Charge dropped in video cassette rental incident

PICKENS — After widespread media coverage and responses from around the world that ranged from disbelief and outrage to outright mockery, the charge has been dropped against a woman arrested earlier this month for failing to return a rented video cassette in 2005.

According to a release from Pickens County Sheriff’s Office chief deputy Creed Hashe, the victim in the case, the former owner of Dalton’s Video in Pickens, submitted a request last week to withdraw a larceny charge against Kayla M. Finley, 27.

Finley had gone to the sheriff’s office to speak with a deputy regarding a domestic dispute Feb. 13 when officers discovered a warrant for her arrest had been issued in 2005. The warrant, charging her with petit larceny, alleged that Finley rented the movie “Monster-In-Law,” starring Jennifer Lopez, from Dalton’s Video in 2005 and failed to return it within 72 hours after the rental agreement expired. According to the warrant, Finley was sent a certified letter on Sept. 12, 2005, to return the video, but never responded.

According to Hashe, a representative from Dalton’s Video appeared before a local magistrate in September of 2005 and presented information or evidence which was determined by the judge to establish probable cause that Finley had committed a crime.

“The practice of a civilian or a business owner to be able to appear before a magistrate and sign arrest warrants was commonplace for certain types of crimes during that time but is no longer the practice today in Pickens County,” Hashe said.

Because there was no judge on duty at the time of Finley’s arrest, she was forced to spend the night in jail before being released on a $2,000 personal recognizance bond the next morning.

Hashe said the decision to not prosecute the charge was “made solely by the victim after considering all of the factors in this incident, including the level of media attention that has been directed at the victim, the defendant and to local law enforcement tasked with serving the charging document issued by the court.”

The case received media attention from coast to coast and even made headlines overseas.