Vernon County authorities, Wednesday, Oct. 6, dismissed pornographic performance citations issued in December against seven women and one man accused of having a striptease operation at his rural De Soto tavern.
Vernon County Circuit Court Judge Michael Rosborough dismissed the citations at the Vernon County Courthouse in Viroqua.
Nine women and the owner of Gunner’s Bar originally were cited Dec. 18 under the county’s 31-year-old ordinance. Two of the women were found guilty and fined $5 after failing to appear Jan. 25. Adding in court costs, the ticket totaled $136.
But county District Attorney Timothy Gaskell said that talks with the attorney representing the county’s insurance company figured into his decision to dismiss. “The bottom line is it’s just not clear if (the ordinance) is constitutional or not,” he said.
The cases were dismissed without prejudice, Gaskell said, meaning they could be refiled.
La Crosse attorney Todd Schroeder, who with Keith Belzer represented the seven women, said Wednesday the county might have dropped the cases for fear of a lawsuit on First Amendment rights.
“Since Day 1, we’ve been arguing that the ordinance is unconstitutional,” Schroeder said.
Madison civil rights attorney Jeff Scott Olson said he still is considering filing a federal lawsuit against Vernon County on the grounds the ordinance violates an individual’s civil rights.
“I intend to open informal negotiations with the county’s attorneys because it’s my hope these matters can be resolved,” he said.
Vernon County has agreed for now not to enforce the ordinance, Olson said.
The bar owner declined to talk about his court case, but said women again are dancing at the club.
(Anne Jungen contributed to this story.)