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Police Raid Distributors of Sexually Explicit Films

Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles police have conducted a series of raids this week at distributors of sexually explicit films, said police and film company executives.

Officials of four film distribution companies, two of them in the San Fernando Valley, said they were raided Thursday. Two of the executives said police told them that search warrants had been served at as many as 10 film distributors, with one target of the raids being films depicting sexual bondage.

Capt. James Docherty, commander of the Police Department’s administrative vice division, said the raids were part of an investigation that would continue over the weekend. He would not say how many businesses would be searched. He said the results of the raids will be announced next week by Chief Daryl F. Gates.

John Weston, a Beverly Hills attorney who represents about 25 Los Angeles-based distributors of sexually explicit films, said Friday that about five of his clients had been raided.

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2 Distributors in Valley

“At a number of my clients’ businesses there were 10 or 11 police officers who were there for about four hours or longer,” Weston said. “I think that there must have been at least 100 officers involved in this operation.” The four distributors that confirmed having been searched on Thursday were Videotape Cassettes X-rated of North Hollywood, Century Distributors Co. of Van Nuys and Video Company of America Inc. and Video Home Entertainment Co., both in downtown Los Angeles.

Docherty would not discuss the specific reason for the series of raids, but said: “We have certain areas that are definitely obscene. Oral copulation, rape, sadomasochism. . . . These are patently obscene and when we have information that a film is within these guidelines we go after it.”

Bill Amerson, general manager of Videotape Cassettes X-rated, said 10 police officers raided the business and confiscated several films. “We do not handle bondage or child pornography or anything that would be objectionable to anybody,” Amerson said. “We make it a point to work within the framework of the law.”

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Bondage a Theme

Another distributor said two of the three films taken from him were based on bondage themes. “I guess they probably feel it’s easier for them to get a conviction on them than regular sex tapes,” the distributor said.

Two of the distributors said they view the raids as part of a crackdown on the local sex-film industry. Both distributors mentioned the conviction in May of an Encino producer of hard-core sex films, Harold Freeman, on charges of pandering. Freeman, who said he plans to appeal, was the first film maker convicted in California under a 1982 state law that mandates a three-year prison sentence for hiring people to perform sex acts.

“These raids outrage me,” Weston said. “One of the major political issues in the last year or two has been the terrible rise in violent crime, particularly murder and burglary. And the City Council and the mayor have been desperate looking for ways to finance new police officers and we don’t have the funds. Here, the Police Department unilaterally decides to expend limited resources to pursue videotapes involving adults.”

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