Pierthing of tongue leadth to problemth

  • Article by: JAMES ELI SHIFFER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 6, 2009 - 10:57 PM

Sandy Templeton came home from work one day, greeted his 14-year-old daughter, Rhona, and got a mumble in response.

Then he found out why: There was a freshly pierced stud in her tongue. At the father's command, out came the stud, and then the story of how it got there.

That was in November 2007. Since then, the illegal underage tongue-piercing has triggered a police investigation, put a man in jail for 16 days and propelled the piercing parlor before the St. Paul City Council.

Tonight, the council will consider a $700 fine for Planet Ink, a tattoo and piercing business at 1499 University Av. W.

After his initial discovery of the unauthorized tongue stud, Templeton, who lives in Chanhassen, learned that an older friend took his daughter to Planet Ink for the $60 procedure. Then he discovered a law that had gone into effect only four months earlier making it a crime to pierce the body part of a minor without a parent's consent.

"I guess I had a wee bit of luck," he said. The law requires parental consent in person before piercing any part of under-18 customers -- except earlobes.

Eleven days later, two St. Paul police officers paid a visit to Planet Ink and had a conversation with employee Bobby Johnson. Johnson admitted he did the tongue piercing without the proper paperwork, typically a photocopied driver's license showing a date of birth.

Months went by. Templeton said he enlisted one of the law's sponsors, Sen. Rick Olseen, DFL-Harris, to put pressure on the city to enforce it.

In September, the police finally came for Johnson. He spent more than two weeks in jail before pleading guilty to the misdemeanor charge and getting sentenced to time served.

Johnson no longer works at Planet Ink and said he hasn't been doing any piercing work lately.

Then the city turned its attention to Planet Ink. The business had gotten into hot water before, when a parent complained in 2004 of two unauthorized tattoos on her daughter.

A judge threw out the 2004 underage tattoo case, but upheld a fine for health violations. Since more than two years have passed, the new violation against Planet Ink is considered a first offense. Planet Ink owner Jennifer Cobb opted to argue her case before the council before paying the $700 penalty.

Templeton said he's satisfied with the enforcement against the piercer and the parlor.

"I certainly think the individual will think twice about doing something again without the required paperwork," Templeton said. "Seven hundred dollars for a small business is probably enough money to give them a jab, said say, 'Okay, we ain't going to do this again.'"

In the Templeton household, the evidence of the crime has disappeared.

"The thing healed up nicely," Templeton said of his daughter's tongue.

Her penalty for the piercing was to tie her tongue in a way that really hurts: Her cell phone was shut off.


    Know of a business that's breaking the rules? Are you fighting City Hall? Contact us at whistleblower @startribune.com or 612-673-4271. Read more at startribune.com/whistleblower.
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