Newsstand awarded $1.3 million after contesting prosecution
WASHINGTON–A Bellingham newsstand store owner and manager were awarded $1.3 million by a federal District Court in Seattle in their civil suit against county prosecutors who had pursued criminal obscenity charges against the two for selling a magazine that county officials deemed obscene.
The suit charged that the county engaged in illegal prior restraint and retaliatory prosecution, and thus violated the individual’s First Amendment and civil rights.
A criminal jury had previously found Ira Stohl and Kristina Hjelsand not guilty of violating obscenity laws for selling a magazine called Answer Me! in mid-April.
The district court civil jury found that Whatcom County violated Stohl and Hjelsand’s First Amendment rights, caused them emotional suffering and damaged their business.
The prosecutors offered to drop the criminal charges if the store promised to stop carrying the magazine, but the defendants refused and instead displayed Answer Me! in their store chained under lock and key. (Stohl v. McEachran, Media Counsel: Robert Mahler, Andrea Brenneke, Seattle)