Supreme Court Denies Petition In Animal Crush Video Case – Case Returns To Houston Federal Court
An Indictment Is A Formal Accusation Of Criminal Conduct, Not Evidence.
HOUSTON – The U.S. Supreme Court has denied a petition for a writ of certiorari in the case involving a Texas couple who allegedly created and distributed “animal crush videos,” announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson. The case will now again be set for trial in federal court in Houston.
A federal grand jury returned an indictment Nov. 28, 2012, against Ashley Nicole Richards, 24, and Brent Justice, 53, both of Houston. They were charged with multiple counts of creating animal crush videos and distribution of those videos among other charges.
A U.S. district judge later dismissed the crush video charges, citing constitutionality issues. The government appealed that decision to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans which subsequently overturned the decision of the District Court. The defendants then filed a petition for a writ of certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court challenging the 5th Circuit’s ruling. The U.S. Supreme Court has denied that petition and the case is remanded back to the District Court for prosecution. A new trial date has not yet been set.
The indictment alleges Richards and Justice created and distributed animal crush videos which were obscene in nature. The charges mention eight videos which allegedly involve puppies, chickens and kittens being tortured and killed. The indictment alleges the videos were created at varying times between February 2010 and August 2012.
The term "animal crush video" is defined under federal law as any photograph, motion-picture film, video or digital recording, or electronic image that depicts actual conduct in which one or more living non-human mammals, birds, reptiles or amphibians is intentionally crushed, burned, drowned, suffocated, impaled or otherwise subjected to serious bodily injury, and is obscene.
This is the first known case to be indicted in federal court since the statute was amended in 2010.
If convicted of these charges, Richards and Justice face up to seven years in federal prison on each count. They also face a possible $250,000 fine and at least three years of supervised release following completion of any prison term imposed.
Both have remained in state custody on related animal cruelty charges following their arrests on Aug. 15, 2012.
Oral arguments are available online. The arguments presented in this case before the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals on March 11, 2014, can be heard at http://www.ca5.uscourts.gov/OralArgRecordings/13/_13-20265_3-11-2014.MP3
This case was originally investigated by the Houston Police Department who is working in conjunction with the Houston office of the FBI. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Sherri L. Zack. Trial Attorney John Pellettieri of the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division handled the appeal.
A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.