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February 17, 2016

Houston 'Crush Video' Couple Given Long Sentences

HOUSTON, Texas—Defendants Ashley Nichole Richards, 23, and Brent Wayne Justice, 52, have been sentenced to, respectively, 10 and 50 years in federal prison for creating and selling videos which depict acts of animal cruelty, known generically as "crush videos." According to Houston Chronicle reporter Brian Rogers, "Investigators said Justice filmed a scantily clad Richards, sometimes masked, stabbing animals—including a puppy, a kitten and a chicken—as well as chopping off their limbs and urinating on them while making sexual comments to the camera. ...  In one of the videos seized by authorities, Richards punctured a cat's eye with a shoe heel. In other videos, she used a meat cleaver and other knives to maim animals." In 2014, Richards was convicted in state court of similar charges, and sentenced to 10 years for those crimes. However, in 2015, she also pled guilty to four federal counts of creating animal crush videos and one count of distributing them under the Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act of 2010, which law was apparently an outgrown of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision earlier that year in the case of United States v. Stevens, which dealt with videos of dogs fighting. The couple had tried to get the charges dismissed last March, and a U.S. district judge granted that motion, allegedly on constitutional grounds, but prosecutors appealed that decision to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which overturned the lower court's ruling. "These sentences offer a badly needed deterrent for those who make and distribute such films," opined Georgetown University law professor Jonathan Turley. It is unclear why Justice received 40 years more in prison than Richards.

 
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