This article contains graphic descriptions of animal abuse.
If this isn’t the most disturbing thing you’ve heard today, well, we’re sorry.
A Houston woman pleaded guilty on Tuesday to making “animal crush videos,” fetish pornographic films in which animals are killed or mutilated on camera.
Ashley Nicole Richards, 24, was convicted of producing and distributing a series of videos showing the torture and death of animals such as dogs, cats, and chickens.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Richards admitted to creating a series of eight videos between February 2010 and August 2012. In one video, entitled “puppy2,” Richards is shown hacking a pit bull puppy to death with a meat cleaver over the span of 13 minutes and then urinating on the animal’s dead body. In a different video, Richards could be seen puncturing the eye of a kitten with a shoe heel.
The videos were brought to the attention of the Houston Police Department by the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which worked with the Animal Beta Project to identify Richards shortly after discovering the videos online.
Five years ago, the legality of these video briefly became national news when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal law prohibiting the production of videos depicting animal abuse. In an 8-1 decision in the case, which was over a video of dog fighting, the court ruled that the law, as it then stood, was overly broad. Justices in the majority feared it could have led to the prosecution of hunters for filming themselves shooting deer.
In response, Congress passed the Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act later that year, which aimed to winnow down the targeted activity as to exempt hunters. The text of the bill defines:
“[A]nimal crush video” as any photograph, motion picture, film, video or digital recording, or electronic image that: (1) 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 (2) is obscene.
Exempts from the application of this Act…any visual depiction of customary and normal veterinary or agricultural husbandry practices, the slaughter of animals for food, or hunting, trapping, or fishing
Even so, when Richards was arrested and indicted by a grand jury for producing the videos in 2012, the charges were dismissed by a judge on First Amendment grounds. That dismissal was later overturned by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court declined to take the case, and it was returned to the District Court to be prosecuted.
Richards pleaded guilty on four counts of producing the videos and one count of distributing them. She faces up to seven years in prison for each count. However, the Houston Chronicle reports that if Richards elects to become an informant on the “trafficking of minors and adults for commercial sex and sexual exploitation of minors,” she could end up with a reduced sentence.
Photo by Counselling/pixabay (PD)