ACLU Says Louisiana Sheriff Can't Censor 'The Hokey Pokey' at Skating Rink; Britney Spears CD Seized as 'Evidence of a Crime'

Affiliate: ACLU of Louisiana
July 7, 2000 12:00 am

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ACLU of Louisiana
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

NEW IBERIA, LA — The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana today filed a lawsuit asking whether playing the “Hokey Pokey” can be considered a criminal act.

The lawsuit challenges the recent actions of the sheriff of a Louisiana Parish who arrested a roller skating rink owner and his manager — and closed down the skating rink — because he objected to the popular music being played. In addition to music by Snoop Doggy Dog, the sheriff seized the Hokey Pokey and songs by Britney Spears.

“Our free society operates on the principle that each and every individual has the right to decide what music or other art forms he or she wants — or does not want — to see or hear,” said ACLU of Louisiana Executive Director Joe Cook. “The Sheriff may not act in an unlawful manner to censor material that he considers and determines on his own to be obscene and indecent.”

The ACLU of Louisiana, on behalf of House of Wheels “Skate Zone” owner Frank Torries and his manager Tricia Boudoin, is asking a federal court judge to protect the First Amendment and prevent Iberia Sheriff Sid Hebert or his officers from engaging in unlawful actions that interfere with Torries’s right to pursue his Skate Zone business in a lawful manner. The ACLU is also seeking the return of some 60 CD’s seized as “evidence of a crime,” including Jingle Bells, the Chicken Dance, The Tarzan Soundtrack, Christina Aguilera, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, The Hot Boys, and The Bosa Nova.

The case stems from a fist fight that broke out on February 5, 2000 in the parking lot outside the Skate Zone. The CD’s were seized based upon the assertion that the music (particularly the rap music) played that night had caused the fight. According to ACLU court papers, all the rap and hip-hop songs played that night were the edited or “air play” version of the songs. Almost all were purchased locally, primarily at Wal-Mart and/or Sam’s Club stores. Throughout the evening skating session, various kinds of music, including hip-hop or rap music, were played without incident.

As school buses were loading patrons to leave at the end of the skating session at about 10:45 p.m., the fight broke out. Manager Boudoin placed a call to the Sheriff’s office whose deputies arrived and intervened in the fight between two young people and issued a summons to a third on fighting related charges. Then, disregarding constitutional safeguards, the local authorities entered the Skate Zone, and ordered Boudoin to “shut it (the Skate Zone) down.” They then conducted a warrant-less search of the premises and seized approximately sixty pre-recorded CD’s.

“Skate Zone has hosted community service programs that help kids and benefits New Iberia,” Torries said. “I am very dedicated to my community. The Skate Zone provides an opportunity for kids to stay off the street and have a safe, enjoyable experience. I want to keep it that way.”

Six days after authorities shutdown Skate Zone and confiscated the music, Boudoin and Torries went to a scheduled meeting with the Sheriff to “sit down and work something out.” Shortly after entering the Sheriff’s office, Hebert held up three CD’s saying, “I have enough here to arrest you.” Sheriff Hebert then informed Torries and Boudoin that he had obtained a warrant for their arrest and was charging them with “Principal to Contributing to the Delinquency of Juveniles.”

Upon their arrest, Torries and Boudoin were treated like violent criminals — handcuffed, at times to a bench or table, subjected to physical searches, fingerprinted and photographed. Deputies transported them in handcuffs to the Iberia Parish Prison where they again searched their bodies and placed them in separate 3′ x 3′ segregated isolation holding cells for up to four hours without any place to sit.

Both plaintiffs had to undergo a urine test without any reasonable suspicion of illegal drug usage. Boudoin was forced to walk “barefoot” into the male inmates restrooms of the Iberia Parish Prison and urinate (while being observed by Iberia Parish Sheriffs Office representation) into a cup. Then a deputy escorted her through a prison cell block in front of a large number of male inmates who were shouting vile, sexually suggestive and sexually graphic statements and comments in order to harass and intimidate her.

“Sheriff Hebert has contacted the religious community and spoken out against the music, claiming to represent the moral high ground by saying ‘that we will not tolerate this type of corruption involving our children,'” the ACLU’s Cook said. “The ACLU asks those same religious leaders to examine Sheriff Hebert’s uncivilized and demeaning treatment of both plaintiffs, especially the parading of Ms. Boudoin through the men’s section of the prison and into their urinal.”

The ACLU is filing suit in Federal Court, Western District, Lafayette Division, with Judge Tucker L. Melacon presiding. The amended civil complaint was filed on behalf Torries and Boudoin by ACLU cooperating attorney E. Barton Conradi of Baton Rouge, LA and Marjorie R. Esman of New Orleans, LA.

The name of the case is Torries v. Hebert, Civil Action No: CV00-0512-L-O.

Click here to read a statement by Tricia Boudoin.

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