Full Text of Springfield’s Decision to Deny Capital Video’s 2008 Viewing Booth Entertainment License

Here is the full text of Springfield Mayor Charles Ryan’s Findings and Decision as transmitted on January 4 to Thomas Lesser, attorney for Capital Video. Mr. Lesser, based in Northampton, is trying to help Capital Video obtain a 2008 entertainment license for the porn viewing booths in its Springfield store, called Amazing.net. Last year he tried to save Capital Video’s 2007 entertainment license from revocation and failed.

Mayor Ryan’s findings are reproduced below and may be downloaded as a PDF. Here are key passages:

…I found that issuance of the 2006 and 2007 licenses lead to the creation of a nuisance and endangered the public health, safety or order by increasing the incidence of disruptive conduct in the area in which the Capital Video premises (hereinafter “Premises”) are located…

As evidenced by the testimony and exhibits presented at the revocation hearing, (copies of which were introduced in the January 3, 2008 hearing as Exhibits 15 and 16) the increase in the incidence of disruptive conduct in the area in which the premises are located, based on the testimony and reports of the police officers as well as the testimony and reports of a neighborhood resident, indicated that the sale of drugs, prostitution in the area around the store, together with offensive, lewd activities occurring in the various “viewing booths”, as well as patrons being assaulted while using the booths, created a nuisance and has caused a hindrance or obstruction in the exercise of the rights which are common to every person in the community, for example to safely walk the sidewalks of their own neighborhood, or to patronize the store selling adult oriented material without being assaulted…

I find that issuance of entertainment licenses for the video booths would lead to the creation of a nuisance and would endanger the public health, safety or order by increasing the incidence of disruptive conduct in the area in which the premises are located.

The anticipated harm is significant and the likelihood of its occurrence is not remote.

I find that the nuisance relating to this establishment as described in the Findings and Decision revoking the 2007 entertainment licenses would likely be aggravated by the issuance of licenses to this applicant which has flagrantly refused to comply with my decision of November 16, 2007 and the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts that prohibit such activity without a license.

The type of behavior associated with these booths, as described in the testimony and Exhibits presented at the revocation hearing, and which were introduced as Exhibits in the hearing on January 3, 2008 and described in the Findings and Decision I issued on November 16, 2007, presents a grave threat to the health and welfare of the men patronizing this establishment in question and to society as a whole due to the virulence and ease of transmission of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), associated with acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). See Com. v. Can-Port Amusement Corp., 2005 WL 9373 12…

In the “Findings and Decision” concerning the revocation hearing for the 2007 licenses, facts were introduced, without dispute, that showed the video booths on the Capital Video premises have been used for prostitution, assignation or lewdness, sexual assaults and are connected to drug activity and therefore, the video booths were deemed a nuisance and substantial grounds for denial or revocation of the 2007 licenses was found.

Despite the revocation, the evidence at the hearing on January 3, 2008 indicated that the booths remained in use by patrons at all times after notice on November 16, 2007 of revocation of the 2007 entertainment license and remain in use by patrons to this date.

City of Springfield Code Enforcement Inspector Jerald LaRose testified that he inspected the premises 6 or 7 times beginning December 6, 2007. He took photos depicting the exterior and interior of the booths on several of those dates. The dates of his inspections include December 6, 2007, December 10, 2007, December 12, 2007, December 14, 2007, and January 2, 2008. He testified there were approximately 16 booths. This is 3 booths more than licensed in 2007. His inspection revealed the booths were in use by patrons. He testified that he observed customers using the booths. During his inspections he identified himself to management of the business as a representative of Springfield’s Code Enforcement Department and was told that the booths have remained in use by patrons…

Sergeant Norman Charest, of the Springfield Police Department Vice Squad, testified that he visited the property on January 2, 2008 and January 3, 2008 and observed that the booths were operational and that customers were using the booths. Sgt. Charest testified that he spoke to the manager who told him that she has been employed by the applicant at the premises since May 2007 and that the booths have remained in continuous operation as long as she had been there. Charest also observed the large windows that were installed between booths. The windows were opaque unless each occupant on either side of the window would press a button which caused the window to clear so that the occupants in adjoining booths could observe each other…

The applicant has flagrantly and outrageously violated the laws of this Commonwealth which prohibit unlicensed entertainment by continuing to operate the unlicensed booths despite the revocation on November 16, 2007 of the 2007 licenses.

Moreover, the applicant has also failed to adhere to at least three of the conditions of the 2007 license. (See list in Ex. 13 at Tab 6) The conditions as agreed to as a prerequisite for issuance of the 2007 license also required permanent closure of three of the 16 booths; the presence of “at least two employees” working at any given time; and metal sheets attached to common walls. The [missing text] and the testimony of Code Enforcement Inspector LaRose as well as Sgt. Charest indicated that these conditions were not satisfied as indicated by the operation of 16 booths, only one employee at most times, and the presence of opaque windows which clear to allow viewing between booths upon the consent of users in adjoining booths…

The evidence before me amply warrants the conclusion that management of Capital Video authorized, encouraged and was engaged in operating the video booths without any license fiom November 16, 2007 through December 31, 2007 as well as the first three days of calendar year 2008, and, in addition, as stated above, failed to comply with conditions agreed to before issuance of the 2007 license.

