One bill that I believe should be put on the fast track is an issue that comes to us as a result of a report aired nationally on Fox News on the Bill O’Rielly show. Iowa already has been in the national spotlight as a result of the ruling by the Iowa Supreme Court on marriage. We don’t need any more bad press making us look like a mecca for bad behavior.
The issue originates from a strip club in Hamburg owned by Clarence Judy, who in 2007 admitted a group of recent high school graduates into the establishment. All but one of the group were at least 18. The underage female’s ID was not checked as she entered the establishment. After some time, she was pulled up on stage by performers, where she twice danced completely nude. She testified that she felt she was expressing herself through her dancing. She was provided two beers by performers.
A controversial District Court case that found the owner of the strip club not guilty for letting a minor dance nude in his establishment is what got the attention of Bill O’Rielly and his colleague Megyn Kelly resulting in the report on.
Chapter 728.5 of the Iowa Code pertains to public indecent exposure in certain establishments. Under this law, the State is required to prove that Judy was the owner of the establishment, that he permitted or allowed a minor to perform a live act, the act performed was intended to arouse or satisfy the sexual desires or appeal to the prurient interests of patrons, and finally that the place of business was not a theater or similar establishment primarily devoted to the arts or theatrical performances and that the act was not part of such a performance.
If the State is able to prove all of the above elements, Judy would be guilty of an aggravated misdemeanor.That charge carries with it the potential of two years in prison and a fine of up to $6,250.
It is not disputed that the establishment is owned by Judy.The court found that Judy did permit a minor to enter his establishment by allowing her through the front door without checking her ID and that he is responsible for allowing her to perform once inside.
The court also found that the act performed was indeed intended to arouse or satisfy the sexual desires or appeal to the prurient interests of the patrons. It was significant to the court the manner in which the establishment advertises itself to the public. Also significant was the sexual nature of the dancing by the underage female.
The only element remaining for the State to prove is that the strip club is not a theater. Judy operates the strip club, Shotgun Geniez, under the name “Hamburg Theater for the Performing Arts” which is how it appears in the phone book and on signs outside the business. Judy presented evidence that artwork is displayed on the walls of the establishment and sold on the establishment’s website. Judy also testified that sketch pads have been made available to patrons to sketch dancers, however that could not be corroborated.
While the court noted that the state proved that the establishment is primarily a strip club, they found that the State failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Shotgun Geniez is not a theater. While the State had focused on the fact that the establishment was primarily a strip club, the court noted that the theater exemption in 728.5 is not qualified by language that would limit it to only places that are primarily theaters. Even if a theater in a limited capacity, the court feels the exemption applies, and it concluded it did in this instance.
The decision resulted in an acquittal for Judy and a disturbing loophole in State law that seems to allow underage nude dancing. The Court of Appeals recently found the District Court ruling sufficient. With the courts apparently unwilling to correct this situation, many in the Legislature are prepared to fix the problem themselves.
A number of proposals would do essentially the same thing. The loophole would be closed by adding language to the theater exemption in Chapter 728.5 that explicitly states that the exemption does not apply to a situation where a minor is involved. With a strong public outcry, it is hoped that a fix can get passed this year.
Question of the week: One of the hot topics at the Capitol is a ban on texting while driving. Do you approve such a ban?
Please don’t hesitate to contact me during the interim. I can be reached at 641-634-2227, or
State Rep. Betty De Boef