Four and a half years ago, on a Saturday night, the Broward Sheriff’s Office raided Athena’s Forum, arrested nearly thirty people, carted them off to jail as common criminals allegedly because they were all having consensual sex or fondling in what they believed to be a private club. As you all know, Benjamin & Aaronson led the charge to have all these cases thrown out which was the ultimate result.
Although there were no convictions from this raid or the raid three weeks later at Trapeze, the lives of some of those arrested were affected and changed forever. No one felt the repercussions more than a female Broward County school teacher who was arrested at Athena’s, along with her fiance. She was yanked from teaching her mathematics classes and put on administrative desk duty. Eventually she left that job as she was not allowed to do her chosen profession of teaching. For a short time she taught at a private school only to have this incident rear its ugly head and forced her resignation.
No one seemed to care that the entire time that she maintained her innocence. No one seemed to care that the entire time she maintained that she did not engage in any sexual activity at Athena’s Forum and that the police could not have observed her doing what they said she did, because the clothing that she was wearing would not allow it to occur.
A little over six months ago, Richard Wilson and Daniel Aaronson filed suit in Federal Court on behalf of the school teacher and her fiance. Last month, the case was resolved with the school teacher and former fiance receiving a settlement of $35,000.00.
It may not be the most amount of money in the world. It may not even compensate the two for the anguish, humiliation and affects on their lives. However, it brings closure to this matter and it brings vindication. Justice was finally done and victory was ours.
On another note, this may not be considered local news but it has severe local importance. Late last year, Benjamin & Aaronson on behalf of Lollipops in Daytona Beach filed a Federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the City’s alcohol and nudity ordinance and their general nudity ordinance. A preliminary injunction was sought, based upon the arguments that neither one of these ordinances furthered a substantial government interest nor were they narrowly tailored to fulfill that governmental interest.
The United States District Court Judge denied the Motion for Preliminary Injunction disagreeing with Benjamin & Aaronson’s arguments. However, one week later the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals which has jurisdiction over Florida, Alabama and Georgia ruled in a case out of Manatee County, Florida that in fact the Manatee County ordinances were unconstitutional.
Almost ever single argument that Benjamin & Aaronson put forward in Lollipops was accepted by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in the Manatee County case. In fact, based upon the Manatee County case, the City of Daytona Beach both to reporters and in front of the City Commission acknowledged that the law has changed and that they cannot enforce their ordinances.
As with Daytona Beach, the Manatee County case now changes the entire landscape for adult entertainment in the southeast United States. It now will be easier to attack as unconstitutional ordinances. The government now is being held to actually have to show evidence that adult entertainment causes adverse secondary affects and they will also have to show evidence that the legislation is narrowly tailored to further the substantial government interest caused by the adverse secondary affects.
All in all the past month was good for First Amendment freedoms and adult entertainment. Rights were vindicated, injuries were redressed and the First Amendment breathes a little easier in this part of the country.