Over the weekend, Virginia Beach police confiscated two posters from a local Abercrombie & Fitch outlet and charged the store's manager with violating a city obscenity ordinance by displaying them in a location open to minors. The ordinance, violation of which can be punished by a fine of up to $2,500 and up to a year in jail, makes it a crime to "display for commercial purposes in a manner whereby juveniles may examine or peruse" a picture "which depicts nudity, sexual conduct or sadomasochistic abuse and which is harmful to juveniles." On Monday, a local TV station reports, police and City Attorney Les Lillie decided to drop the obscenity charges because "the displays were not technically obscene." You can judge for yourself whether the posters 1) depict nudity and 2) harm juveniles. Lillie decided police had probable cause to think so, although there was not enough evidence to prosecute. An Abercrombie & Fitch spokesman had this to say:
The marketing images in question show less skin than you see any summer day at the beach. And certainly less than the plumber working on your kitchen sink. This is an incredible over reaction by city officials that would be comical except for its potentially serious legal implications.
It's still at least little comical, I think, especially since Abercrombie & Fitch thrives on this sort of attention. In this case, though, the chain may not have gone far enough: The posters have been hanging in hundreds of stores across the country since mid-January, but the Virginia Beach outlet is the only one where the manager has been asked to take them down. In addition to citing complaints from customers, a police spokesman "said the ads made it difficult for police to enforce city dress codes, specifically noting teens who wore droopy jeans."