Police confiscate sexual comic books
Thu., Feb. 27, 2003
Police seized five sex-themed comic books from the shelves of the Hastings book store Tuesday afternoon, after receiving a complaint that they were in a place where children could see them. “Five books? I was hoping for at least 100,” said Randall Tetzner, who brought the books to the city’s attention. Tetzner was involved in an argument with Hastings employees on Feb. 16 regarding his 5-year-old son, who is autistic. Tetzner said Wednesday evening that his involvement in getting sexually graphic books off the shelves is not retaliation for being asked to leave the store two weeks ago. He accidentally ran across some of the comic books Feb. 16 and was shocked, he said. “It was pornography, `Satan’s Sex Dolls’ or something,” Tetzner said. “I did go back a second time specifically to look for these books because I was told by City Hall it is a crime. I think citizens should report crime.” In a police report written Tuesday, the city cites an Idaho law that prohibits the dissemination of materials harmful to children. The city and the Hastings corporate headquarters in Amarillo, Texas, were each conducting investigations Wednesday. “Right now we haven’t decided what we are going to do with it,” said Jennifer Moore, deputy city attorney. Frank Holland, Hastings vice president, said from Amarillo that he just heard about the incident at midday Wednesday and that the company was beginning its own investigation. Holland said Hastings “very rarely” runs afoul of statutes involving pornography or inappropriate materials, and local store manager Daniel Kasza said he can’t remember a similar incident here. “We don’t intentionally carry anything in the store that would be in violation of city laws. In a store like Coeur d’Alene we stock probably 50,000 book items,” Holland said. Moore said this is the first time in her 2-1/2 years with the city that she can recall enforcing the statute. “To be honest with you, these were pretty invisible,” she said of the comics. “We had a complaint.” On Tuesday, Moore met Detective Todd Carroll and other Coeur d’Alene police officers at the “Relationships” section of Hastings, 101 Appleway. There, they found five books that appeared to violate the statute. The books were comic books with sexual, gay-male themes. The titles included “Meatmen: An Anthology of Gay Male Comics,” volumes 19, 20 and 21. Also seized were “Homo-Hero’s” and “Satan’s Sex Book.” On Wednesday, the Relationships shelves at Hastings still contained gay and lesbian sex books as well as heterosexual sex guides. The books that were seized were more graphic, Moore said. A Web site describes the Meatmen comics as containing “both humorous cartoons and highly explicit graphics.” Moore said the city may either proceed with charges or ask the store to make the materials less accessible to minors, either by wrapping the covers or placing them on different shelves. The store already wraps explicit magazines in plastic sleeves. A police report says the books were found on shelves about knee high. There were no sleeves on the comics. The day he found the comics, Tetzner said he had gone to Hastings with his two children, including his autistic son. It was a social outing, he said, adding that children with autism often have a hard time learning social boundaries. He gathered several children’s board books and sat down to read with his children in the chairs Hastings provides for customers. According to a police report filed that day, Tetzner said a Hastings employee gathered up the books and walked off. His son ran after her and touched her. She grabbed his hand. Tetzner told police he felt that constituted battery. The Hastings employee told police in the same report that she felt someone pinch her as she bent over to pick up the books. She said she never touched the boy. The manager, Kasza, told police Tetzner became belligerent and was asked to leave. On Wednesday, Tetzner said he was merely acting as an advocate for his son under the Americans With Disabilities Act. “When it comes to kids with disabilities, you don’t just take things away from them,” he said. “My son ran after her and touched her. My son is 5 years old. He’s no threat to her.” Tetzner said he went back to Hastings later that day to hand out about 30 fliers he had printed from his home computer, showing a picture of his son and describing the incident in the store. Tetzner said he called City Hall last week to mention the explicit comic books and asked what steps should be taken to remove them from shelves where kids could see them. “I pushed very hard on this complaint. The cops didn’t even know how to take the report,” he said. “Basically I’m just a parent who lives in a very stressful environment with a child with autism. I tried to find him some books to read and I run across porn.” He notified the Hastings attorney of the books by e-mail on Sunday, he said, and then notified police. “They could have taken action to remove the books, but they didn’t,” he said of Hastings. Holland said Hastings has a team of book buyers who make purchases for the entire chain. Often, the book buyers rely on catalog information from wholesalers, he said. They do not see a copy of every item they purchase. “There are an awful lot of books out there,” he said. YES, DataTimesMEMO: Kevin Taylor can be reached at (208) 765-7124, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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