Alexander convicted of 25 felony charges
The fate of Ferris Alexander's pornography empire, including establishments in Rochester, appeared doomed today after a federal jury in Minneapolis convicted him Wednesday of tax, obscenity and racketeering charges.
Olmsted County Attorney Ray Schmitz said he will wait until Alexander is sentenced before deciding whether to drop local charges against Alexander or continue prosecuting him for distributing obscene material.
The federal jury of nine women and three men found Alexander, 71, guilty of 25 felony counts, while Alexander's wife, Delores, 61, and his son, Jeffrey, were acquitted of all charges. Alexander's bookkeeper, Wanda Magnuson, was found guilty of 15 felony charges and acquitted of 23.
Robert Smith, Alexander's attorney, said the convictions could result in the shutdown as early as today of all of Alexander's pornography businesses, which stretch from Winona to Duluth and include three in Rochester.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Murphy is asking for all of Alexander's businesses and many other assets to be forfeited.
The Rochester stores are in the third block of South Broadway in downtown Rochester. They are Joey's Bookstore and Broadway Video, on the west side of Broadway, and the main establishment, Broadway Book I, on the east side of the street.
In addition, two buildings just south of Broadway Video are also owned by the Alexander family, but they have apparently not opened for business.
Smith was not available for comment this morning and it was not known if, or how soon, the Rochester establishments might close. As of mid-morning, only Broadway I and Broadway Video were open for business.
Joey's Bookstore was closed, and employees of nearby Paine Furniture said it had apparently been closed for some time.
A clerk at Broadway Book I declined comment. ``I won't say a thing about it,'' he said of the stores or of Alexander's conviction.
The jury was scheduled today to decide which of Alexander's assets should be seized under forfeiture provisions. Smith said he would fight to keep some businesses open, including ``Video Hits'' stores in Winona and Crystal, which are operated by Delores Alexander. The other store in Winona is the Ultimate Book Store.
In Rochester, Ferris Alexander has been charged with two gross misdemeanor counts of distributing obscene materials, following seizure of evidence during a search of Alexander's businesses in 1988.
Schmitz said he isn't ruling out continuing the local prosecution of Alexander, but suggested charges might be dropped if Alexander receives a lengthy sentence for the federal charges. The maximum jail sentence Alexander could receive here is one year in jail.
``It comes down to the fact that he's looking at up to 20-odd years in prison,'' Schmitz said of Alexander. ``It would be a waste of time and effort to prosecute locally if he gets an extended sentence and if the properties are closed.''
Murphy would not comment on the case, other than to say he was pleased with Wednesday's verdicts.
``We say there were some businesses where there was nothing obscene found so they should not be closed,'' Smith said.
In a 41-count indictment returned last year, Alexander was accused of engaging in racketeering by selling pornographic materials, concealing his identity and hiding his profits from the Internal Revenue Service. The other three defendants were accused of helping him.
The jury deliberated 11 days after a 39-day trial, during which Alexander suffered a heart attack and other health problems. He was found not guilty of 16 charges.
Smith also said he would appeal the convictions against Ferris Alexander.
Smith said the jury found six items distributed in Alexander's bookstores to be obscene. Two of the items were videos and four were magazines.
Smith said the contents of the obscene materials included incest, ``male domination over women,'' and ``aberrant sexual patterns that most folks wouldn't normally participate in.''
Alexander displayed little outward emotion when the verdicts were read. He spoke clearly and loudly when he promised U.S. District Judge James Rosenbaum that he would not sell any of his real estate holdings or leave town pending further court appearances.
Rosenbaum warned that Alexander could be thrown in jail if he breaks any laws, including obscenity laws, pending sentencing. No sentencing date was set.
``I tell you, sir, that you operate them (porn shops) at your hazard,'' Rosenbaum told Alexander. Any or all below can be trimmed. g.s.
Michael McGlennen, Delores Alexander's attorney, said he was happy with the verdict.
``I can't, however, totally celebrate because it is her family and she's devoted to them,'' he said. ``There is a little bit of sadness,'' he said, referring to the guilty verdicts against Ferris Alexander.
The attorney for Magnuson refused comment.
The complex case marked the first time a federal racketeering law has been used in Minnesota in a case involving obscenity. Smith said it was only the second conviction nationally using the racketeering law in an obscenity case.
The first conviction, out of Virginia, has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, Smith said.
Three of Alexander's convictions were on tax charges. The government alleged he understated his income by about $2.7 million in 1982 and 1983.
Three other convictions were for violations of racketeering laws, one was for using a false Social Security number and the rest were for transporting and possessing obscene materials.
The convictions against Magnuson included two racketeering counts and transporting and possessing obscene materials.
Evidence the jury considered included 700 exhibits and the testimony of 150 witnesses.
Alexander, of Minnetonka, is the owner of a multimillion-dollar collection of sex-oriented theaters and bookstores.
The government contended that, over a period of years, he and others disguised the amount of his businesses' income. The indictments also contend that he illegally funneled the money through a series of Minnesota corporations.
Alexander's longtime attorney, Randall Tigue, also was named in one count of the indictment. He has had his case severed for a separate trial set for Aug. 26.