The applicant has shown egregious contempt for the Findings and Decision of November 16, 2007 through continued unlicensed activity and the clear and undoubted disobedience of the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

The application for 2008 entertainment licenses is denied.

The denial of the license is not intended to in any way punish the applicant for the failure to adhere to the law, but is intended to prevent the creation, or aggravation, of the nuisance and endangerment to the public health, safety or order by increasing the incidence of disruptive conduct in the area in which the Capital Video premises (hereinafter “Premises”) are located which has been documented in the past as conditions which justify denial of the application for such licenses. The Law Department should petition the Superior Court Department of the Trial Court to enjoin any violation of Mass. Gen. Law ch. 140, Section 181 and the Springfield Police Department should seek criminal complaints for operation of the video booths without a license.

See also:

Springfield Republican: “Ryan denies permit for booths” (1/5/08)< BR>
Springfield Republican: “Springfield mayor denies license for adult-themed store” (1/4/08)
Last June 19, the Gazette reported how Capital Video attributed its Springfield store problems to “employee breakdown”. Property manager Anthony E. Nota said that an enhanced video surveillance system would monitor activity inside and outside the store, and that this video could be viewed at any time via remote laptop and from Capital Video’s security center in Rhode Island. All this suggests to us that Capital Video as a whole is now implicated in its current license violation. Its problems in Springfield can no longer be blamed on one or a few local employees.

Gazette: “Springfield mayor raps conduct by porn store” (1/5/08)

Springfield Republican: “Police report continued use of booths at adult store” (1/3/08)

Full Text of Springfield’s Decision to Revoke Capital Video’s [2007] Viewing Booth Entertainment License
Testimony and reports showed that the booths continued to be utilized for illegal purposes, including sexual assaults on patrons despite the police activity of a drug arrest in front of the premises on October 11, 2006, and the actions of persons involved with the drug activity fleeing into the store, (apparently to hide in the booths) and despite inspections by the health authorities documenting the deplorable conditions, despite a letter to the President of Capital Video, as well as a re-inspection on December 6, 2006 where the holes were again apparently covered up, and despite a letter from the licensee’s attorney assuring the City that action was being taken…

[Testimony of Ms. Erica Walch, immediate past president of the Armoury-Quadrangle Civic Association:] “…our AQCA office is directly across the street from the store, and I am able to watch the goings on when I am at the office. Men and women who live in our neighborhood … are frequently approached by men who slow down their cars and ask, ‘Are you working?'”

…the testimony shows repeated and persistent evidence of illegal activity and complicity and reckless disregard of Capital Video’s management over a long period of time which is sufficient to constitute a nuisance.

Moreover, viewing the evidence as a whole, there is absolutely no basis to credit any assertions or representations that Capital Video has, can or will permanently improve the conditions of its viewing booths and the open, repeated, pervasive and notoriously lewd and lascivious behavior associated with the booths…

Viewing Booths and HIV: An Open Letter to Thomas Lesser of Northampton, Attorney for Capital Video

Gazette: “Porn store’s viewing booths raise stink in Springfield”

Northampton attorney Thomas Lesser presents to Springfield Mayor Charles Ryan, attempting to preserve Capital Video’s license to operate porn viewing booths at Amazing.net in Apremont Triangle

TalkBackNorthampton: “Danger, Pictures! Cap Video Writes to City Council” (11/2/06)
[Public letter from Lesley Rich, General Counsel, Capital Video Corporation:] “…a campaign has been waged against our business by individuals that have maligned the reputation of Capital Video. Contrary to published reports, Capital enjoys an excellent relationship with its host communities, and has not encountered any of the problems or detrimental effects that have been put forth. Our employees and the stores they operate are responsible members of their communities… There is absolutely no truth that our business increases crime, or detracts from the neighborhood in which we operate.”

Providence Journal Archives: Kenneth Guarino’s Mob Ties, Criminal Past, Global Empire
In October [2006], Capital Video’s local attorney Michael Pill claimed to Northampton’s City Council that “The company will not tolerate any illegal conduct in or around its place of business.” (PDF) Three months later, the Springfield police commissioner called for a License Commission hearing to consider counts of drug sales and lewd activity around the Capital Video shop there.

What Kittery Found at the Porn Shop
Police Chief Strong came forward and said everyone was aware that this establishment had been a bone of contention for a long time. Although they had other regulations toward that establishment, it had come to his attention that there were either illegal activities going on or activities that were detrimental to the health and welfare of patrons and the general public…