The Associated Press
PUTNEY, Ky. - Some of the same churchgoing neighbors who tried to run Michael Braithwaite and his adult novelty shop out of town rallied to his aid Tuesday, prompting a judge to drop obscenity charges against him.
Why the change of heart?
Braithwaite, who had a religious conversion after the charges were filed last fall, decided to burn all the leather gear, rubber playthings and otherwise naughty merchandise and convert his business into a Bible bookstore.
"The Bible says the Lord will make a way where there seems to be no way," Braithwaite said on what was to have been the day of his trial on misdemeanor charges of distributing obscene materials.
But prosecutor Mike Pace told Judge Phillip Hamm that his office has been besieged by calls from friends, family, even preachers, who wanted the charges dismissed. Hamm acquiesced, dismissing the charges and ordering undercover police to destroy the magazines and vibrators they purchased.
Sheriff Steve Duff said he is happy for Braithwaite.
"I've known him all his life," he said. "If something hadn't changed his life, he would have fought those charges as far and as long as he could. He's strong-headed."
After his conversion, Braithwaite dropped his business' old name, Love World, and now calls his store Mike's Place. He covered the formerly red outer walls with a fresh coat of white paint and the words "Jesus Saves."
Defense attorney Scott Lisenbee said this tiny eastern Kentucky community is standing behind Braithwaite, despite previous concerns that he may have feigned religion to avoid prosecution.
"Everyone seems convinced that's not the case," Lisenbee said.
Rosie Madden, who attends services with Braithwaite at the Dizney Pentecostal Church, said the former porn dealer is an example of the life-changing power of Jesus Christ.
"He wants to be in church all the time," Madden said. "You can tell when someone is sincere. You can feel it."
Russell Alred, an attorney who represented residents in their fight to close the novelty shop, said everyone is confident that Braithwaite doesn't intend to reopen Love World.
"They wanted time to see that he really had changed before the charges were dropped," Alred said. "They weren't after blood or vengeance. They just wanted that smut out of their community."
Some of his former customers have been shocked to walk into the building to find a shelf of Bibles where unmentionables used to be displayed. Braithwaite explains that he is now serving the Lord, and encourages them to do likewise.
"At the time I operated that business, I felt like I was just making a living for my family," he said. "Now, I understand it was wrong. It's not how much money we make that counts. Working for God is the main thing."
Published: Wed Apr 02, 2003 | Modified: Sat Aug 06, 2005 04:59 p.m.