NCAC Censorship News Issue #66:
In a stunning rebuke to overzealous prosecutors, the owner and manager of Bellingham, Washington’s Newstand store were awarded $1.3 million for prior restraint and for retaliatory prosecution by a U.S. District Court in Seattle. The judgment was awarded to Ira Stohl and Kristina Hjelsand, who had been charged with obscenity for selling a ‘zine called Answer Me! and found not guilty by a jury. In awarding the judgment in the Newstand’s counter-suit, the district court jury found that Whatcom County had violated Stohl and Hjelsand’s First Amendment rights, caused emotional suffering, and damaged their business. Censorship News readers will remember that the Newstand owners rejected the prosecutor’s offer to drop the criminal charges in return for their promise not to carry future issues of Answer Me! or “anything remotely similar” (Censorship News 58). Instead, they displayed the ‘zine in their store chained, under lock and key.
When criminal charges were brought against the Newstand, NCAC wrote to the Bellingham newspapers emphasizing Bellingham’s history of wasting taxpayer money to defend unconstitutional restrictions on sexual expression, including passage of a Dworkin/MacKinnon antiporn ordinance in 1988 even after it was found unconstitutional.