GLAA calls DCRA to task for Cusano's raid
February 10, 1997
Mr. Hampton Cross, Director
D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs
614 H Street, NW, Suite 1120
Washington, D.C. 20001
Dear Mr. Cross:
We wish to protest an apparent attempt at censorship by one of your Department's investigators.
On November 14, 1996, at approximately 8 p.m., someone from your Department made an unannounced visit to Cusano's Meet Market, located on 17th Street, N.W. near Corcoran Street. This person stated he wished to inspect the premises because of an anonymous citizen's complaint that they were selling illicit erotic literature. The Cusano's employee on duty at the time said they had nothing to hide and permitted the search. No evidence was uncovered to support the anonymous charge. After this search, the owner, Mr. Cusano, withdrew for a time all erotic magazines from his sales rack leading us to believe this was the real goal of the anonymous complaint in the first place.
When we first learned of this story, the worker at Cusano's Meet Market was under the impression that this was a visit from the Metropolitan Police Department. Accordingly, we wrote to Police Chief Soulsby on December 16 about this incident. His office has now informed us that it was someone from your Department who conducted this inspection.
Cusano's Meet Market was simply selling a variety of perfectly legal gay and non-gay magazines in keeping with a diverse and cosmopolitan urban neighborhood. The November incident seems to have made your Department an accomplice in an act of officially-sanctioned harassment and intimidation. The suitability of sexually-oriented materials offered for sale may have been a matter of dispute between the owner and some of his neighbors. Unfortunately, your Department's intervention has elevated this dispute into a case of attempted government censorship.
We understand that Mr. Cusano told the police department that he does not wish this incident investigated any further. However, his interests as owner were not the only ones violated by your Department's actions. We believe that the rights of the reading public have been needlessly put at risk, not to mention the rights of other businesses who may wish to sell erotically-oriented materials.
We therefore ask for a full investigation of the circumstances behind this unjustified search, and for appropriate disciplinary action against those responsible.
We are scheduled to testify at an oversight hearing for your Department on Monday, March 3, before the Council Committee on Consumer & Regulatory Affairs, chaired by Councilmember Harold Brazil. We hope you can respond to us by then.
Please feel free to call me on 667-5139 if you need more information from us. We look forward to a prompt resolution of our complaint. Thank you.
Richard J. Rosendall
cc: ACLU/National Capital Area
The Honorable Jack Evans
The Honorable Harold Brazil
The Washington Blade
Washington City Paper
Cusano's Meet Market