Sunday, February 3, 2008

Virginia Beach police seize photos from Abercrombie store


Police, saying they were responding to citizen complaints, carted away two large promotional photographs from the Abercrombie & Fitch store in Lynnhaven Mall on Saturday and cited the manager on obscenity charges.

Adam Bernstein, a police spokesman, said the seizure and the issuance of the summons came only after store management had not heeded warnings to remove the images.

The citation was issued under City Code Section 22.31, Bernstein said, which makes it a crime to display "obscene materials in a business that is open to juveniles." He did not say what was being done with the pictures and when the manager, whose name was not released, is scheduled to appear in court.

The manager, reached by telephone, declined to comment on the incident Saturday, saying that he was conferring with and waiting for guidance from Abercrombie corporate officials.

The mural-like black-and-white photographs were taken from the store at midafternoon.

Bernstein confirmed that one depicts three shirtless young men from the back, walking through a field. The man in the lead appears to be about to pull up his jeans, which have slipped down enough to reveal his upper buttocks.

The same image is displayed on the Abercrombie Web site.

The other image is of a woman who is topless and whose "breast is displayed with her hand covering just the nipple portion," Bernstein said. "You could still pretty much see the rest of the breast."

The seizure was "prompted by several customer complaints, and the management of Abercrombie & Fitch was notified of those complaints," Bernstein said.

The company's corporate offices in New Albany, Ohio, were closed Saturday and no officials could be reached for comment.

Bernstein said the summons for a Class One misdemeanor was issued to the manager because there is no legal way to issue a summons to a corporate entity in such circumstances. The manager was not arrested but faces a fine of up to $2,000 and as much as a year in jail, if convicted.

Bernstein said that in a meeting last week with store management, the officer - who is assigned to routine patrol of the mall - said he understood it was a corporate decision as to what would be displayed in the stores. But he explained that that didn't exempt the local store from complying with the city code.

Bernstein said management was told specifically: "We want those advertising signs taken down."

When the officer returned to the store Saturday, Bernstein said, he found that the pictures were still in place.

Abercrombie & Fitch has earned a reputation for its risqué catalogues and promotional photography featuring scantily clothed models.

In 2003, the company halted publication of its 7-year-old A&F Quarterly catalog because of complaints about sexually suggestive photographs by award-winning photographer Bruce Weber.

Steve Stone, (757) 446-2309,

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