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News Racks Seized: Sexually Oriented Weekly Plans Challenge of Arizona News Rack Law

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

News Racks Seized: Sexually Oriented Weekly Plans Challenge of Arizona News Rack Law

Article excerpt

Sexually oriented weekly plans challenge of Arizona news rack law

THE PUBLISHER OF a Phoenix weekly paper featuring photos of bare-breasted women intends to challenge the constitutionality of a new Arizona law regulating the kinds of publications that can be sold from news racks.

"I'm an easy target," publisher Jerry Evenson said in a telephone interview from the offices of his sex-oriented paper, the Beat. "But this interferes with my First Amendment rights."

Evenson was referring to a coordinated series of raids Aug. 27 when groups of Phoenix vice squad police officers- wearing black ski masks in the withering desert heat--seized 15 Beat news racks.

The officers were enforcing a new Arizona law that prohibits the sale from news racks of material that is "harmful to minors" The law, which took effect in July, makes it illegal to sell sexually oriented publications from news racks accessible to children --a felony that carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison.

Evenson's paper is thick with ads for adult "escort" services, phone-sex numbers, pornographic bookstores and strip clubs-- many featuring photos of bare-breasted women. A typical issue includes pinups of a topless adult film star and articles on what Evenson calls "life and health issues... for my readers, who have active sex lives"

Most of the Beat's circulation--which Evenson says ranges from 8,500 copies for most of the year to 10,000 during the winter tourist months--comes from its 220 news racks. The tabloid sells for 50 cents .

He's been publishing the paper for 33 years and says he's had only sporadic complaints--all politically motivated.

That's what drove the first-ever news rack seizures, Evenson suggests. He accuses the man who authorized the confiscation- Maricopa County attorney Rick Romley--of moving against the paper to gain publicity that furthers his political ambitions.

"We're not pornographic," Evenson said. "We have no full nudity, there is no profanity. The only thing we have is bare nipples--and we don't even have them now."

Since the raid, Evenson has used correction fluid and negative fogging to cover the breasts of models and strippers in the ads.

"This is not a totally trashy paper" said Dick Hertzberg, a Phoenix attorney who specializes in defending sex-oriented businesses and who represents Evenson. …

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