An adult bookstore manager should have asked for ID before hiring a 16-year-old girl to dance nude in a glass booth, a jury decided Wednesday.
Rob Walton admitted giving the teenager a job last year at the East Sprague Adult Bookstore, but never doubted her age, which she said was 19.
He was found guilty Wednesday of violating a city ordinance forbidding minors from being in adult arcades. He faces 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine for the misdemeanor.
The Spokane County District Court jury also convicted the store’s Montana-based owner, Book City, Inc., for not having a policy requiring employees to check the identification of patrons and job applicants.
The company also faces a fine of up to $1,000 and could have its license suspended for two years.
It is the first time an adult arcade has been brought to trial for violating the ordinance since the law went into effect two years ago.
“I am very happy with the result here,” said city prosecutor Patti Walker. “Frankly, we hope it sends a message that we can’t tolerate this.”
Throughout the two-day trial, Walker contended it was the store’s responsibility “to ensure no minors were on the premises at any time.”
When the 16-year-old girl came into the store last fall, Walton asked how old she was but did not demand proof, Walker said. Then Walton had her fill out an application form, which also did not require a birth date.
The girl, a runaway from Missouri, got a job at Pretty Girls Exotic Dancers, which adjoins the bookstore and is part of the same business at 2012 East Sprague.
Dressed in a blue-and-white checked sundress, the teenager told jurors she needed the job after she ran out of money in the middle of a move to Canada.
A dancer in Seattle told her she could find work in Spokane “because they don’t check ID there,” she testified.
She said she was first turned down at the DejaVu on East Sprague because she didn’t have a driver’s license confirming her age. When she applied down the street at Ms Kitty’s, the manager asked for ID but hired her without it, she said.
“I told her I didn’t have (a driver’s license) but would be getting one soon,” the girl said. Within a month, the manager started pestering her for it so she left, she said.
At Pretty Girls, the teenager said Walton never asked for a license. She worked nearly two months, performing private nude shows in small booths for individual customers, who paid $5, $10, or $15 to watch. For $20, the girl said she engaged in “live phone sex” with customers, who talked to her on a telephone between a glass window and ordered her to perform “fantasy sex.”
Soon after she was hired, the girl said her pay was docked for failing to clean semen off the booth windows after each show. Masturbation and other lewd acts by patrons are illegal at adult arcades, city code enforcement officer Scott Emmerson testified.
“There are a lot of problems going on out there that we’re trying to correct,” Emmerson said. “This case hopefully will give us some credibility by saying yes, we’ll bring you in (to court), and we will win.”
The girl’s roommate called police about her dancing, which sparked an investigation.
Walton’s defense attorney, Pete March, said his client didn’t know the girl was a minor. She lied about her name, her age, her educational background and Social Security number, March said. She also came to the store voluntarily, wanting to dance.
“We don’t feel the city met its burden,” March said after the verdict. He promised to appeal.
Walton will be sentenced Friday.