By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Toy story: It's hard to say what's more embarrassing for Dallas vice officers: that they would go through the trouble of conducting an undercover sting on a man who was selling lingerie and sex toys or that the defendant would walk away two years later paying a mere $50 fine.
The Pleasure Chest is settled in a blighted stretch of South Buckner Boulevard. On November 12, 2003, aptly named Detective Terry Vice walked into the store and posed as a discriminating patron of sexual merchandise. This could not have been his most difficult assignment. While his colleagues were probably infiltrating drug rings and tackling gang violence, Vice quietly searched for sex toys. In the line of duty, he purchased a rubber vibrating dildo and a sexually explicit video for 48 dollars and, yup, 69 cents.
Vice left the Pleasure Chest and notified Detective S.W. Wright of the sordid criminal activity he had witnessed. Having documented the illegal sale of a sex toy, the two returned to the shop and identified themselves as police officers. They called the startled owner, Phillip Darnell, to the store and seized hundreds of sex toys including more than 50 dildos, 134 cock rings and 28 sets of anal beads. They also took 17 penis extensions, although those were for personal use. (We kid.)
As the police hauled the toys from his store, Darnell stood in shock. After all, his establishment is hardly the only business to sell sex toys.
"I had no idea I did anything wrong," says Darnell, who, oddly, doubles as the owner of an assisted living center.
According to a rarely invoked Texas obscenity law, it's illegal to sell sex toys unless they're marketed as novelty or therapeutic items. A police affidavit against Darnell, however, asserted that the items in the Pleasure Chest's inventory are "marketed primarily as useful for the stimulation of human genital organs."
"The manner in which these devices are used is that of insertion into the human female sexual organ, the insertion of the male sexual organ into the device or the insertion of the device into the anus of the male or female."
Barry White has nothing on these guys.
Darnell was charged with a misdemeanor, and the District Attorney's Office recommended punishment of up to 90 days in jail. After two years of assorted delays, Darnell had a court appearance last Wednesday. Prosecutors settled with Darnell, allowing him to escape with a $50 fine and a 30-day suspended sentence.