Cherry Pit owners to fight sex club charges


by By JON NIELSEN / The Dallas Morning News

Posted on August 15, 2009 at 4:38 PM

Updated Monday, Oct 19 at 6:44 PM

DUNCANVILLE - The Duncanville couple who host swingers parties in their home head to municipal court Monday to determine whether they've violated a city ordinance that restricts where sex clubs can operate.

Jim Trulock and Julie M. Norris, owners of the Cherry Pit, are challenging 10 citations, five accusing them of operating a business in a residential neighborhood and five accusing them of operating a sex club without a license. The couple could be penalized up to $20,000 for the Class C misdemeanors if found guilty by a jury during this week's trial.

"We wrote the tickets, and we're going to see them through," Duncanville City Manager Kent Cagle said.

More serious allegations were leveled earlier this month, when Mr. Trulock, 59, and Ms. Norris, 30, were arrested on suspicion of engaging in organized criminal activity. The first-degree felony carries a penalty from five to 99 years or life in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Last month, they were arrested on suspicion of violating the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code for possessing large amounts of liquor in their home.

Duncanville authorities are investigating whether the Cherry Pit is violating laws, including the promotion of prostitution and money laundering.

But the only issues to be addressed in the municipal case are the ordinance violations. Those, Mr. Cagle said, "are the least of their worries right now."

In the municipal case, the city alleges that the $50 donation that patrons are charged for entry into the parties qualifies the Cherry Pit as a business. According to police documents, once inside, partygoers receive "fun money" that they can exchange to watch or engage in sex acts with others.

During a pair of July raids of the home in the 1300 block of North Cedar Ridge Road, police detectives seized records showing that Mr. Trulock and Ms. Norris have taken in at least $102,000 in donations from attendees during a 16-month period. Their weekend parties have drawn hundreds of people, and parking has overflowed into the street.

In the search-warrant affidavit, Mr. Trulock compared the donation to a church group charging admission at a barbecue to cover the cost of food.

The couple's attorney, Ed Klein, said the city's assertion that the house is a place of business is wrong and that the city shouldn't have the right to restrict what individuals can do in their house.

"They have a right to do whatever they want to in the privacy of their own homes as long as it doesn't violate existing laws that are in place like drugs, violence, minors ..." Mr. Klein said.

Last November, the Duncanville City Council passed an ordinance restricting where sexually oriented businesses could operate. Authorities issued more than a dozen citations to Mr. Trulock and Ms. Norris for violating the ordinance.

Mr. Klein countered the ordinance, which he said blatantly targets the Cherry Pit, with a civil lawsuit challenging the ordinance. That case has yet to be heard.

Mr. Klein said that the Cherry Pit has the right to host parties for consenting adults.

"We're not forcing anybody to do anything," Mr. Klein said. "People come out on their own volition and do whatever they want to or not as the case may be."