Free at Last

Over the weekend, the news flashed all over the world. The Guardian in London, the Star Phoenix in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, CNN and The Washington Post all ran stories saying that charges against Joanne Webb, infamous dildo saleswoman of Burleson, have been dropped by the Johnson County Attorney Bill Moore.

In "Sex Toy Story" (April 8, by Glenna Whitley), we told of Webb's arrest by two undercover narcotics officers after their purchase of two vibrators in a sting operation. A former elementary school teacher, Webb sells lubricants and other sex aids as a consultant for San Francisco-based Passion Parties. Her trial had been scheduled to take place this summer. She faced a year in prison and a $4,000 fine.

"The battle ain't won yet," Webb's attorney BeAnn Sisemore says, "but the fear is gone today from Joanne's pending criminal case. She's been terrified of going to jail. It's been an ordeal."

Webb has continued to sell sexual devices at home parties but has avoided doing so in Johnson County, where, coincidentally, zucchini and Wesson oil sell for 300 percent above normal market prices. Sisemore says that even though the case is dropped, state law still bans the sale of such devices except as "novelties" or "gag gifts."

Moore released a statement on July 16 that said little except that he had asked for a judge to dismiss the case against the Passion Parties saleswoman to prevent wasting county resources. Seems Johnson County would have had to defend itself in a separate federal lawsuit filed by Sisemore in an effort to overturn the state law that she contends unfairly targets women's sexuality.

"It's not the end, but it allows the actual challenge of the law to be our focus," Sisemore says. "It's been on hold, as we focused on the criminal case. Now Joanne can be free to join the other plaintiffs to challenge this anti-female law."

Saving precious county resources is laudable, but Buzz suspects Moore also was thinking of the media circus that would have camped outside his office door at the Cleburne courthouse when the case went to trial. (Note to editor: Our editorial assistant should cancel our tent and elephant rental reservation. Damn.)

Now Webb and her husband have been fielding offers to buy the rights to their life story, including a long-standing proposal from actress Helen Hunt.

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