ultimately agreed to meet these terms, and the misdemeanor charges will be dismissed next year if there are no further violations of the law.

Nonetheless, Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the ACLU's Tennessee affiliate, was both surprised and sharply critical of B&N. "It's a bad day in terms of standing tall for the First Amendment," she told the Tennessean. She reiterated the chain's earlier "strong statements that these materials were not obscene, and that the state's obscenity statute should not be used to indict Barnes &Noble."

B&N's Brentwood store manager, Penny Byrd, was unavailable for comment to PW, but the chain's two local defense attorneys expressed satisfaction for their client. Calls to B&N headquarters in New York City were not returned.

The books in question were Jock Sturges's Radiant Identities and The Last Day of Summer (Aperture) and David Hamilton's The Age of Innocence (Aurum Press), all of which depict childhood and adolescent nudity.
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